Pandemic-driven records: More students working more hours in 2021

Pandemic-driven records: More students working more hours in 2021
Students working in a restaurant. Credit: Bruno Fahy/Belga

The number of students working part-time jobs during weekends and holidays, as well as the number of hours worked, reached record levels in 2021, mainly driven by the pandemic.

A total of 565,248 young people found their way to a student job, the highest number on record, according to recent figures from the National Social Security Office (ONSS).

This marks a slight increase (+1%) compared to 2019, while in 2020 (the first pandemic year), the number of working students had still fallen by 11%, mainly as a result of the partial or temporary shutdown of many sectors that usually employ younger people.

Various Covid-19 factors impacting employment

The high figures in 2021 are remarkable, as the demand for working students in some sectors was still limited in 2021. While the 'Arts, Entertainment and Recreation' sector, which includes many festivals and other events, did recover compared to 2020, the number of jobs was still 4% behind 2019.

However, other sectors that were in need of extra hands due to the health measures or because the permanent staff were no longer available did see the number of students they employed increasing, including the agricultural (+22%), healthcare (20%) and trade (4%) sectors.

Meanwhile, more young people were ready to work because their holiday plans were cancelled, as travel was more difficult due to restrictions and measures imposed, and many festivals were also cancelled.

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The figures also highlighted that students are working more and more hours. Compared to 2019, the number of hours worked per student increased by 12% to an average of 207 hours per year in 2021.

This was mainly because the restriction on the number of student hours was discarded, allowing students to work unlimited hours.

The hourly wage also increased compared to the period before the crisis (+4.5%), to an average of €12.8 per hour.


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