Belgium in Brief: Are Belgians work-shy?

Belgium in Brief: Are Belgians work-shy?
Credit: Belga

Though highly valued, foresight is not a natural human trait; we are hardwired to focus on the here and now. When it comes to seeing the bigger picture, we invariably turn to short-term comfort rather than watch for less immediate after-effects. While there's a limit to how much we might expect creatures of a limited lifespan to plan ahead, proper provision for what is likely in the mid to long-term doesn't really align with how modern societies are structured.

Those nations that have a democratic system of governance are invariably subject to brief tenures that can even see progress on one front overturned by an incoming agenda. Despite rights and constitutions, few things are assured. The hand that gives does also take away.

And with pressure mounting to address Belgium's growing budget deficit, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has decided that the state aids his government has granted in recent years is unsustainable. And whilst this obviously spells bad news for the majority of households who have been shielded from financial crises by policy protections, it is the test of a politician to tell people what they'd rather not hear.

De Croo's strategy has been to frame the change in course as an appeal to Belgium's "hard workers" – speaking at a party conference, the Prime Minister said that the country must now turn towards international competitiveness, which means a big employment drive: "people have to fight and work themselves."

Yet De Croo's speech contained the thinly-veiled implication that some sectors should work a bit harder. His words might even have been interpreted as a slight towards a lazy or even stubborn profile that is holding the country back: "everyone who is able must get up in the morning and go to work."

What the Prime Minister didn't make explicit was vocalised at the end of the conference when party leader Egbert Lachaert scolded a police union protest staged outside the venue. "On the other side of the street, there are unions who think it is normal that you retire at 58 and that is why they come to intimidate us," a combative Lachaert vowed.

Like several of its neighbours, Belgium has seen a flurry of strikes in recent months – today one of the major arteries to the city centre was blocked by firefighters appealing over pay conditions. At the same time, a deep pessimism about future prospects is setting in across the country. Will Belgium work its way into better times?

Let @Orlando_tbt know.

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