'Not necessarily a good evolution': Number of redundancies at lowest point in decade

'Not necessarily a good evolution': Number of redundancies at lowest point in decade
Credit: Belga

That Belgium's labour market is in disarray is nothing new, with reports of staff shortages regularly making headlines. The ongoing lack of dynamics between companies is further adding to the problem and is seeing companies keep people out of necessity.

In the Unites States, the pandemic-era trend known as the Great Resignation has resulted in a labour market characterised by a high number of voluntary departures but few lay-offs, and ample job openings — conditions that are favourable to workers. This trend was expected to spread to Europe, however, there are few signs of this in Belgium, according to HR service provider Securex.

While there is an abundance of job vacancies in Belgium, few people are leaving their jobs, as a study showed earlier this year. Voluntary staff turnover in the first half of this year remained unchanged compared to last year (3,3%), and even young people, of whom it is generally expected that they would often change jobs, no movement is being materialised.

"Belgian employers tend to only resort to (expensive) dismissals in exceptional cases, while many employees are sticking to their open-ended contracts with extensive seniority benefits," Securex's Frank Vander Sijpe said.

Bad evolution?

This is clear in the number of redundancies, which decreased by 14.9% to a level of 1.77% in 2021: the lowest in the past decade. To put this into context, 8% of Belgians received a dismissal letter in 2013. While this could be seen as positive news for employees, Vander Sijpe explained this isn't always the case.

"Firing someone is unpleasant and many companies today want above all to keep their employees, but fewer redundancies are not in itself a good evolution," he said.

While more turnover would be good for the Belgian labour market as the influx of non-active people or employees from outside the organisation could create oxygenation, it would also help ensure that fewer employees stay in a job against their will, and that they are challenged more.

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"Employers are now keeping people on board out of necessity when, in other circumstances, they would have normally fired them." The reason why employers resort to keeping staff is the tightness in the labour market, and the fear that they will not find a person to fill a position after firing someone, which in itself is a very expensive affair.

"We hear from employers that they would rather have someone on the job who is not fully satisfactory than be left with an empty chair. Because that leads to extra pressure on the other, more committed colleagues," Vander Sijpe told De Tijd.

"The people you really need are in danger of becoming demotivated or of suffering from burn-out."

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