Employment and integration: the key points of the new Flemish government

Flemish prime minister designate Jan Jambon has presented the programme of his new government accord to the press.  Mr Jambon intends to govern Flanders for the next five years in a coalition of Flemish nationalists, Christian democrats and liberals.

Mr Jambon said his team had the ambition of taking Flanders ahead so that it becomes a point of reference in Europe.

Employment is a major challenge. Employment levels need to be raised from 75% to 80%, an ambitious goal.  This means creating 120,000 new Flemish jobs.  The intention is that as many people as possible can contribute to society also by working. A job bonus will make the difference between working and not working bigger to encourage more people to work. Tax breaks will be introduced to benefit the low skilled and the low paid. Low paid workers should see several hundred euros a year more in their pay packet at the end of the year.

More efforts will be made to re-school workers with greater guidance from the employment agency after three months of unemployment.

Newcomers will be obliged to register with the employment agency too. People who have been unemployed for more than two years will have to do community service.

The result of the 26 May general election revealed a great malaise and a feeling that all burdens are not equally shared Mr Jambon said.

Greater demands on newcomers will be made. “The entrance ticket will be more expensive but once you are a member you will benefit fully from all provisions” Mr Jambon added.

Asylum seekers will no longer receive child allowance, but their children will get free schooling. There will be a greater emphasis on Dutch in integration courses and newcomers will be asked to sign a Flemish participation declaration. Newcomers will follow Dutch and social orientation courses and will have to pay a fee.

Mr Jambon insisted on the need for neutral education without ideological or religious symbols: “Schools operating against our fundamental values will lose recognition” he noted.  “Good and local imam training anchored in our values is the goal”.

In education the government hopes to beef up quality, address teacher shortages, provide good guidance for pupils and address capacity concerns.

The importance of knowledge of Dutch was underlined: greater language integration efforts will be made too for all pupils who require this.

The new government will also focus on social policy.  There will be greater investment in care homes and other care provisions with more staff and ceilings on charges.  Working parents will get priority in child day care.  The tax advantage of owning a home will be shifted to a tax advantage on purchasing a home: buying a home will be cheaper than owning a home with property purchasing taxes being reduced by 1%. Local people will get priority for social housing.  Residence in Belgium during the last ten years will be required while income levels too will be checked.

Environment too is a priority for the new administration: greenhouse gas emissions will be cut by at least 80% by 2050.  Mr Jambon pointed to the fact that Flanders possesses the know-how to do this. Another goal is a doubling of wind and solar energy by 2030.

In local government voting in local elections will no longer be compulsory, while the list vote will disappear.