Employment and unemployment

Employment rate at record level in the first quarter of 2022

Work & training
Employment rate at record level in the first quarter of 2022

Also more employed people with a second job

In the first quarter of 2022, 71.9% of people aged 20-64 in Belgium were employed, compared to 71.6% in the fourth quarter of 2021 and 69% in the first quarter of 2021. Never before have so many people been at work. This is what emerged from the new results of Statbel, based on the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

The ILO unemployment rate of people aged 15-64 also evolves favourably. It has decreased from 5.8% to 5.4% between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022. Compared to the first quarter of 2021, the decrease is even more significant: from 6.7% to 5.4%.

Between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, both the employment rate and the unemployment rate evolve favourably for both women and men, in all age groups, in the three regions and for any level of education. The best scores were achieved everywhere by highly-skilled people, with an employment rate of 85.2% among 20-64-year-olds and an unemployment rate of 2.7% among 15-64 year-olds. The gap with low-skilled people remains large: they register an employment rate of 45.2% and an unemployment rate of 14.1%.

In addition to the strong increase in the employment rate between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, the number of people with a second job also rises sharply. In the first quarter of 2021, 204,000 employed people had a second job. One year later, that number had risen to 265,000, or 5.3% of all employed people. In the first quarter of 2021, the percentage of employed people with more than one job was 4.3%. Here, too, we see the highest percentage among highly-skilled people. This percentage of highly-skilled people with a second job rose from 5% to 6.6% in one year's time. Of all low-skilled people with a job, 2% have more than one job.

You will find more details here below.

Very favourable evolutions on the labour market

71.9% of people aged 20-64 are employed

71.9% of people aged 20 to 64 were employed in the first quarter of 2022, this is a record level. In the fourth quarter of 2021, the employment rate amounted to 71.6%. Compared to the first quarter of 2021, the increase in the employment rate is much sharper: the percentage of employed people in the population aged 20 to 64 has increased from 69% in the first quarter of 2021 to 71.9% a year later.

Between the first quarter of 2021 and that of 2022, the employment rate increases everywhere: among both women and men, among 20-54-year-olds and people over 55, in the three regions and among highly-skilled, medium-skilled and low-skilled people (Chart 1). We can see the highest employment rate of people aged 20-64 among the highly-skilled, and the lowest among the low-skilled. The gap between the employment rate of low-skilled people (45.2%) and that of highly-skilled people (85.2%) amounts to 40 percentage points. If we consider the group of 25-64-year-olds - most highly-skilled people have not yet graduated at the age of 20 - the employment rate of highly-skilled and low-skilled people is 87.7% and 46.3% respectively.

Chart 1: Evolution of the employment rate among 20-64-year-olds by different characteristics (Q1 2021 – Q1 2022)

The ILO unemployment rate of people aged 15-64 decreases to 5.4%

In the first quarter of 2022, the ILO unemployment rate of people aged 15-64 amounts to 5.4%. This is 0.4 percentage points less than in the fourth quarter of 2021 (5.8%) and 1.3 percentage points less than in the first quarter of 2021 (6.7%). As with the employment rate, the unemployment rate evolves very favourably between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022 for both women and men, the different age groups, the three regions and the three major education levels (Chart 2). Despite a striking decrease, the unemployment rate is the highest among young people (14.7%). Highly-skilled people register the lowest unemployment rate: barely 2.7% of the highly-skilled labour force is unemployed. The unemployment rate of low-skilled people is 14.1%.

Chart 2: Evolution of the unemployment rate among 15-64-year-olds by different characteristics (Q1 2021 – Q1 2022)

Second jobs on the rise

5.3% of employed people have more than one job

In addition to the strong increase in the number of employed people and the associated rise in the employment rate between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, we also see a striking increase in the number of people with a second job. In the first quarter of 2021, 204,000 employed people had a second job. One year later, that number had risen to 265,000, or 5.3% of all employed people. A year earlier, the percentage of employed people with more than one job was 4.3%.

Highly-skilled people in particular have a second job

The percentage of employed people with a second job increases among both women and men, but is the highest among men: 5.5% of the employed men have a second job, compared to 5.2% of women (Chart 3). We also see an increase in the percentage of employed people with more than one job in all age groups. 4% of young people, 6.2% of 25-49-year-olds and 3.9% of people over 55 have a second job in addition to their main job.

The highest percentage of employed people with a second job is observed among highly-skilled people. This percentage has increased from 5% to 6.6% in one year's time. There is also an increase among medium-skilled people, from 3.9% to 4.6%. This figure has only decreased among low-skilled people, from 2.6% in the first quarter of 2021 to 2% a year later.

Chart 3: Profile of employed people with a second job, figures in % compared to the total number of employed people (Q1 2021 and Q1 2022)

Mainly self-employment in a second job

Of all people with a second job, 85% are employees and 15% are self-employed in their main job. These are the same percentages when we consider all employed people, not only those with a second job. In their second job, 58% work as self-employed and 42% as employee (Chart 4).

Chart 4: Employed people with more than one job: professional status in the main job and in the second job (first quarter 2022)  

Transitions on the labour market

Based on the panel data available to the Labour Force Survey, we can also observe shifts or transitions in the labour market status of individuals. More information is available here. The analysis of these transitions between the first quarter of 2021 and 2022 confirms the favourable developments in the labour market and, more specifically, the good labour market scores of highly-skilled people.

Methodological note

The reported figures are estimations based on a sample survey. They are based on an effective sample of nearly 25,700 persons (respondents) between 15 and 89 years old in the first quarter of 2022. This represents about 12,500 respondents in Flanders, 9,700 in Wallonia and 3,500 in Brussels.

The Labour Force Survey is a continuous survey, which means that the sample is evenly spread over the 52 (reference) weeks of the year. The selected respondents answer a questionnaire mainly related to their activity in the course of a given reference week. The data presented here reflect the averages for the quarter.

In spite of the large sample on which the figures are based, one has to take into account (as with all results based on a sample) a certain degree of uncertainty regarding the estimated figures. In order to increase readability, reference is not always made to whether or not certain evolutions are significant. However, it should be borne in mind that small evolutions from one quarter to another are usually not significant. Therefore, we recommend evaluating the trends over several quarters, based on the reasoning that certain random sampling fluctuations are less visible in this way.

Definitions

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

The employment rate of people aged 20-64 is the share of persons employed in the total population aged 20 to 64.

The unemployment rate of people aged 15-64 is the share of unemployed people in the labour force (employed + unemployed) aged 15 to 64.

Low-skilled people are people who have at most a lower secondary education diploma. Medium-skilled people are people who obtained a diploma of upper secondary education but not of higher education. Highly-skilled people obtained a diploma of higher education.

Overview
Content
Table 1
Content

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.

Forms

Methodology