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    Record numbers of Belgians on welfare benefits

    © Belga
    The researcher Bea Cantillon, from the University of Antwerp, fears for the strain upon the current welfare system.
    © Belga

    Some 1 in 20 (around 576,000 people) are on some form of welfare benefits, such as an adjustment for a small pension or disability allowances. This emerges from a survey by De Standaard conducted amongst federal public services. This proportion has tripled since the creation of these benefits in the 1970s. 

    There are structural reasons for this development. Bea Cantillon (from UAntwerpen) says. An example is migration – 70% of recipients are not of Belgian origin – the individualization of society and the economy which requires a greater skill set, but also longer life expectancies for disabled individuals. Julien Van Geertsom, President of the Federal Public Service for Social Integration Programme, indicates that the political choices made at federal level, such as increasing unemployment benefits, also make a difference.

    A larger and more diverse service user base faces each CPAS branch, with challenges in large cities. Ms Cantillon stresses that, “Individual support has not been anticipated for such a group.” This is all the more so since the federal parliament has allocated an increased number of roles to these bodies. It is the role of CPAS not only to welcome, but also to enable and integrate such individuals.

    Following her research, Bea Cantillon, warns against employment benefits being time-limited. This has the effect of moving 175,000 long-term unemployed from the social security system to so-called “social assistance.” The potential consequential risk is thus the destruction of the entire welfare system.

    Lars Andersen
    The Brussels Times