The number of self-employed workers in Belgium has increased constantly since 2002, attaining 1,087,763 last year, 2.76% more than in 2016, the National Institute for the Social Security of the Self-Employed (NISSE) said on Thursday in its annual report. A total of 708,203 men and 379,560 women were self-employed in 2017, the Institute noted.
Whether full-time or part-time self-employed, active pensioners, starters or self-employed students – a status created in early 2017 – all categories saw their numbers increase except that of assisting spouses.
Some 667,000 of persons registered with NISSE lived in Flanders, 294,000 in Wallonia (except the German-speaking community, which had 6,400) and 107,000 in Brussels-Capital Region. About 12,000 were based abroad.
Trade was the sector with the largest number of self-employed persons (330,000), just slightly more than the liberal professions (329,000), followed by industry (243,000). The number of persons in full-time self-employment was about 723,000, while for 259,000, it was a supplementary activity and 105,000 were pensioners who continued to work for themselves.
There were 120,012 self-employed foreigners and affiliated assistants, with the main nationalities being Rumanian, Dutch and French.
NISSE also registered 114,601 starters last year, as against 109,195 in 2016. Non-nationals numbered 28,217, with the largest contingents being Rumanians, Bulgarians and Dutch nationals.
However, there were slightly fewer assisting spouses – 26,268, down from 27,698 in 2016 – a trend that began many years ago.
Finally, there were 5,008 student-entrepreneurs, half of them in the liberal professions.
Meanwhile, average annual incomes increased considerably, although the gaps between sectors remained considerable. The highest average annual referential incomes were those of shipowners, 37,613.88 euros, and members of the liberal professions – 32,072.88 euros. On the other hand, people in the services and farm sectors averaged less than 15,000 euros per year.
“Fiscal 2017 was special on many counts,” NISSE said in its report. “In fact, a new law on financing social security entered into effect on the 1st of January 2017 following the 6th State reform, the revision of the budget target for health care, and the financing of tax-shift measures,” it added.
“Government has continued to make significant improvements to the social status of the self-employed, after conducting a first evaluation of the reform to the calculation of social contributions. It also pursued its efforts in the fight against social fraud and social dumping,” NISSE stressed.