Almost half of all people employed in the Belgian hospitality sector during the first quarter of 2020 no longer have a job in this sector, according to the Federal Public Service Economy’s Labour Force Survey published on Tuesday.
The study compared the labour market status of the first quarter of last year when the pandemic started in Belgium with the first quarter of this year and found that, although most people are still in employment, the rate of employment has not recovered as well in all sectors.
“We see a particular effect among workers in hotels and restaurants: of those who were working in hotels and restaurants in the first quarter of 2020, only two-thirds are employed a year later,” the report read.
In the first quarter of 2021, the sector employed 40.4% fewer people than during the same period in 2020.
In comparison, employment in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector also dropped by around 10%. Only the Agriculture, forestry and fishing and ‘Human health and social work’ sectors had slightly higher job retention rates.
Meanwhile, in Brussels, businesses in the catering industry are finding it hard to fill vacancies, not because there are not enough people looking for a job in this sector – around 8,000 people are, according to Bruzz – but because jobseekers don’t have the relevant education or experience.
The number of job offers in the hotel and catering industry is at its highest since April, and the number of job-seekers in the sector has also remained high since March last year however a lack in experience as well as in the certainty such jobs offer during a pandemic is resulting in them remaining unfilled.
Job seekers’ struggle
When it comes to the impact on the unemployed, the study found that 44.9% of the job seekers in 2020 were unemployed (again) a year later, 29.1% have stopped looking or are no longer available for work and just 26% have found a job since.
The rate of continued unemployment varies between the French- and Flemish-speaking regions: in Flanders, 38.4% of the jobless remain unemployed, but another 38.6% found a job a year later.
In comparison, 48.6% remain unemployed and only 18.6% go back to work in Wallonia, whilst in Brussels, the rates are similar, with 48.7% people remaining jobless and 19.1% finding a job.
Young people and low-skilled people are particularly affected, as, respectively, only 80.2% and 77.4% of those who were employed at the start of 2020 were still employed in the first quarter of this year.
FPS Economy pointed out that making comparisons between the two periods when it comes to unemployment has become more complicated as the definition of employment changed in the new European Framework Regulation.
Now, people who have been temporarily unemployed for more than three months (‘long-term temporarily unemployed’) are considered unemployed or inactive, and no longer employed.
“In the first quarter of 2021, it is estimated that 80,000 long-term temporarily unemployed people will be counted as inactive (and to a lesser extent, unemployed),” the report explained.