Employment and unemployment

70.5 % of people aged 20 to 64 are employed in 2019

Work & training
70.5 % of people aged 20 to 64 are employed in 2019

New results of the Labour Force Survey in Belgium

Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, publishes today the results of the Labour Force Survey for 2019, a period where there was no talk yet of the coronavirus in Belgium.

2019 was a good year for the labour market: the employment rate of people aged 20-64 increased by 0.8 percentage point to 70.5 % and the unemployment rate of people aged 15-64 decreased from 6 % in 2018 to 5.4 % in 2019, the lowest annual average since records began in 1983. Women experienced the greatest changes: the gap between the employment rate of men and women is narrowing, and the unemployment rate of women falls further below that of men.

The evolution of both the employment rate and the unemployment rate is positive in the three regions, but large differences remain among the regions. With an employment rate of 75.5 % for people aged 20-64 and an unemployment rate of 3.3 % for people aged 15-64, Flanders has much better results than Brussels and Wallonia. Also noteworthy is the sharp decrease in unemployment in Wallonia, from 8.5 % in 2018 to 7.2 % in 2019, mainly due to a significant decrease of women’s unemployment rate.

The Labour Force Survey provides basic information for monitoring a number of objectives regarding employment and training in the framework of the EU2020-strategy. We note that it will be difficult to achieve Belgium's main employment target of 73.2 % of people aged 20-64 having a job by the reference year 2020. This would require around 186,000 more persons to be employed in 2020 than in 2019. Regarding the sub-targets in the framework of the EU2020 strategy in the field ‘employment’, the employment rate of women aged 20-64 in Belgium amounts to 66.5 % in 2019, i.e. 2.5 percentage points below the target of 69 % in 2020. The sub-target of having half of the people aged 55-64 in employment was already achieved in 2018. 50.3 % of people aged 55-64 were then employed, and this percentage increased to 52.1 % in 2019.

A final sub-target in the field ‘employment’ is to reduce the gap between the employment rate of Belgians and non-EU-citizens to less than 16.5 percentage points. In 2019, this gap amounted to 28.6 percentage points and was wider than in 2018. The employment rate of Belgians amounted to 71.8 % in 2019, that of non-EU28-citizens, 43.2 %.

Two of the three EU2020 goals in the field ‘education and training’ were already achieved. The percentage of early school leavers is since 2016 below the target of 9.5 %. In 2019, it amounted to 8.4 %. Besides, the percentage of people aged 30-34 with a higher education diploma is since 2018 above the target of 47 %. The percentage was 47.5 % both in 2018 and 2019. For both education indicators, women perform significantly better than men.

Finally, there is the objective to reduce the percentage of young people aged 15-24 who are not in education, employment or training (NEET indicator) to maximum 8.2 %. This percentage amounts to 9.3 % in 2019, i.e. 0.1 percentage point more than in 2018.

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 Labour Force Survey is a sample survey among private households, held throughout the year. It is based on the replies of almost 123,000 persons (respondents) of working age (15 and older).

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.

  • The employed comprise all persons who during the reference period performed some work for wage or salary, in cash or in kind, or who were temporarily not at work during the reference period and had a formal attachment to their job. This also includes family workers.
  • The unemployed comprise all persons who:

(a) during the reference period 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 period;

(c) were 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 later, i.e. within a period of at most three months from the end of the reference week.

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 persons who were not considered 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.



LFS : Methodological improvements of the Labour Force Survey (LFS) 2017 (PDF, 97 Kb)