One in three Brussels families can't afford a holiday

One in three Brussels families can't afford a holiday
An Easyjet aeroplane flying near Brussels Airport in Zaventem. Credit: Belga / Eric Lalmand

Brussels households struggle more to make ends meet and cover vital expenses, a recent survey has shown, with a large number indicating they cannot afford to pay unexpected costs or book a holiday away from home.

More than one million people living in Belgium are materially and socially deprived, equating to almost 10% of the total population, figures released by Statbel on Thursday showed. However, this figure is significantly higher in the Brussels-Capital Region, where 17.5% of the population struggles to afford various expenses.

"Unexpected costs such as bills and invoices, as well as holidays, are the biggest stumbling blocks for households in Belgium," Statbel noted. In Brussels, 34.4% of the population cannot afford to take one week's holiday per year away from home, compared to one in five people across the whole population.

In Wallonia, holidays are financially unattainable for slightly over 30% of households, while in Flanders, this figure is just 12%.

Meanwhile, more than one in three households in Brussels faces (great) difficulty to make ends meet, compared to 16.9% of Belgium's population, one in four in the Walloon Region and just 10% in the Flemish Region.

Regional differences

Statbel surveyed 6,700 households about 13 expenses they can or cannot afford, finding that households in the Flemish region are the least likely to struggle to cover costs incurred.

Those unable to afford five of those expenses are deemed materially and socially deprived, while households that cannot afford seven of those aspects are severely materially and socially deprived. Last year, 5.8% of the population found itself in this situation, but again, the figure was much higher in Brussels, (11.6% of households).

While 13.6% of households in Flanders were not able to incur an unexpected expense, this figure was as high as 40% in Brussels, and 34% in Wallonia.

Meanwhile, households in the south of Belgium were most likely to lack sufficient financial resources to properly heat their homes: 9.5% in Wallonia, compared to 5.1% across the entire population. "This is the highest percentage since 2019," Statbel noted, adding that the data was collected between February and August 2022 when energy prices were high, but temperatures were as well.

Social differences

Differences were also uncovered when looking at people's status of employment, their living situation and the structure of families: more than half of all the unemployed, renters, members of single-parent families and people with the lowest incomes noted it was financially unattainable to cover an unexpected expense of €1,300, while around half could not afford a week's holiday.

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"The figures also show that work does not necessarily protect against these vulnerabilities: 12.1% of employed people cannot afford a week's holiday and 14.6% struggle to cope with an unexpected expense," Statbel noted.

Meanwhile, these vulnerable groups are also less financially capable to spend money on meeting up with friends or participating in leisure activities.

In Brussels, 14.5% of households note it is impossible to afford to meet up with friends or family for a meal or drink at least once a month (8.6% for the whole Belgian population).

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