Belgium Income per capita has been lagging that of the upper half of OECD countries and the gap has widened due to a decline in labour productivity growth. However, labour productivity levels remain amongst the highest in the OECD. Income inequality is relatively low. Greenhouse gas emissions are around the OECD average, while exposure to air pollution is higher than the average in advanced economies. Progress on past priorities has been modest. Taxation of labour is set to decline further, thanks to multiyear reforms decided in the past, but the tax wedge will remain relatively high. A reform of adult education has been adopted, and offers of training and validation of skills for newly arrived migrants have been introduced. Simplified procedures for retail establishment in Flanders and the Brussels Region entered into force from 2018. Easing administrative burdens and simplifying entry regulation in professional services, retail and network industries and streamlining the insolvency regime would boost competition and productivity growth. Further reducing the tax wedge on labour, particularly for the low-skilled, would encourage employment. Improving teacher training and attracting the best teachers to schools with high concentrations of disadvantaged students would raise skills and reduce inequality. Growth performance, inequality and environment indicators: Belgium Average annual growth rates (%) GDP per capita Labour utilisation of which: Labour force participation rate
Employment rate1 Employment coefficient2 Labour productivity of which: Capital deepening Total factor productivity Dependency ratio
2002-08 1.6 0.6 0.5 0.1 0.0 1.0 0.7 0.4 -0.1
2012-18 0.8 0.3 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.5 0.4 0.0 0.0
GHG emissions per capita4 (tonnes of CO2 equivalent) GHG emissions per unit of GDP4 (kg of CO2 equivalent per USD) Share in global GHG emissions4 (%) * OECD simple average (weighted average for emissions data)
Per cent 30 25
Gap to the upper half of OECD countries5
GDP per capita GDP per hour worked
20 15 10
B. Inequality and environment
Gini coefficient3 Share of national disposable income held by the poorest 20%
C. The gap in GDP per capita has been widening
Annual variation (percentage points)
2016 26.6 (31.7)*
2013-16 0 (0)*
2016 10.3 (10.9)* 0.3 (0.3)* 0.3
Average of levels 2010-16 10.7 (11.3)* 0.3 (0.3)* 0.3
-5 -10 -15
Source: Panel A: OECD, Economic Outlook Database; Panel B: OECD, Income Distribution and National Accounts Databases; United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Database and International Energy Agency (IEA), Energy Database; Panel C: OECD, National Accounts and Productivity Databases. StatLink 2 https://doi.org/10.1787/888933954667
ECONOMIC POLICY REFORMS 2019: GOING FOR GROWTH ÂŠ OECD 2019
Policy indicators: Belgium A. The gap in PISA performance between immigrants and natives is very high
B. There is room to improve the insolvency framework
Differences in PISA mean scores in mathematics and science performance, 2015 90 80 70
OECD composite insolvency index Scale from 0-1 from least to most stringent,¹ 2016 1.0
Natives versus first-generation immigrants Natives versus second-generation immigrants
Source: Panel A: OECD, PISA 2015 Results (Volume I): Excellence and Equity in Education, Annex B1.7 (tables): Immigrant background, student performance and students' attitudes towards science; Panel B: Adalet-McGowan, A. and D. Andrews (2018), "Design of Insolvency Regimes across Countries", OECD Economics Department Working Papers, forthcoming. StatLink 2 https://doi.org/10.1787/888933955541
Beyond GDP per capita: Belgium A. Inequality remains lower than in most advanced economies Gini coefficient, 2016 or last available year¹
Advanced economies median, 29.7
Emerging economies median, 46.2
B. Exposure to fine particulate matter is high Percentage of population exposed to PM2.5, 20172
% BELGIUM Advanced economies
< 10 μg/m³ 10-35 μg/m³
> 35 μg/m³
Source: Panel A: OECD, Income Distribution Database, World Bank, World Development Indicators Database and China National Bureau of Statistics; Panel B: OECD, Environment Database. Note: For the explanation of the sets of indicators above, please go to the metadata annex at the end of this chapter. StatLink 2 https://doi.org/10.1787/888933956415 ECONOMIC POLICY REFORMS 2019: GOING FOR GROWTH © OECD 2019
Belgium: Going for Growth 2019 priorities Improve outcomes and equity in education. Educational outcomes of socio-economically disadvantaged individuals and first and second-generation immigrants are comparatively poor. •
Actions taken: The implementation of the Pact for Excellence in Teaching in the French Community continued in 2018 with the recruitment of additional teaching staff and the establishment of a six year plan covering pupil performance. In 2018, the Flemish Community adopted a reform modernising secondary education from which will be phased in from September 2019.
Recommendations: Improve teacher training and incentives to attract teachers to schools with a high concentration of disadvantaged pupils. Strengthen school-level social diversity programmes and promote the participation of immigrants’ children in early childhood education to reduce language handicaps. Assess systematically language proficiency in primary and secondary school and provide languages classes when needed.
Reform the wage bargaining system. Cost competitiveness is undermined by a wage setting system, which makes aligning wages with productivity difficult. •
Actions taken: No action taken.
Recommendations: Assess the results of the 2017 reform of the wage formation system and consider additional reforms, for example, directly linking wages to productivity growth.
Increase product market competition and business dynamism. Business dynamism is low and excessive regulatory burden hampers competition and productivity growth. •
Actions taken: Simplified procedures for retail establishment in Flanders and the Brussels Region entered into force from 2018, with a monitoring system to assess its impact foreseen in Flanders. In 2018, the professional qualification requirements for craft professions were abolished for all 27 professions in Flanders and some in Wallonia, which is assessing the rest. In May 2018, the insolvency regime was reformed to expand the scope of the law to all businesses and introduce new preventative measures.
Recommendations: Reduce regulatory barriers to entry and exit, including further reform of the insolvency regime. Strengthen competition in various professions, such as in accountancy, legal and architecture services by reducing barriers to entry and licencing requirements. Ease regulation of retail services, in particular the restrictions on large outlets, shop-opening hours and the protection of incumbents. Further simplify administrative procedures and licence requirements to start a business and establish a single regulator for each network industry.
Further reduce the tax wedge on labour and enhance financial work incentives. High taxes on labour discourage employment and reduce the labour supply of low wage earners. •
Actions taken: No action taken. Past reforms to lower taxes on labour, including those to reduce employers’ social security contributions are still being phased in.
Recommendations: Continue reducing labour taxes beyond the measures already phased in, especially for low-skilled workers, as the tax wedge on labour earnings remains one of the highest in Europe. Implement a more gradual phasing-out of the reduced tax wedge as wages increase to reduce the risk of a low-wage trap.
ECONOMIC POLICY REFORMS 2019: GOING FOR GROWTH © OECD 2019
| 19 Improve the integration of migrants. Immigrants have poor employment outcomes and are overrepresented in low quality jobs. •
Actions taken: Plan Formation 2020 of the Brussels Region is currently being rolled out. It includes a social, professional and linguistic assessment of migrants as well as specific offers of training and validation for newly arrived migrants. Regions adopted or updated plans to combat workrelated discrimination focussing on awareness raising, self-regulation, reinforced monitoring and discrimination in hiring.
Recommendations: Further engage social partners in firm-level diversity plans, including in the public sector where the share of immigrant employees is low. Narrow the scope of statutory public sector jobs for which EU citizenship is required. Further develop validation programmes for skills and degrees acquired abroad. Expand language course programmes adapted to workplace needs, notably by combining them with other forms of training.
ECONOMIC POLICY REFORMS 2019: GOING FOR GROWTH © OECD 2019