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Enhancing the Inclusiveness of the Labour Market in Belgium

Listed author(s):
  • Jens Høj


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    The global crisis led to a smaller increase in the unemployment rate than in most other OECD countries as employment has been sustained through intensive use of reduced working time schemes. These schemes have mostly benefited workers with permanent contracts while the higher unemployment mostly affected workers with weaker labour market attachment. A main challenge for policy makers is therefore to avoid that the increase in labour market segmentation between insiders and outsiders that would hurt the most vulnerable. Over the medium term, labour market policies need to respond to the ageing of the labour force, which implies that an increasing number of workers with permanent contracts will retire. Thus, policies must focus on enabling the current labour market outsiders to get a stronger foothold on the labour market as well as to mobilize under-utilised labour resources. The wage determination system has allowed wages to increase faster than the main competitors and faster than productivity, leading to a gradual loss of cost competitiveness. Minimum wages are high by international standards, hampering entry to the labour market for many low-skilled workers. Unemployment benefits are relatively generous, and particularly for long-term unemployed. A complicated tax-benefit system has created high effective marginal tax rates and numerous labour market traps. This Working Paper relates to the 2011 OECD Economic Survey of Belgium ( Pour un marché du travail plus inclusif en Belgique La crise mondiale a entraîné une progression du chômage moindre que dans la plupart des autres pays de l’OCDE car l’emploi est resté soutenu du fait du recours intensif à des dispositifs de réduction du temps de travail. Ces dispositifs ont bénéficié essentiellement aux travailleurs titulaires de contrats permanents tandis que la hausse du chômage a principalement touché les travailleurs dont les liens avec le marché du travail étaient plus distendus. L’un des principaux défis pour les responsables des politiques publiques est donc d’éviter que la segmentation accrue du marché du travail entre travailleurs intégrés et travailleurs exclus frappe les plus vulnérables. A moyen terme, les politiques du marché du travail doivent s’adapter au problème du vieillissement de la main d’oeuvre qui impliquera le départ à la retraite d’un nombre croissant de travailleurs titulaires de contrats permanents. Les politiques publiques doivent donc s’attacher à permettre aux travailleurs aujourd’hui exclus du marché du travail de s’y implanter plus fermement mais aussi à mobiliser les ressources en main d’oeuvre sous-utilisées. Le mécanisme de fixation des salaires leur a permis d’augmenter plus vite que ceux des principaux concurrents et plus vite que la productivité, ce qui a abouti à une perte progressive de compétitivité-coûts. Les salaires minimums sont élevés comparés aux standards internationaux, ce qui est un frein à l’entrée sur le marché du travail d’un grand nombre de travailleurs peu qualifiés. L’indemnisation du chômage est relativement généreuse, en particulier pour les chômeurs de longue durée. Une fiscalité et un régime de prestations complexes ont généré des taux d’imposition effectifs marginaux élevés et de nombreux pièges sur le marché du travail. Ce Document de travail se rapporte à l'Étude économique de l'OCDE de la Belgique 2011 (

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    Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Economics Department Working Papers with number 1009.

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    Date of creation: 15 Jan 2013
    Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:1009-en
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