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Database of national-level responses

Eurofound's COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the crisis, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for case BE-2020-14/844 Updated – measures in Belgium

Suspension of the degressivity of unemployment benefits during the crisis

Opschorting degressiviteit van de werkloosheidsuitkering

Country Belgium , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 01 April 2020 – 30 June 2020
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Income protection beyond short-time work
– Income support for unemployed
Author Dries Van Herreweghe (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) and Eurofound
Case created 13 May 2020 (updated 29 October 2020)

Background information

Generally the replacement rate of unemployment benefits decreases over time for the unemployed. The reasoning behind this is to provide a financial incentive for the unemployed to find a job faster. Because of the crisis unemployed do not have the possibility to look and apply for jobs. If their unemployment benefit would be reduced, this would punish them for reasons they do not have any control over. It is against this background, that this measure was taken by the government and made binding through royal decree.

Content of measure

The replacement rate and hence unemployment benefit gradually decreases with time according to the duration of unemployment and the career of the wage earner. This is called the degressivity of unemployment benefits. The measure suspends this degressive element of unemployment benefits for all unemployed in Belgium.

More specifically, the phase or sub-phase of the compensation period in which the person concerned finds himself on 1 April 2020 will be extended by three months.

This also applies to persons applying for benefits during the months April to June 2020. The phase in which the unemployed person starts will be extended by the period of that phase during the months of April to June 2020.

Updates

The following updates to this measure have been made after it came into effect.

14 September 2020

Employers and workers reached an agreement to extend the freeze on the degressivity of unemployment benefits until the end of this year. In addition to the freeze, a strong appeal is being made to the federal and regional governments to provide training and to job-seekers to follow it, with an additional focus on bottleneck occupations.

19 June 2020

Until the end of August, the benefit as fully unemployed does not decrease. This decision was made at the request of the trade unions. This from the point of view that it is extremely difficult to find a job in the corona crisis.

Use of measure

The exact number is not yet known but the amount of (temporary) unemployed increased drastically because of the Corona crisis. For March alone it is estimated that approximately 900,000 people will have made use of the temporary unemployment scheme. In addition to that there are also the people that were unemployed before the crisis.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Unemployed
Does not apply to businesses Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
National funds

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Informed Informed
Form Not applicable Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • Unknown
  • Main level of involvement: Unknown

Involvement

The trade unions are strong proponents of the measure as it is very difficult to find (new) work in these times and unemployed should not be the victim of this externality.

Views and reactions

Again, the extent of their involvement is unclear. But is to be expected that they were at least informed of the measure, especially given the fact that the trade unions play an important role in the distribution of the unemployment benefits.

Sources

  • 22 April 2020: Corona: Bevriezing van werkloosheidsuitkeringen (www.sd.be)
  • 30 April 2020: Koninklijk besluit tot het tijdelijk versoepelen van de voorwaarden waaronder werklozen, al dan niet met bedrijfstoeslag, kunnen worden tewerkgesteld in vitale sectoren en tot het tijdelijk bevriezen van de degressiviteit van de volledige werkloosheidsuitkeringen (www.ejustice.just.fgov.be)
  • 19 June 2020: ABVV.be (www.abvv.be)
  • 14 September 2020: Social agreement to guide companies further through the Covid-19 crisis (www.vbo-feb.be)

Citation

Eurofound (2020), Suspension of the degressivity of unemployment benefits during the crisis, case BE-2020-14/844 (measures in Belgium), COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, http://eurofound.link/covid19eupolicywatch

Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process. All information is preliminary and subject to change.