The impact of the Corona crisis on the Belgian labor market is less than expected. This is evidenced by the latest labor market indicators, published by the Federal Public Employment Service on Tuesday. “We see that the Corona crisis is exacerbating some of the ongoing structural challenges even more,” acknowledges Minister of Labor Pierre-Yves Dermann (PS).
This relates to 230 indicators for the year 2020. Based on preliminary data, the situation in 2021 will remain more or less stable, it is said.
Until 2019, the Belgian labor market witnessed a positive development in almost all areas. But the sudden appearance of the Corona virus in March 2020 brought an abrupt end to that. However, the effects weren’t too bad, although some groups were clearly affected more than others, it is said.
For example, the employment rate—the proportion of employed people in the working-age population—dropped from 70.5 percent in 2019 to 70 percent in 2020. Employment. The EU average is still higher at 72.4 per cent.
The unemployment rate has also remained historically low: at 5.4 percent in 2020. It was only slightly lower in 2019 (5.2 percent). “Even the share of the long-term unemployed in total unemployment – a classic pain point for the Belgian labor market – has remained at a relatively low level.”
Federal Labor Minister Pierre-Yves Dermann (PS): “Thanks to appropriate and continued government support, the negative impact of the worst economic shock since World War II on employment has been much less severe than initially anticipated. We have been particularly successful in keeping companies afloat and protecting Employment and Purchasing Power of Workers The fact that important labor market indicators such as the employment rate have remained nearly stable shows that the right choices have been made.
In some areas, the impact of the Corona pandemic has been evident. Most notable was the increase in temporary unemployment, with an unprecedented peak in March and April 2020, says the FPS. Even in the first half of 2021, it was still at a higher level than during the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
The increase in household chores (from 18.9 percent to 29 percent) was also striking. The increase is mainly due to people working from home more than half the time.
The average annual working hours per employee also decreased sharply, from 1,576 hours in 2019 to 1,481 hours in 2020. The share of “temporary work” showed a clear decrease in 2020, mainly due to the decrease in temporary work and student work. There has also been a decrease in Saturday and Sunday work in 2020, which has increased significantly since 2018. She said this decline may reflect the significant impact on the hospitality industry.
Some are more affected
Due to the fact that not all sectors have had to reduce activity to the same extent during the pandemic, some workers have been affected more than others. This particularly concerns young people, the low-skilled, non-EU migrants and people with disabilities at work. The risk of poverty did not increase, “probably due to support measures”.
Among young people (20-29 years) there was a significant decrease in the activity rate: from 67.2 per cent to 64.4%. The number of school dropouts early dropped even more in 2020, despite distance learning. The number of NEETs (Young People Neither in Work nor in Education, Editor) has also remained fairly stable.
“We see the Corona crisis exacerbating some of the more intractable structural challenges,” Minister Derman acknowledges. The situation has become even more dire for the various groups that were already struggling in the labor market. We develop tailored plans for them through our annual recruitment conferences, which are more important than ever today. The minister indicated that the first action plan on older workers will be presented to the government this month. The second conference on the employment of non-EU nationals will follow in June.
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