February 8, 2023

Taylor Daily Press

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“Indolence, far more than unemployment, is the fundamental problem of our labor market.”

“Indolence, far more than unemployment, is the fundamental problem of our labor market.”

Let the unemployed lose their benefits after three years. CD&V wants to take a tougher approach to the long-term unemployed, but does such a proposal have any effect? “As a result, I fear that a large proportion of job seekers will end up idle and will no longer look for work,” says labor economist Stijn Baert (UGent).

Kelly Van Dugenbroek

Just to be clear: what is unemployment benefit and how does it currently work?

Bert: “Unemployment benefit is a type of insurance. Everyone pays social contributions. These consist of a portion of your gross salary as an employee and a portion paid by your employer. This money goes into Social Security and is used to help people become unemployed. I call it insurance because it’s just like insurance against The fire, the idea behind it is that you don’t raise the stakes yourself You must be fired and thus involuntarily unemployed before you are entitled to it.

Currently, unemployment benefits are not limited in time. However, certain conditions are attached. For example, you must be a job seeker and be able to prove it. This means that you must actively apply and your VDAB contact person must be able to show you your emails and related agreements.

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In addition, VDAB can also encourage you to take a course. Moreover, if the employer offers you a job that is not too far from your place of residence and is commensurate with your education and experience, you may not refuse it on principle. If you do not meet these conditions, you may lose your entitlement temporarily or permanently.

Does this make us outsiders in Europe?

“It is true that nowhere else in the European Union are there benefits that are unlimited in time. Outside Europe there are systems that tend to do that, but they are incomparable labor markets. But because of the bonds, other countries cut unemployment benefits after about two years.”

CD&V wants this feature to decline faster and to stop it completely after three years. Six months prior to such termination, the job seeker will have one last chance to find work. Is Belgium doing much worse than other EU countries?

“Yes and no. In the ranking of 27 European countries, we are ranked 10th, with the country occupying the first place in terms of unemployment rate. Therefore, the unemployment rate in Belgium is normal. But compared to other countries, a large part of them are looking for work for a year or more. In Wallonia and Brussels, this is more than half of all job seekers.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development also recently revised unemployment benefits in several countries. For Belgium, this shows very clearly that the system is very complex. The benefit now starts at about 65 percent of your last gross salary. Three months later it will be 60 percent, and after a year it could still be lower. How much it will fall depends on the condition of the family, the length of work, and how high the starting wage is. This makes it difficult to predict how low the interest will be.

Moreover, after a year of unemployment, it is too late for the stimulus to be effective. For those who are on a lower wage, the difference between the starting amount and the minimum amount is also very limited. All of which ensures that the incentive to go to work is still very limited.”

Do you think the CD&V proposals are a good way to address these problems?

“One of the potential adjustments that the OECD is proposing is to have a tighter drop in benefits. That is to say: faster and steeper descents. This is partly what (CD&V head Sami) Mehdi is proposing, plus a higher starting level, and I am also in favor. That. But I am not in favor of limiting the time. There is scientific research that shows that if you suddenly stop receiving benefits, some of the unemployed will suddenly find a job. But on the other hand, scientists like myself fear that a large part of job seekers will end up idle as a result So.

“Indolence, much more than unemployment, is the fundamental problem of our labor market. In the European ranking we are in 24th place out of 27. That is 1.3 million people between the ages of 25 and 64 are neither working nor looking for work. By reducing unemployment benefits in In time, you risk making that group larger.For them, you have far fewer tools to get them into the labor market.Furthermore, you also disadvantage groups who, for example because of their age or education, are more likely to look for long-term employment “.

Can people in Belgium currently be “unemployed forever,” as N-VA often claims?

“No, because there really is degeneration, and if you don’t look for work you can lose your benefits permanently. But of course there is a gray area. Some people look for work just for appearances. Figures show that one in five job seekers never go on dates.” With the working medium. So that’s a problem. But on the other hand, there are a lot of people who are doing their best. By introducing such a time limit, you are suppressing the guilty at the expense of the innocent. I am more in favor of offering opportunities, for example by obligating seekers about working more quickly to pursue training in a few professions. This seems a bit non-committal, but when Georges-Louis Boches (MR) suggested it a few months ago, people in French-speaking Belgium rolled each other to blowing the idea.”

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