Over 10,000 workers have applied for temporary unemployment due to the energy crisis in a week and a half according to the latest list from the National Employment Office (RVA).
Two hundred Belgian companies have already applied to use the temporary unemployment scheme due to the energy crisis, reported De Standaard. The recently created scheme allows companies to let go of their staff on the condition that energy accounts for more than 3% of production costs. In doing so, the government guarantees increased benefits.
The latest update from the National Employment Office (RVA) on 10 October shows that all applicable companies together have applied for temporary unemployment for 10,684 workers. A huge increase since 6 October when the counter stood at only 1,175 employees from forty-four companies.
Scaling back production
In recent weeks, several major industrial companies in Belgium have made it clear that they will scale back or even shut down production due to high energy prices. These included a plant of the Norwegian chemical group Yara in Tertre (Hainaut), ammonia production at BASF Antwerp and the Genk site of Aperam, a producer of stainless steel.
However, what the impact was on employment remained very unclear. Only Aperam indicated that it plans to close its Limburg plant completely during the autumn holidays, meaning that nearly 1,200 staff will fall back on unemployment benefits for a week.
Metal industry particularly hit
Incidentally, recent figures from the RVA show that the metal industry has so far made the most applications for this scheme. With 2,852 employees, the sector accounts for more than a quarter of all declarations and is only represented by four companies nationwide.
The textile industry accounts for 1,674 workers in 16 companies who will be temporarily unemployed in the coming months, followed by the plastics processing industry, with nearly 1,200 applications in 13 companies.
It looks as if a significant proportion of companies are not closing down completely for long periods, but are looking to introduce partial employment.
- Staff cuts and colder offices: Belgian SMEs scrambling to save money
- Belgian government announces new energy support measures
However, the figures are still quite moderate compared to applications for temporary unemployment during the Covis-19 pandemic, although this goes hand in hand with the fact that mandatory closure faced many companies.
According to RVA spokesman Kristof Salens, in the first month of the pandemic in Belgium, over 130,000 Belgian companies applied for temporary unemployment for a total of just over a million workers.