Back to work: De Croo on employment drive as focus turns away from state aid

Back to work: De Croo on employment drive as focus turns away from state aid
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Credit: Belga/Benoit Doppagne

After having made it a priority during the successive economic crises to protect the purchasing power of the Belgian population, the Flemish liberal Open VLD party wants to get more people into work this year, said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo earlier this week.

De Croo had already told De Tijd that competitiveness rather than financial protections would become the focus. On Monday, he repeated that message, saying that the country's social security has proven its worth over the past two years but more people need to work to protect it.

"We have to give opportunities and make people stronger, but they also have to fight and work themselves. At some point, it must be clear that everyone who is able must get up in the morning and go to work," De Croo said. "We will never accept that people who do not work earn more at the end of the month than someone who works every day."

Retire at 58

Speaking at the party's New Year's social reception, leader of the Flemish liberals Egbert Lachaert also mentioned the reform of the social energy tariff to "support people who work". He called on the VDAB (the Flemish employment service, equivalent of the Walloon Forem or Brussels' Actiris) to "do more than what it is doing today" to promote employment in Flanders.

Lachaert stressed that the Federal Government will have to work at full speed this year in the run-up to the 2024 general elections.

In addition to job creation, Lachaert spoke about the tax reform being prepared by Federal Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem (CD&V), which he said should above all enable people to earn more on a net basis and the government to work "more efficiently" by collecting less tax.

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However, the New Year's reception was overshadowed by a demonstration carried out by police unions that had gathered outside. For months the unions have demanded that pay rises be implemented at once (as had been promised). But the Federal Government now wants to spread them out.

"On the other side of the street, there are unions who think it is normal that you retire at 58 and that is why they come to intimidate us. We, the Liberals, will never think it is normal," Lachaert said.

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