Belgium has pursued a policy in favour of the poor for the past 25 years, but its efforts are insufficient, the authors of the University of Antwerp’s 2018 Poverty and Social Exclusion Yearbook reported on Monday. “With the (Prime Minister Charles) Michel Government, we’ve even seen a slight break in the trend of this policy in favour of the poor, with measures that are beneficial in particular to the upper middle class,” the report noted.
According to a simulation done on the past 25 years, policy orientation was mainly in favour of the poor. “Compared to the 1992 tax and allowances system, that of 2018 is more redistributive,” the researchers found. “It’s more generous to the neediest households than to those in the top income-distribution tier.”
On the other hand, the study’s authors note a slight break in the trend of the past years under the Michel Government, giving as an example the scrapping of a 30% tax bracket, as a result of which a larger portion of earnings is taxed at a lower rate. “Measures like scrapping the 30% tax bracket and the increase in the lumpsum deduction of professional expenses are particularly advantageous to the upper middle class,” the authors noted.
Increases in excise and in value-added tax for electricity (up 21%) are also among the most negative effects on the least wealthy households.
Even if the present government makes efforts to help the lowest-income households, the study noted, almost all minimum allowances are below the poverty-risk threshold and the budgets needed for an adequate social participation. “The federal government had promised to raise these allowances to that threshold, but this promise has remained a dead letter,” says University of Antwerp researcher Jill Coene.
The Government places emphasis on activation, but the mantra “jobs, jobs, jobs” seems to target mainly those who already have jobs, with projects focussing on supplementary activities and flexible work. “Those who are unemployed are left to their fate,” the study’s authors conclude.