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    Quality of life on the wane for many Belgians

    © Belga
    Quality of life dips for many Belgians.
    © Belga

    The FGTB published yesterday (Monday) its new socio-economic barometer. This is around four themes which show, according to the Socialist trade union, how the quality of life for numerous Belgians is perceived to have dwindled for several years. The 2016 edition of the FGTB Socio-economic barometer describes four themes.

    These are the ability to live properly; the ability to live a quality professional life; the ability to live together in harmony and the ability to live on a sustainable planet.

    The barometer aims to exceed the normal economic indicators which it says “are not good criteria to measure the well-being of individuals.”

    Through a multitude of indicators coming from various Belgian and international institutions (including the National Bank of Belgium, OECD, National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance, IPCC, and others), a number of conclusions were drawn.

    One notable statistic is that the rate of risk of poverty for the Belgian population reached 15.5% in 2014. This was the most recent statistic emanating from the inter-federal poverty barometer and the highest level for the last ten years.

    The number of individuals subject to collective debt settlement has continued to increase in recent years, going from 56,952 in 2007 to 97,636 in 2015, as has the number of recipients of social integration allowance (similar to income support). The latter has gone from 95,479 in 2012 to 115,400 in the last year.

    The FGTB also highlight the fact that the average wage was 2,976 euros gross in Belgium. This means, without wishing to state the obvious (!), that half of all workers earn a lower monthly wage and half earn more.

    At the same time, “purchasing power has continued to decrease since 2009, and indeed has plummeted to 2006 levels.”

    The Socialist trade union points out that all of this has occurred when productivity has increased. The FGTB concludes that “Belgian workers may be more productive but the additional profits derived from this have not translated into higher equivalent wages.”

    Despite figures indicating a decrease in unemployment for a year and half, the FGTB mentions that “there have never been so many victims of unemployment than in 2015.” It also says that “the number of part-time jobs ‘whilst seeking something more suitable’, has greatly increased since the crisis started.”

    Interim contracts are “constantly increasing” although the reality is that 61% of interim contracts are indeed daily contracts.

    In response to the baromter’s findings, the FGTB considers that “we need to rediscover the direction of social progress not only in terms of wealth redistribution, but also in terms of life quality.”

    Moreover the Socialist trade union is putting forward “a fairer tax system”, quality public services which are accessible for everyone, a wage policy allowing for the maintenance of purchasing power and reducing the pay gap between men and women.

    In addition there should be an overall reduction in working time, thus allowing more people access to the employment market.

    Oscar Schneider
    The Brussels Times