In a report entitled “The sorrow of the Belgian labour market” the labour market expert Jan Denys says that the situation here is far from good.
"Certainly if we look at Belgium as a whole, the results show that we are making some progress in a number of areas, albeit not everywhere. However, compared with the rest of Europe it a case of us maintaining the status quo and even regressing”.
One of the areas looked at by Mr De Denys was the average number of years worked in Belgium.
"We must work for longer and in Belgium we are working 0.8 years longer (than in 2014). However, in Europe as a whole this is 1.6 years longer. This means that the backlog that already existed has simply widened”, Mr Denys said.
One issue to which the Federal Government has given no little attention is wage costs. Although Mr Denys says that this has had an effect, Belgium remains the second most expensive country (after Denmark) to employ people. Furthermore, productivity has fallen.
Regional variation in the unemployment figures remain an issue. In 2007 (the year from which the figures from Jan Denys come) Flanders was performing well with already relatively low unemployment falling further. However, unemployment in Wallonia and especially the Brussels-Capital Region remained high. Belgium is no the EU country with the largest discrepancies between the regions when it comes to unemployment figures.
In 2017; as regards the percentage of those of working age (18 to 65) that are in employment, Flanders is about average compared with the rest of the EU. However, it’s a different story in Wallonia and Brussels that are both at the bottom of the pile. Further, during the first three quarters of 2018 the situation in Flanders improved greatly.
"If Flanders continues in this vein during the coming years it will take a place among the top regions. But this will create another problem as the gap between Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia will become larger and create new political tensions”.
Kris Peeters: "Report is dated"
In a response to the report the Federal Employment Minister Kris Peeters (Flemish Christian democrat) told journalists that the figure used were “dated”. He pointed to figures released by the Federal Employment Service (RVA) that state that unemployment is now at its lowest level since 1981.
Furthermore, economic growth here is more labour intensive than in other countries. However, he do concede that the percentage of the working population in employment needs to be raised and that there are challenges to be met in Brussels and Wallonia.