Flanders is looking to make working more attractive than unemployment and to increase the employment rate to 80%. How? By giving 733,000 people a job bonus for the first time.
Belgium has a lower employment rate than the European Union average, despite there being more job vacancies than in previous years. To make working more attractive, especially for people in lower-income jobs, the government will automatically pay out a work bonus to those who register for it.
"With the job bonus, we are helping to provide an answer to the persistent shortage in the labour market. Because work should pay off more," Flemish Minister of Employment Hilde Crevits said. For many employees, this will be the first time they receive such a bonus, which will be handed out at the end of this year.
"By increasing the difference between unemployment benefits and income from work, more people are activated and guided towards the labour market," she added.
The bonus, for which the draft decree was approved on Thursday, also aims to give an additional financial incentive to those already in work.
Higher wages, smaller bonus
The initiative mainly concerns people who work in sectors where wages are the lowest, for example in the catering industry, the service cheque sector, agriculture or the temporary employment sector, according to a government statement.
The lower the income, the higher the amount an employee will receive. In concrete terms, this means that people with a gross salary of €1,800 per month will receive €600 net extra at the end of the year. The bonus will decrease as the salary increases. Beyond €2,500 per month the bonus will no longer be given.
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"Working must be rewarded, so people with lower wages must be able to keep more net. With this proposal, we give extra net wages, up to €600 per year, to this category of wage earners," Flemish Minister of the Budget Matthias Diependaele said.
"In this way, we not only provide more purchasing power, but we also motivate them to get and stay in work."
The bonus will be paid automatically via My Citizen Profile, the website of Flanders where citizens can consult an overview of all their government affairs.