The coronavirus pandemic has forced 30% of meal voucher beneficiaries to cut back on their food spending, according to a study commissioned by VIA, the Voucher Issuers Association.
This amounts to roughly 640,000 workers.
“We observe an imbalance in the food budget of certain households when they no longer have the meal voucher. These groups in more financial difficulty reduce their food budget. This shows that the meal voucher secures this basic need,” said Olivier Bouquet, the president of VIA.
The results come from a survey of 1,641 workers who receive meal vouchers from their employer. A meal voucher is an electronic check that can be used to pay for a meal or to purchase ready-to-eat food, and they are issued by private companies – not the government – as a employment benefit or incentive.
“Many expenses, such as travel or relaxation, have also been cut,” the study found, adding that this was “worrying.”
Temporary unemployment affected 30% of all beneficiaries, but a much higher number (54%) of blue collar workers.
The study estimates that one in two workers receiving the vouchers – or more than a million Belgians – waits for their meal vouchers before planning their food purchases. Half of them use the vouchers within 14 days and over 80% do so within a month.
Just 22% of 1,641 workers who were surveyed said that the amount of food vouchers received enables them to cover all of their food needs.
Last year, 119,000 companies in Belgium granted meal vouchers to their employees, with an average value of €6.57.