Employment and unemployment

Employment rate continues to rise in third quarter

Work & training
Employment rate continues to rise in third quarter

Sharp increase in employment and unemployment among young people

In the third quarter of 2021, 71.4% of people aged 20-64 in Belgium were employed, compared to 70.5% in the previous quarter. This is what emerged from the new results of Statbel, based on the Labour Force Survey (LFS). The ILO unemployment rate increased from 6.2% to 6.6%. The unemployment rate sharply increased among men, from 6.0% to 7.0%. Among women, the unemployment rate drops from 6.4% to 6.0%, bringing women’s unemployment rate back below that of men.

The most striking developments are seen among young people, both employed and unemployed. This is typical of the third quarter: young people who graduate find work or actively look for work. Some young people have a student job during the summer months. They are also included in the employment figures if they actually worked during the reference week for which they were interviewed. The number of employed young people increases by 71,000 or 23.6% between the second and third quarters of 2021. The number of ILO unemployed younger than 25 increases by 18,000 or 25.9% between the second and third quarters of 2021. In the other age groups the evolutions are much more limited.

In the third quarter of 2021, an average of 880,000 employed persons were absent from their job during the entire reference week. Logically, the main reason for not working the whole week is, due to the summer period, holidays (663,000 people).

The number of temporarily unemployed continues to decrease, both among those who are fully temporarily unemployed and those who are partially temporarily unemployed. The numbers are down, irrespective of the duration (3 months or longer).

In the third quarter of 2021, we see for the first time a clear impact of the relaxation of the governmental teleworking obligation. 38.2% of people employed sometimes, usually or always worked from home in the third quarter of 2021. This percentage was still 43.5% in the second quarter. We notice in particular a strong decrease in the percentage of employed people who always work from home, from 16.4% in the second quarter of 2021 to 10.3% in the third quarter of 2021.

In comparison with the results of the third quarter of 2020, the strong increase in the employment rate is particularly striking. It went from 70.2% in the third quarter of 2020 to 71.4% in the same quarter of 2021. At the same time, over the same one-year period, we see a stabilisation of the unemployment rate. In the third quarter of 2020 it was 6.5% and in the third quarter of 2021 it was 6.6%, but when applying comparable definitions, the unemployment rate is 6.5% in both the third quarter of 2020 and the third quarter of 2021.

Table 1

Employment rate, unemployment rate and activity rate by gender for Belgium and the regions, last 4 quarters

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Table 2

Definitions regarding employment and unemployment

The survey is harmonised at European level. The definitions regarding employment and unemployment that are mentioned are those of the International Labour Office (ILO) to allow international comparison.

  • People with a job (employed people) comprise all people who during the reference week performed some work ‘for wage or salary’ or ‘for profit’ regardless of the duration (even if this was only one hour), or who had a job but were temporarily absent. For example, one can be temporarily absent for holidays, illness, technical or economic reasons (temporary unemployment),....

Family workers are also included in the category ‘employed’.

Since 2021, people who have been temporarily unemployed for an uninterrupted period of more than three months are counted as unemployed or inactive, and no longer as employed.

  • The unemployed comprise all people who:

(a) during the reference week were without work, i.e. were not in paid employment or self-employment;

(b) were available for work, i.e. were available for paid employment or self-employment within two weeks after the reference week;

(c) were actively seeking work, i.e. had taken specific steps during the last four weeks including the reference week to seek paid employment or self-employment, or who had found a job to start within a maximum period of three months.

Please note: The ILO unemployment figures are unrelated to any possible registration with the VDAB, Actiris, FOREM or the ADG, or to the receipt of unemployment benefits from ONEM (National Employment Office). As a result, they cannot be compared with administrative unemployment figures.

  • The labour force is made up of the employed and the unemployed.
  • The economically inactive population comprises all people who were not considered as employed or unemployed.
  • The employment rate represents employed persons as a percentage of the same age population. 
  • The employment rate as part of the Europe 2020 Strategy represents the share of persons employed in the population aged 20 to 64. 
  • The unemployment rate represents the share of unemployed people in the labour force (employed + unemployed) within a given age group.
  • The economic activity rate represents the share of the labour force (employed + unemployed) in the total population within a given age group.

The above indicators (employment rate, unemployment rate and economic activity rate) are the most important indicators for international comparisons of the labour market evolution.