Monthly figures on the labour market – December 2021

Monthly figures on the labour market – December 2021

The provisional results for the monthly indicators based on the Labour Force Survey of Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, show an increase in the employment rate compared to November 2021. The employment rate of people aged 20-64 is estimated at 71.5%. The unemployment rate has already been decreasing for two months in a row and is estimated at 5.4% in December 2021.

Since mid-November, teleworking has again become compulsory, which is reflected in the figures. While the figure fluctuated around the 36-37% between July and October, the share of homeworkers increased again in December 2021 to 40.2%.

The employment rate increases to 71.5%

According to the provisional results of the Labour Force Survey, the Belgian employment rate of people aged 20-64 is 71.5% in December 2021. After a fairly sharp fall in November, the employment rate is now almost back to the level of October 2021.

The employment rate has increased both for men and women and amounts to 74.1% for men and to 68.8% for women. We also see that the increase occurs in all regions. The employment rate of people aged 20-64 is estimated at 66.0% in Brussels, 75.8% in Flanders and 65.6% in Wallonia.

At the beginning of 2021, a new European framework regulation came into force. This led to adjustments to the survey. Therefore, the employment rate of 2021 cannot simply be compared with the figures before 2021. One of the important changes: from this year on, people who are temporarily unemployed for more than three months are no longer counted among the employed, but among the unemployed or inactive, depending on the answers to the questions on job search and availability. In order to illustrate the impact of this changed classification of the long-term temporarily unemployed, we calculate, in addition to the official employment rate, an alternative employment rate, whereby the long-term temporarily unemployed are, as before, classified as employed persons. Since May 2021, we have seen the number of long-term temporarily unemployed begin to fall sharply, which has also narrowed the gap between the official and alternative employment rates. In December 2021, this difference has for the first time completely disappeared.

The unemployment rate decreases further to 5.4%

After a decrease in August (6.3%) and September (6.0%), the ILO unemployment rate of people aged 15-64 rose back to 6.6% in October. This increase did not continue in November and December. In November, the unemployment rate fell below 6% for the first time in 2021 and continued to slightly decrease to 5.4% in December.

The decrease is only evident among women. The unemployment rate in this group decreases from 4.7% to 3.6%, while the unemployment rate of men increased from 6.5% to 7.1%. When we look at the figures per region, we see fairly stable figures in Flanders (from 3.3% to 3.4%) and Wallonia (from 8.8% to 8.7%) and a fairly sharp decrease in Brussels (from 10.5% to 8.0%).

Just as for the employment rate, the changed classification of the long-term temporarily unemployed from 2021 onwards has no longer any impact on the unemployment rate. Both the official and alternative unemployment rates amount to 5.4% in December.

Share of homeworkers rises again

From July onwards, we saw a clear impact of the relaxation of the teleworking obligation with a decrease in the percentage of homeworkers from 41.6% in June to 37.4% in July. In the months July up to and including October, the percentage remained fairly stable at around 36% to 37%. Since mid-November, working from home has again become compulsory wherever possible, which is again reflected in the figures. After an increase from 36.6% to 38.5% in November, the percentage of employed people who sometimes, usually or always work from home continues to increase in December to 40.2%.

The average working time is 27.9 hours per week

In December, the average number of hours worked per week is, with 27.9 hours, still slightly lower than in November, which can be explained by the public holidays and school holidays in December.

Logically, we also see this effect in the figures on absences. On average, 756,000 employed people were absent from their jobs during the entire reference week. The main reason for not working the whole week is holidays or public holidays (444,000 people), but also the number of people who did not work because of an illness or an accident is quite high with 193,000 people.

In addition, in December there were on average 1.1 million people with a job who worked less during the reference week due to holidays or a public holiday and 83,000 people who were absent for at least half a day (but not the entire week) due to an illness or an accident.

Finally, if we look at the evolution of the number of temporarily unemployed people, we can see that this category increased slightly again in December. About 28,000 employed people were absent during the entire reference week due to temporary unemployment, compared to only 5,000 in November. In addition, some 34,000 employed people were in temporary unemployment for part of the reference week. The latter figure has also increased in comparison to the previous months.

Methodological note

The reported figures are provisional estimations based on a sample survey. They are based on an effective sample of about 9,700 persons (respondents) between 15 and 89 years old in December 2021. This represents about 4,900 respondents in Flanders, 3,700 in Wallonia and 1,100 in Brussels.

The results presented here are indicative monthly results and are subject to greater random fluctuations than the quarterly and annual results, because they are based on a twelfth of the annual sample.