Long-term unemployed could receive larger pension than self-employed, says report

Long-term unemployed could receive larger pension than self-employed, says report
Credit: Benoit Doppagne/Belga.

With a pension reform in Belgium expected in the next 12 months, many people have been shocked by revelations that have come out during exchanges by politicians who are struggling to come to an agreement in that time.

One such claim, from the leader of the French-speaking liberal MR party, Georges-Louis Bouchez, suggests that someone who has been unemployed from the age of 18 to the age of 60 will have a bigger pension than a self-employed person who has worked for 29 years but was unemployed for just one year.

But are these calculations accurate? Apparently, yes. A person who is unemployed from the age of 18 to 60 may be entitled to the minimum pension, which amounts to €1,637 gross for a single person, according to the Federal Pension Service. The self-employed person who has worked for 29 years and who has a year of inactivity will end up with a pension of just over 800 euros.

A self-employed person in Belgium must work for at least 30 years in order to be able to access the minimum pension. A period of 29 years will therefore not be sufficient, and the calculation of their pension will be made exclusively on the basis of the person’s actual career, and therefore their annual income.

"If their income is low, say between 30,000 and 40,000 euros per year, after a career of 29 years, it is possible that their pension reaches €800 or €900," a spokesperson for Pensions Minister Karine Lalieux told Le Soir. “The problem lies in the fact that their period of activity extends to only 29 years, one year short.”

However, what is not explained is that an extra year of activity by the self-employed person will be enough for them to meet the criteria for the minimum pension.

According to Karine Lalieux's spokesperson, this situation that puts a long-term unemployed person in a better position is “totally imaginary," as no more than 1,000 people, or 0.02% of the active population, have been unemployed for 30 years or more.

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"It is worth remembering that a jobseeker, in order to be recognised as such, must first have worked in order to qualify for benefits, must be available on the labour market and must prove that they are actively looking for work,” the spokesperson stated. “If they do not meet these conditions, their unemployment benefit is suspended and they therefore no longer contribute to their pension during this period, which is not taken into account for the calculation of their pension."

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