Poverty: 1.2 million get by on less than €1,500 a month
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    Poverty: 1.2 million get by on less than €1,500 a month

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    More than 1.2 million people in Belgium are getting by on a pension worth less than €1,500 a month net, according to the latest figures from the federal pensions ministry reported by De Tijd. The figure represents about half of all pensioners.

    That’s mainly the consequence of incomplete careers,” pensions expert and former minister Frank Vandenbroucke (sp.a) explained to the paper. “There are still many women who had very short working lives, and so obtained a very small pension. Although the group is thinning out.”

    The level of the minimum pension has been a feature of the talks still going on for the creation of a new federal government, with both socialists parties making an increase a requirement for their participation in the new coalition.

    According to the figures, the self-employed are the hardest hit, with 66% of them under the barrier of €1,500 net, which comes out to about €1,750 a month gross. Employees under the limit also exceed half, at 57%. On the other hand, government employees at all levels barely show up in the figures, with only 6% under the base limit. The average for this group is in fact €2,713 net, comfortably above the line.

    However despite pressure for the minimum statutory pension to be increased to at least about €1,500 net, it remains far from clear that that target could be reached in practice. “That depends entirely on the choices made by the parties,” Vandenbroucke said. However he warned that even if that target is achieved, many people will in practice remain below it.

    The reason is that the minimum by law is intended for those whose working life lasted 45 years. Someone who working life was incomplete, lasting for example 42 years, will received 42/45 of the minimum pension, equivalent to €1,400 a month.

    As far as women are concerned, they are concerned not only by the minimum pension but also the minimum number of years working. It remains to be seen, Vandenbroucke said, whether one or the other, or both, will come in for adjustment by the new government.

    In all there are six different rules in operation: separate regimes for employees, the self-employed and functionaries, rules for mixed careers and the minimum years rule. I have argued for the system to be simplified.”

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times