64% of Belgians fear not being able to pay their energy bills, according to the Grand Barometer survey carried out by Le Soir, RTL, and Ipsos. The results, published on Monday, show that fears are most prominent in the south of Belgium, where 73% of Walloons fear energy poverty, compared to 59% of Flemish and 70% of Brussels residents.
Faced with a surge in energy prices and constricted household finances, a majority of Belgians now say that they have been forced to change their behaviour. Around 80% of respondents now say that they use less electricity, gas, water, or heating fuel.
Economic and energy uncertainty have also provoked changes in other aspects of Belgians’ everyday lives. Non-essential activities, such as spending on hobbies, are being put off in favour of paying for energy.
According to a survey, more than 40% of respondents say that they have had to dip into their savings or borrow to cover unexpected energy expenses.
Furthermore, one-third of Belgians and 40% of French-speaking Belgians admit that the rise in energy prices has even led them to cut back on health care expenditure.
To this end, the energy support measures announced on Friday (and due to be implemented in November) following a meeting of ministers will be welcome, though some fear that they won't go far enough. The Federal Government will offer some middle-class households up to €135 support for gas and €61 for electricity for November and December.
However, the original survey was conducted before these support measures were announced so does not reflect household sentiment in light of the new government support.