In 2022, 9,265 enterprises were declared bankrupt in Belgium. Although this is a 42% increase compared to 2021 (6,533 bankruptcies), this is also a 13% decrease compared to 2019 (10,598 bankruptcies), last year not affected by Covid-19.
However, these findings vary depending on the region.
At regional level, we see that only the Flemish Region registered a higher number of bankruptcies in 2022 than in 2019. The 5,287 bankruptcies in this region are the highest total since 2013, when 5,742 bankruptcies were registered.
In Wallonia, the 2,202 bankruptcies observed are the 3rd lowest result of these last ten years, after the ‘Covid years’ 2020 and 2021, and are 18% lower than in 2019.
The Brussels-Capital Region registered 1,776 bankruptcies, i.e. 40% fewer bankruptcies than in 2019. This also places the year 2022 among those with the lowest figures after 2020 and 2021.
At sectoral level, only the sectors ‘transportation and storage’ and ‘agriculture and fishing’ registered an increase in the number of bankruptcies in 2022 compared to 2019. Indeed, 577 enterprises in the sector ‘transportation and storage’ were declared bankrupt in 2022, compared to 504 in 2019. This is the highest number in the period 2012-2022, exceeding in particular the 571 bankruptcies recorded in 2012 in this sector.
The sector ‘agriculture and fishing’ registered 80 bankruptcies in 2022, i.e. 2 more than in 2019 and the highest number in this sector since 2015 (104).
Moreover, in the Flemish Region, two economic sectors have never recorded such a high number of bankruptcies over the period 2012-2022, namely:
- Construction, which registers 1,073 bankruptcies, i.e. 2% more than in 2013 (second highest value in the period with 1,052);
- Transportation and storage where 310 bankruptcies were recorded, i.e. a 7% increase compared to 2012 (289).
However, in the other two regions, the number of bankruptcies in 2022 never exceeds that of 2019 in all economic sectors.
While at national level all legal forms saw a decrease in bankruptcies compared to 2019, the number of bankruptcies among the self-employed is the highest of the last ten years in the Flemish Region (1,217 compared to 1,158 in 2019) and in the Brussels-Capital Region (164 in 2022 compared to 160 in 2019).
With regard to job losses, the value for 2022 (22,400) is higher than for 2021 (17,786) but lower than for 2019 (28,107) and 2020 (23,022). On the other hand, the ratio job losses per bankruptcy in 2022 is 2.42, which is the lowest in the entire period 2012-2022, which means that smaller enterprises went bankrupt in 2022 than in other years.
However, the number of job losses in 2022 has increased compared to 2019 in 3 economic sectors. It went:
- from 1,320 to 1,705 in transportation and storage;
- from 169 to 185 in agriculture and fishing;
- from 1,411 to 1,423 in professional, scientific and technical activities.
In addition to this press release and the supplementary report (NL - FR), Statbel also publishes more detailed monthly figures which can be broken down by municipality, by NACEBEL 2008 class or even dated back to the year 2009. These figures are available on be.STAT via the tab ‘Figures’ of this publication.
When interpreting the figures, account should be taken of the fact that there is a certain delay between the termination of the economic activity and the notification of bankruptcy by the business court. As a result, the economic impact is only reflected in the figures after a certain period of time.
Moreover, because of the Covid-19 crisis, many business courts and registries operated at reduced capacity and limited their activities until 18 May 2020. Furthermore, a Royal Decree leading to the freezing of bankruptcy proceedings before the courts was in force until 17 June 2020, in order to protect the enterprises that were healthy before 18 March 2020 from the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.
Then, on Friday 6 November 2020, the government approved a new moratorium on bankruptcies until 31 January 2021 in order to protect enterprises that were obliged to temporarily close their doors following the ministerial decree published on 1 November 2020 amending the ministerial decree of 28 October 2020 on emergency measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).
As compensation for the end of this second moratorium, the government implemented a reform based on 3 pillars in order to make the access to the procedure for judicial reorganisation more flexible. First, the procedure was simplified, by no longer requiring enterprises to give immediately 11 documents, but only 3. The other documents can be delivered during the procedure. Second, the procedure no longer requires a publication in the Belgian Official Journal, which allows the mediator to meet with creditors in complete discretion and thus prevent them from demanding the rapid repayment of their claims before an agreement has been reached. Third, the procedure for judicial reorganisation by amicable agreement are encouraged by a tax exemption that was until then only applied to procedures for judicial reorganisation by court order. The provisions relating to the first two pillars of the reform would initially be in force up to and including 30 June 2021, but were extended until 16 July 2022 by the Royal Decree of 24 June 2021 extending Articles 2, 4 and 12 of the law of 21 March 2021 amending Book XX of the Code of Economic Law and the Income Tax Code 1992.
Between these two moratoriums, the tax administration and the NSSO spared, by a de facto moratorium, enterprises by not declaring them bankrupt due to tax and social debts. This system also remained in force after 1 February 2021 before summons resumed from October 2021 for the NSSO and around March 2022 for the tax administration, where summons gradually resumed in several provinces.
Moreover, there is the judicial recess in July and August. Courts remain open during this period but the number of hearings is reduced. This is why our figures on bankruptcies are usually lower during this period.
Finally, many measures have been adopted - at federal, regional and local level - to support enterprises during the Covid-19 crisis. For example, the NSSO granted voluntary payment plans for a maximum duration of 24 months for the payment of all contributions and sums due for the year 2020. At the level of the National Employment Office, the entire temporary unemployment due to the coronavirus (or the conflict in Ukraine) could be considered as temporary unemployment due to force majeure ‘corona’ until 30.06.2022.
Finally, new measures have recently been adopted to support enterprises during the energy crisis. At the level of the NSSO, enterprises can, among other things, apply for a voluntary payment plan, while energy-intensive enterprises can make use of a special temporary unemployment scheme due to economic reasons for energy-intensive companies.
All these public measures described above have had a moderating impact on the number of bankruptcies declared since March 2020.