Coexistence Barometer: What distinguishes Belgians from non-Belgian residents?

Coexistence Barometer: What distinguishes Belgians from non-Belgian residents?
Flemish Home Affairs and Coexistence Minister, Bart Somers. Credit: Belga.

The Flemish Government revealed the latest data from its Coexistence Barometer, which aims to quantify the different views of Belgians and those who come to reside in the nation, whether from the European Union or elsewhere.

In 2017, Bart Somers was awarded the World Mayor Prize for his leadership of the Flemish city of Mechelen. The city's integration of refugees was cited as one of the major reasons behind this honour.

Two years later, the liberal politician was appointed Flemish Minister for Home Affairs, Integration, and Coexistence in the right-wing coalition government formed by Flemish nationalists N-VA, with Somers' party Open VLD, as well as the Christian democrats from CD&V.

Since then, he has been in charge of the Coexistence Barometer, which attempts to evaluate the differences of opinion between Belgians, Europeans, and those coming to Belgium from other countries.

In the government's view, this barometer goes a long way in assisting with the integration of migrants.

Thus, here are the most noteworthy findings from this year's barometer on 8 different themes: employment, level of education, social relationships, solidarity, citizenship, financial standing, equal treatment and knowledge of Dutch.

Ever-moving labour market

One key information to come out of this survey was that there are 238,000 more people of non-Belgian origin currently employed than 10 years ago.

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Indeed, the employment rate of people of first-generation non-EU foreign nationals rose by 9.6% during this period, where as Belgians only saw a 4.4% growth in employability. 

But the biggest surprise is the increase among workers in Belgium from EU countries, who saw a 12.9% growth in its workforce, with the second generation of migrants doing 23% better than the first generation from a decade ago.

However, as other politicians are calling for a better professional integration of undocumented migrants in Belgium, Somers' ministry has indicated that there is still work to be done as the gap between workers of Belgian origin and those from the EU is at 12.4%, and it is at 20.9% for those coming out of a country outside of the EU.

Cultural differences

Flemish newspapers De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad have also given a rundown of the barometer's findings, especially on the separation of church and state.

The respondents were asked whether they thought that the law could be broken, in the event of a conflict between one's religious beliefs and the law.

1.2% of Belgian respondents agreed, as well as 3.6% of respondents emigrating from the EU and most controversially 8.75% for those coming out of non-EU countries.

This opinion is held by a larger amount of second generation migrants (9%) and is even higher in Brussels where 13.2% of them agreed with the statement.

However, it is important to state that 5.4% residents of Belgian origin in Brussels are of the same opinion.

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