Welfare state and Poverty in Flanders #8 Work

Poverty evolution in Flanders

8.     Work

Work-related factors were the principal explanations given as to why people were poor or excluded from society, the three main reasons being long-term unemployment (35 % of respondents giving it as one of up to three replies), insufficient pay (34 %) and insufficient social benefits or pensions (34 %). Other key reasons given by respondents to explain their perceptions of why people are poor or excluded from society included addictions (29 %), a lack of education (23 %), suffering from a long-term illness or disability (22 %), or having gone through a family break-up or a death within the family (21 %). [1]

Unemployment rate in Europe (UE) and United St...

Unemployment rate in Europe (EU) and United States of America

The employment rate in the EU‑27 was 65.9 % in 2008, which was below the Lisbon target rate of 70 % set for 2010. Employment rates were above this target in only eight Member States (Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, the United Kingdom, Finland, Cyprus and Germany) but below 60 % in Poland, Romania, Italy, Hungary and Malta. The widest dispersion of regional employment and unemployment rates in 2007 was recorded in Italy (reflecting a divide between north and south), while Belgium and Germany also recorded considerable regional disparities for unemployment. [2]

Emlployement rates by age and gender

Persons are considered to be long-term unemployed after 12 months of unemployment, and very long-term unemployed after 24 months. The unemployment rate for the EU‑27 fell from 9.0 % in 2004 to 7.0 % in 2008, while the long-term unemployment rate fell proportionately more, from 4.2 % to 2.6 %. In 2008, the long-term unemployed in the EU‑27 represented just over one in three of all unemployed persons.

Marx and Verbist (1998), Nolan and Marx (2001), European Foundation (2004), Eurostat (2005), Andress and Lohman (2008), Lohmann (2009) have let us see that the percentage of men at work and really living in financial poverty is like in many continental European countries even higher than in the United Kingdom or Ireland.

In 2007, close to one in ten adults aged between 18 and 59 was living in a household where nobody was working. Particularly high rates of jobless households were reported in Belgium, Hungary and Poland, while by far the lowest proportion of people living in a jobless household was recorded in Cyprus. Unemployment also affects other household members, and in 2007 a similar proportion (9.4 %) of children aged between 0 and 17 lived in a jobless household in the EU‑27. [3] When we look at the ciphers of jobless households in Flanders or Belgium it seems very depressive. Furthermore we find a lot of people in Flanders doing part-time work as of an involuntary nature, generally as a result of not being able to find full-time work. [4]

Jobless households 2007

In 2009 21% of the Flemish got to see over an income lower than 70% of the regional median income, 6% over an income lower than 50% of the median income and 3% lower than 40% of the median income. In 2009 15% of the Flemish, approximately 930,000 people, lived in a household that indicated them self to come around very difficult with the available income.[5] Single people, members of large families and certain members of single-parent families indicate that it is often difficult to come round, more than other household types.

Table: Mean and median equivalised disposable incomes, 2007:
Mean income (EUR): 19 129; Mean income (PPS): 18 217; Median income (EUR): 17 563; Median income (PPS): 16 726; Median income by age (PPS): 18-24: 16 444; 25-49: 18 586; 50-64; 17 558; Median income by gender (PPS): Female: 16 332; Male: 17 171[6]

Poverty threshold single person household

Work at risk of Poverty

Poverty-incidence: 6.20% of the working & 48.58% of non working single persons; from the parents on their own: 10.02% of the working group & 66.17% of the non workers. For couples or two adults 45.08% of the non working, 10.76% when one person is working; 2.81% when two person are working; giving a total of 13.40% of the population who live in poverty, according the: EU-SILC, 2006.[7]

Concretely the Flemish regional poverty risk threshold lay according to the EU-SILC-survey of 2009 for a single on 12,159 Euro per year or 1,013 Euros per month.  Converted is that for a family with 2 adults and 2 children 2,128 Euros per month. Something less than 1 on 8 Flemish (12%) in 2009 must see to come around with an income under this poverty threshold. That comes to the same thing with approximately 730,000 people. Opposite 2005 is the poverty risk percentage (= the share people under poverty risk threshold) gone down. The comparisons make is difficult with the period for 2004 because of a fracture in the time series. Well is it so that between 1994 and 1997 the poverty risk percentage lift is gone down, after which it between 1997 and 2001 it has remained stable less or more.

Generally in Flanders a lower proportion of the population on active age is to be found under the poverty line (measured as 60% of the equivalent median income in Belgium) then for Belgium and both other regions separately. The poverty risk under employees is rather lower in Flanders than in Wallonia. The big differences in poverty figures between regions are mainly situated by the men without work: in all the parts of the country is their poverty risk substantially higher than between the working force, and this especially has been pronounced in Wallonia and Brussels. For self-employed lies the poverty risk under that of individuals without work, but really also clearly higher than that of employees. [8]

Of the people in single-parent families almost 3 on 10 have to see to come around with an income under the poverty risk threshold. To number, the single people form the largest group at the people under the poverty risk threshold, shortly followed by the older couples.

The poverty risk percentage lies by working a lot lower than with unemployed people, retired and others non-actives. To number, the retired form the largest group under the poverty risk threshold, shortly followed by the other non-actives. If looked at the work intensity on family level the risk on poverty seems most to lie with members of families with children of which nobody works (work intensity = 0). 7 on 10 people in this group risks an increased chance on poverty. Also by people from families with children where limited work can be found (work intensity between 0 and 0,5), lies the poverty risk yet very high. A job forms however no closing protection against poverty. That appeared from the fact that 100,000 Flemish that work really must manage with a household income under the poverty risk threshold.

Concerning age, we find the largest poverty risk by the youngest and the older categories. With younger people, this is especially the case with fulltime employees: they built up yet no seniority and mostly are on a low wage. By the eldest, this is especially the case with self-employed. [9]

Poverty risk by gender, educational level, tenure and activity status

While in the 1980s there was a particular demographic problem of the 1960s’ ‘baby-boomers’ entering the workforce and a decline of wealth which made that less work was on the market. At that time this gave a problem of youth unemployment. Young people leaving school, college or university and graduating directly to the dole queue appeared to indicate a failure of society, let alone the economy. Idle hands often turned to mischief or crime. Some of them could at first find no work because there was none, and afterwards found no work because they had no work experience or were too old for the job. It is the group between 45 and 54 year, that under employees has a higher poverty risk than average, and consequently is over represented in the group of poor people. An impoverished underclass was created: those who are poor for a long period, and whose poverty is due to unemployment and inactivity rather than to old age, disability or low wages. The non actives especially the middle age categories have a higher than average poverty risk. Younger people that live of an allowance payment have a risk that lies lower than that of the average social security recipient. Often it is because those benefit claimants still live at their parents’ home. By the oldest group it concerns mostly young-retired, with a yet relative high replacements rationale. Nevertheless, the poverty figures of the not-working lie for each age group above the general average. [10]

The lowest paid employees are women and younger people. Only mostly they are not the most important breadwinner in the family, where it is a necessity to have several wage earners.
The minority of people that have a low paid job and really are the most important provider generally live in poverty and not rarely in deep poverty. Sometimes it are single people, and especially single parents. The largest group, in most countries really, consists however of couples with children by which there is but one breadwinner. Often it is a reflection of on the one hand socio-demographic factors (e.g. the share one parent humans) and, especially, the size of the one earner ship. But people in full-time working families comprise a higher proportion of those in poverty than previously estimated. The problem of having to work lots of hours to get a reasonable income and having so many obliged expenses, such as child care costs, social security taxes, and out-of-pocket medical expenses, which tend to outweigh the noncash and cash benefits.

People in full-time working families with young householders have high poverty rates, reflecting the importance of work experience and the difficulties young parents face in trying to make ends meet. Approximately half of the working poor live in a family in which children are also present.

While in the previous century poverty rates for people in full-time working families could be found by the Italian immigrants they are particularly high today among certain demographic subgroups such as Moroccans, Turks, Roma, Albanian, a.o. people who came to Belgium to find their luck, and those where the head has less than a high school education or is under 25 years old. Where previously especially labour migrants from particular countries immigrated, is the situation today much more various. Migration hangs often together with specific events (as the situation in Yugoslavia or Afghanistan) but also the image of the Western world and the increased transport possibilities play a role.

From a study[11] came to lightly that in no other country the gap on the territory of work between immigrants and indigenes is as large as in Belgium. Individual differences (as the education situation) appear insufficient to declare this grade of the problem, hence the necessities also to hold account with macro-economic differences between countries (as differ in job market administration or social administration).  An important attentions point to it is the attitude of employers: how is the knowledge and experience of migrants evaluated?

Soon we have to face the retirement of the children boom of the 1960ies. Ageing populations, the emergence of a growing, welfare-dependent underclass and the sapping effects of modern welfare states on incentive, initiative and enterprise, should make the government react now and not having a delay into finding a solution that everybody can live a worthy life.

The presences of two work incomes are clearly the best guarantee for financial revenue base and social security.
The government should look at it that employers provide more than the subsistence level, reasonable work hours and good prospects.

Relevant publications:

–         Van Robaeys, Bea, Krols, Yunsy (2008), ‘Gelijke kansen voor morgen. Een verkenning van armoede bij Turkse en Marokkaanse vrouwen in Vlaanderen, in Welwijs, 19 (4): 3 -5.

–         Van Robaeys, Bea (2008), ‘Armoede heeft vele kleuren’, in Welzijnsgids, 70 (november 2008): 43-58.

–         Van Robaeys, Bea; Krols, Yunsy (2008), Inzetten op de toekomst van de kinderen. Percepties over sociale mobiliteit van arme Turkse en Marokkaanse personen in België, in Vranken, J. (e.a.), Armoede en Sociale Uitsluiting. Jaarboek 2008: 221-240.

–         Krols, Yunsy, Van Robaeys, Bea, Vranken, Jan (2008), Gelijke kansen voor morgen. Een verkenning van armoede bij Turkse en Marokkaanse vrouwen in Vlaanderen, Leuven: Acco.

–         Van Robaeys, Bea (2008), ‘De donkere kleur van armoede’, in Alert. Voor zorg en sociale politiek, 34: 1 (2008).

–         Van Robaeys, Bea (2007), ‘De kleur van armoede’, in UVV-info, jg. 24, nr. 6, p. 10-12.

–         Van Robaeys, Bea; Vranken, Jan; Perrin, Nathalie; Martiniello, Marco (2007), De kleur van armoede. Armoede bij personen van buitenlandse herkomst, Leuven: Acco.

–         Van Robaeys, Bea; Perrin, Nathalie; Levecque, Katia; Dewilde, Caroline (2006), ‘Armoede bij allochtonen: een verkenning’, in Vranken, J., De Boyser, K., Dierckx, D. (eds.), Armoede en sociale uitsluiting: jaarboek 2006, Leuven: Acco, p. 303-318.


[1] Eurobarometer survey (number 227)

[2] Combating poverty and social exclusion: a statistical portrait of the European Union 2010

[3] Combating poverty and social exclusion: a statistical portrait of the European Union 2010; Eurostat 2010

[4] Though the country with the highest part-time employment rate, the Netherlands, recorded the lowest rate of involuntary part-time work.

[5] Ciphers of the Flemish govenrment its 2011 rapport

[6] Eurostat Income reference period 2006; Source: Eurostat (ilc_di03)

[8]  Armoede onder werkenden in Vlaanderen, Vlaanderen in een Belgische context, Ive Marx, , Gerlinde Verbist, Pieter Vandenbroucke, Kristel Bogaerts, Josefine Vanhille, Centrum voor Sociaal Beleid Herman Deleeck, Universiteit Antwerpen, Eindrapport 12 mei 2009

[9]  Armoede onder werkenden in Vlaanderen, Vlaanderen in een Belgische context, Ive Marx, , Gerlinde Verbist, Pieter Vandenbroucke, Kristel Bogaerts, Josefine Vanhille, Centrum voor Sociaal Beleid Herman Deleeck, Universiteit Antwerpen, Eindrapport 12 mei 2009

[10]  SILC, 2006. & Armoede onder werkenden in Vlaanderen, Vlaanderen in een Belgische context, Ive Marx, , Gerlinde Verbist, Pieter Vandenbroucke, Kristel Bogaerts, Josefine Vanhille, Centrum voor Sociaal Beleid Herman Deleeck, Universiteit Antwerpen, Eindrapport 12 mei 2009

[11] Bart Meuleman from the Catholic University Louvain in his exposition over the immigration history in Europe and Belgium and the different explanations model for that. > Expertseminarie migratie en armoede – Jaarboek Armoede en Sociale Uitsluiting 2011 (6 april 2011).


Interesting to connect: The Flemish Parliament or Het Parlement van de Vlaamse Regering

Een analyse van de Armoede in Vlaanderen door Marcus Ampe - Poverty in Flanders, an analysis by Marcus Ampe


  • How important the stability of just one or two industries in any state can be brings America’s Fastest- and Slowest-Growing State Economies (dailyfinance.com) in discussion. According to the latest U.S Department of Commerce data, which was released last week, there can be seen a very wide range of variation among the growth rates.
    The information shows how important the stability of just one or two industries in any state can be. Many of the states in the industrial Midwest lost manufacturing jobs, as would be expected. Most had slow population growth between 2000 and 2010 and a lack of economic expansion seems to have coincided with relatively low median income. States that lost major industries or where those industries were crippled were left with poorly paying jobs. The median incomes in Indiana, Georgia, Missouri, and Michigan are low and grew more slowly than wealthier states. The improvement over the ten year period amongst these states was usually strong.
    One of the reasons for finding Michigan’s presence at the bottom of the list is the loss of population over the past ten years and the loss of nearly a million jobs during the recession. (General Motors and Chrysler recently exited bankruptcy.)
  • Involuntary early retirement (retirement benefits can be a source of transfer payments) is not only a problem for Flanders. Spokane Median Income Growth Rate (inlandnw.wordpress.com) shows that by making people redundant to work brings those people more in problems diverging further and further from the State’s median income.
  • The poverty line for each country is set at a percentage, usually 60% or 50%, of that country’s median household income. As I tried to showed you so far you can see that a nation’s relative poverty rate is determined largely by wage inequality among individuals in the bottom half of the distribution, employment inequality among households in the bottom half, the previous education and the position of the labour providers their attitude to older workers.  Relative Poverty (economistsview.typepad.com) brings forwards that according to them the third main pillar is and the generosity of the public safety net.
    It is a pity Lane Kenworthy does not go in deeper into that mainstay of economical foundations. In chapter 11 I shall talk on the participation of people in the community.There you shall find that a lot of possibilities of being able to go to places, to do some activities or to enjoy culture will depend largely on funding. In my concluding chapter 12 I should have put perhaps more attention to dangers of intervening to much by a government and by creating safety-nets in a wrong manner (see previous chapters) by weakening the system, having no good balance with an unending unemployment benefit for example (As you can find in other articles by me). As I already warned in other articles we have to be careful by trying to make the Welfare System to caring so  it can undermine the work spirit and incentive to move forwards.
    Government transfers have increased in a number of countries, but often only enough to offset the rise in market inequality.
  • Recent ciphers can be surprising by showing countries who tried to do a lot of social work, but still bringing the poverty line higher.  Countries like UK, Japan and Israel have seen a steep increase in poverty rates, according to a new OECDreport that looks at poverty across its member countries.
  • Lots of people dream of America and think the grass is greener over there than in their homeland. Also about Europe a lot of eastern countries think it is heaven on earth over here.
    They are blind for the poverty which is also for the local population often hidden. But we must see over here in Flanders and the European Union that it goes the same way as in the “New World” if we are not careful. The very foundations of the U.S. economy have rotted away and they now can find themselves on the verge of an economic collapse.  Already, millions upon millions of Americans are slipping out of the middle class and into the devastating grip of poverty.  Statistic after statistic proves that the middle class in the United States is shrinking month after month after month.

  • Strangely, countries do not seem to want to learn from others nor from the history.
    In Flanders, Wallonia and the Brussels Region it seems to have gone worse than the German region of Belgium. None of the political parties of Belgium really wanted to stick out their neck and go against certain evolutions on the workforce. The Belgian government did spend more than they gained and as the United States they have absolutely refused to stand up to the Federal Reserve and the horrific economic policies that they have been shoving down our throats for decades. As in the U.S. all parties have stood idly by as the Belgian trade deficit has absolutely exploded in size and the different Belgian Regions have become significantly poorer. In the seventies Flanders welcomed the American factories who had to pay the Flemish much less than in their own country. They were cheap labour. But time changed and now the workers became too expensive because of the greediness of the state, who always charged more and more taxes, to fill their own pockets and to lower the growing deficit.
    When the tide of the businessmen investing in Flanders became turning all parties have refused to do anything as month after month after month large numbers of factories and good paying jobs leave Belgium as you can see also happens in the United States.
    The two major parties have shoved the spending accelerator to the floor when they have been in power, but we have one comfort that it is not any more the largest debt or not like the U.S.A. were they have to face the largest national debt in the history of the world.Read more about the American situation and compare it to what happens in Flanders: http://www.businessinsider.com/15-shocking-facts-about-poverty-in-america-2010-9#ixzz1R9jY1CDN
  • 1 In 5 children living in poverty and experts telling us that about 50 percent of all U.S. children will be on food stamps at some point before they reach the age of 18, would that not give us something to think?
    Part of the reason is because an increasing number of parents can’t find work.  According to a U.S. Labor Department report, the average duration of unemployment in the United States hit 34.4 weeks in May, which was a big increase from 33 weeks during April.  To give you some perspective how incredibly bad that is, the average duration of unemployment was only 16.5 weeks in December 2007.

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/1-in-5-american-children-are-now-living-below-the-poverty-line-2010-6#ixzz1R9oKeVqcThe rich are getting richer as the poor are getting poorer.  According to the United Nations, the United States has the highest level of income inequalityof all of the highly industrialized nations.The poor are left with an increasingly smaller slice of the pie to divide among themselves.  In fact, those in the bottom 40 percent now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.But the truth is that as the U.S. economy continues to fall apart, we are all going to experience some very difficult times.

  • The reasons why a safety-net is so important you can find in the logbook of an American who had to subsidize the payments of his rent, utilities, food and car note with his savings. What is described in The Forgotten Americans (notwiredthatway.wordpress.com) happens today in many so called high tech industrialised wealthy countries.

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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21 Responses to Welfare state and Poverty in Flanders #8 Work

  1. It seems the current hardships are being shared by many countries and regions. Is there a solution or well we sick deep onto the mire?


  2. marcusampe says:

    Luckily there are some solutions people could work on, but hey shall ask a form of solidarity which goes further than a lot of people would like to take.


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