The pandemic posed enormous challenges to teachers in Wallonia and in Brussels, leading many to take advantage of a proposed pre-pension scheme and end their careers earlier than expected. A report by Le Soir shows that one in five teachers opted for earlier retirement in 2021.
Since the 1980s, teachers have been allowed to adjust their retirement between the ages of 58 and 65 depending on their seniority and the year they entered the profession, among other factors.
As a result, teachers have multiple end-of-career options, the most common of which are either a full retirement after at least 20 years of service or reduced working hours from the age of 55 onwards.
However, this then led to the Wallonia-Brussels Federation passing multiple decrees to delay the amount of teaching staff taking out their so-called pre-pensions.
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Nonetheless, the number of early retirements in the sector rose significantly in 2020 and 2021 – last year saw one in five teachers choose to retire earlier than planned.
The French-speaking General Education Administration explained this in part by a growth in older teachers since 2018 to help with the greater number of pupils in Belgium's French-speaking regions. Perhaps most importantly, teachers have opted for earlier retirement as a result of the pandemic and subsequent perils they have faced due to the virus.
Thus, this latest report does little to assuage fears of teacher shortages in Wallonia and Brussels, which the Wallonia-Brussels Federation has recently attempted to address by easing laws for those seeking to teach after a career change in their professional lives.