37.6% of the unemployed people in 2020 were in work in 2021

Work & training
37.6% of the unemployed people in 2020 were in work in 2021

Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, publishes today figures on individual shifts on the labour market in the year 2021, compared to the year before. We call this the labour market transitions for 2020-2021. We focus here on the 15-64 year-olds.

The longitudinal nature of the Labour Force Survey makes it possible to measure the dynamics on the labour market. For example, is someone who is employed at a given time still employed a year later, or has this person become unemployed or inactive?

The transitions between 2020 and 2021 are gradually reflecting the recovery from the coronavirus crisis. More people are in work, mainly because fewer people become or remain inactive.

We note that, compared to the transitions between 2019 and 2020:

  • Many more people who were unemployed in 2020 found work in 2021;
  • Employed people stayed employed slightly more;
  • The percentage of inactive people who remained inactive one year later decreased slightly.


The greatest fluctuations are always seen among the unemployed people because they are the most mobile on the labour market. Of those who were unemployed in 2020, 38.0% remained unemployed in 2021, 37.6% went to work and 24.4% became inactive.

If we compare the figures of 2019-2020 with 2020-2021, on average more unemployed people have found a job compared to the previous year. Especially in the age group between 25 and 34 years, a large proportion of the unemployed found a job (44.2%). This drops to 36.4% among the 45-54 year-olds and 21.4% among the 55-64 year-olds. Highly-skilled people found a job much more often than medium-skilled and low-skilled people.

In all regions, the percentage of unemployed people going into work increased between 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. More than half of the unemployed Flemings found a job between 2020 and 2021. In the Brussels-Capital Region and the Walloon Region, this percentage is even lower, at 34.3 and 26.4% respectively.


Of those who were working in 2020, 92.4% remained employed in 2021, 2.0% became unemployed and 5.6% became inactive. We see here the impact of the modification of the questionnaire. If the former classification had been maintained, 93.2% would have remained employed, which is almost the pre-crisis level.

If we compare the figures of 2019-2020 with those of 2020-2021, we see little change: people who are employed usually stay employed. We see few differences according to gender, nationality or region. However, we see large differences according to the level of education: 79.3% of those without an upper secondary education diploma remain in employment, while this figure amounts to 91.3% for those with an upper secondary education diploma or post-secondary education diploma and 96.9% for those with a higher education diploma.


Also among inactive people, we traditionally see little change. Of the 15-64 year-olds who were inactive in 2020, 81.6% remained inactive, 5.1% became unemployed and 13.3% started working.

If we compare the figures of 2019-2020 with 2020-2021, we see a limited shift here: slightly fewer people remained inactive, and they went into work or actively looked for a job slightly more often. Mainly women, Belgians, young people and low-skilled people remained inactive. Regionally, we see only limited differences.