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Social security finances


  • B. Eugène

    (National Bank of Belgium, Research Department)

  • T. Stragier

    (National Bank of Belgium, Research Department)

  • K. Van Cauter

    (National Bank of Belgium, Research Department)

  • L. Van Meensel

    (National Bank of Belgium, Research Department)


One of the government’s main functions is to protect the population against a number of social risks. Hence, replacement incomes are provided in the event of unemployment, old age or occupational disability. Income supplements are granted to compensate in part for the financial burden associated with illness or with bringing up children. These social benefits are an important facet of the redistribution of income effected by the government. In Belgium, social protection is provided mainly by the social security sub-sector, which is the largest component of the general government sector. The level of government expenditure on social protection in Belgium is, expressed as a percentage of GDP, above the European Union average. This is due mainly to relatively higher expenditure on pensions and unemployment. The Belgian social security sector expanded strongly in the 1970s. In the ensuing period, total social security receipts and expenditure remained relatively stable on average; expressed as percentages of GDP, they stood in 2000 at roughly the same level as in 1980. During this period, however, there was a “stop and go” policy on expenditure and receipts : expansion periods were followed by periods in which a more restrictive policy was pursued. In recent years, social security has again been expanding, although only to a more limited extent. Over the years, the structure of social security spending has changed significantly : due to the strong rise in health care expenditure, this spending item has now become the most important component, just ahead of pensions. Since receipts and expenditure have hitherto moved very much in parallel, the financial balance of social security has always hovered around equilibrium. At present, the social security sector is not only free of any financial liabilities, it actually has substantial financial assets. Population ageing will clearly exert strong upward pressure on future expenditure on pensions and health care. This increase can be only partly offset by the predicted decline in unemployment expenditure and family allowances. Therefore, social security will have to face a major financial challenge in the (near) future.

Suggested Citation

  • B. Eugène & T. Stragier & K. Van Cauter & L. Van Meensel, 2005. "Social security finances," Economic Review, National Bank of Belgium, issue iii, pages 87-106, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbb:ecrart:y:2005:m:september:i:iii:p:87-106

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hall, Simon & Walsh, Mark & Yates, Anthony, 2000. "Are UK Companies' Prices Sticky?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 52(3), pages 425-446, July.
    2. Emmanuel Dhyne & Luis J. Álvarez & Hervé Le Bihan & Giovanni Veronese & Daniel Dias & Johannes Hoffmann & Nicole Jonker & Patrick Lünnemann & Fabio Rumler & Jouko Vilmunen, 2005. "Price setting in the euro area: Some stylized facts from Individual Consumer Price Data," Working Paper Research 74, National Bank of Belgium.
    3. Loupias, Claire & Ricart, Roland, 2004. "Price setting in France: new evidence from survey data," Working Paper Series 423, European Central Bank.
    4. Apel, Mikael & Friberg, Richard & Hallsten, Kerstin, 2005. "Microfoundations of Macroeconomic Price Adjustment: Survey Evidence from Swedish Firms," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 37(2), pages 313-338, April.
    5. Kwapil, Claudia & Baumgartner, Josef & Scharler, Johann, 2005. "The price-setting behavior of Austrian firms: some survey evidence," Working Paper Series 464, European Central Bank.
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    More about this item


    Belgian public finance; social security; social protection expenditure;

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H51 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Health
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • H69 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Other


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