Employment and unemployment

Number of self-employed people on the rise

Work & training
Number of self-employed people on the rise

Labour market remains favourable in second quarter of 2022

In the second quarter of 2022, 71.4% of people aged 20-64 in Belgium are in work, compared to 71.9% in the first quarter of 2022 and 70.5% in the second quarter of 2021. This is what emerged from the new results of Statbel, based on the Labour Force Survey (LFS).
The ILO unemployment rate of 15-64-year-olds shows a slight increase compared to the previous quarter, from 5.4% to 5.7%, but decreases compared to the second quarter of last year, when the figure was 6.2%. For the population aged 15 and over, general employment has increased by 2.6% between the second quarter of 2021 and 2022, but there is a big difference in evolution between wage earners and self-employed people. While the wage-earning population increases by 1.1%, there is an increase of 12% in the number of self-employed people. Within the wage-earning population, there is also a difference in evolution between wage earners from the private sector on the one hand and those from the public sector on the other: the employment rate of wage earners from the public sector decreased by 4.5% while the number of wage earners in the private sector increased by 3.1%.

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Labour market remains favourable compared to last year

71.4% of people aged 20-64 in work

After reaching 71.9% in the first quarter of 2022, the employment rate dropped slightly to 71.4% in the second quarter. Compared to the second quarter of last year, however, we do see an increase: the percentage of employed people in the population aged 20 to 64 rises from 70.5% in the second quarter of 2021 to 71.4% one year later. In absolute terms, this means that in the second quarter of 2022, 4,812,000 people aged 20 to 64 are in work in Belgium. If we look at the population of 15 years and older, this is 4,956,000 people.

the second quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of 2022, the employment rate increased for both women and men, for 20-54-year-olds and people over 55 and for low-skilled, medium-skilled and highly-skilled people (chart 1). Looking at the region, we see an increase in Brussels and Flanders compared to last year. In Flanders, the employment rate increases from 75.0% to 76.3% and in Brussels from 61.6% to 64.8%. In Wallonia, however, we note a slight decrease, from 65.4% to 65.0%.

Chart 1: Evolution of the employment rate of 20-64-year-olds by different characteristics (Q2 2021 – Q2 2022)

ILO unemployment rate of people aged 15-64 amounts to 5.7%

In the second quarter of 2022, the ILO unemployment rate of people aged 15-64 is 5.7%, which represents a slight increase of 0.3 percentage points compared to the previous quarter (5.4%), but a decrease of 0.5 percentage points compared to the second quarter of last year (6.2%). In absolute terms, the number of unemployed people aged 15-64 in the second quarter of 2022 is 294,000, of whom 68,000 are unemployed in Brussels, 95,000 in Flanders and 131,000 in Wallonia.

Just like with the employment rate, most subgroups show a positive evolution compared to last year: both for men and women, for the various age groups and for the medium-skilled and highly-skilled people, the unemployment rate drops slightly between the second quarter of 2021 and the same quarter in 2022. However, when we look at the figures per region, we see that the decrease is mainly located in the Flemish Region. There, the unemployment rate fell from 4.0% to 3.1%, while there was a slight increase in the two other regions. In Brussels, there is an increase of 0.2 percentage points (to 12.0%) and in Wallonia an increase of 0.1 percentage points (to 8.6%).

Chart 2: Evolution of the unemployment rate of 15-64-year-olds by different characteristics (Q2 2021 – Q2 2022)

Evolution of employment by status

While the total number of employed people increased by 2.6% between the second quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of 2022, we see some remarkable differences depending on the status of those employed. This way, we see that in one year 81,000 self-employed people have been added, compared to only 45,000 wage earners. In relative terms, this represents a huge difference. It means an increase of 12.0% for the self-employed against an increase of only 1.1% for the wage earners. Note that this is the status in the main job. A possible second job was not taken into account. The term 'self-employed' includes both self-employed people without staff and employers with staff. The category of helpers is also classified as self-employed. The term 'wage earners' includes the statuses of blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, statutory civil servants and contractual civil servants.

When we make a further distinction between the private sector and the public sector (= statutory and contractual civil servants) within the group of wage earners, we note another striking difference. While the number of wage earners in the private sector increased by 3.1% between the second quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of 2022, the number of wage earners in the public sector decreased by 4.5%.

Table 1: evolution of employment of the population 15+ (Q2 2021 – Q2 2022)

  Q2 2021 Q2 2022 Evolution Evolution (in %)
Wage earners 4,153,000 4,198,000 45,000 +1.1%
- private sector 3,041,000 3,136,000 95,000 +3.1%
- public sector 1,112,000 1,062,000 -50,000 -4.5%
Self-employed people 677,000 758,000 81,000 +12.0%
Total 4,830,000 4,956,000 126,000 +2.6%

Profile of self-employed people

If we zoom in on the profile of the self-employed (as their main occupation) in Belgium (chart 3 + figures in attachement), we see that the majority of them are highly skilled (55% of all self-employed in Q2 2022). It is also in this category that most self-employed people were added in the past year (+41,000), even though, in relative terms, the increase among the low-skilled and medium-skilled was slightly higher (+15% among the low-skilled, +13% among the medium-skilled and +11% among the highly-skilled).

In terms of regions, most self-employed people live in the Flemish Region (64% of all self-employed people in Q2 2022), which is proportionally slightly more than the share of the Flemish Region in the total working population (61%). In both absolute and relative terms, we see here the strongest increase in the number of self-employed people between the second quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of 2022: the number of self-employed people rose by 65,000 (+16%). Proportionally, the number of self-employed people in Wallonia rose slightly less by 15,000 (+8%) and in Brussels, the number of self-employed people remained more or less the same.

Self-employed people are mainly found in the middle age group (25-49 years), but they are also relatively strongly represented in the older age group: 42% of all self-employed people are 50 years or older, while only 32% of the total working population is over the age of 50 in the second quarter of 2022. Among young people, the self-employed make up a small group, yet this number has more than doubled in the past year (+104%). Among the elderly, too, there is a sharp increase of 15% or 41,000 people in absolute terms.

In terms of gender, men are the most represented among the self-employed (65% compared to 53% in the total employment). However, in the second quarter of 2022, proportionally slightly more female self-employed workers were added than male self-employed workers. +17% for women against 10% for men.

 

 

Chart 3: Profile of the number of self-employed people (Q2 2021 – Q2 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 shifts between the second quarter of 2021 and 2022 confirms the favourable developments in the labour market.

Methodological note

The reported figures are estimations based on a sample survey. They are based on an effective sample of about 25,100 persons (respondents) between 15 and 89 years old in the second quarter of 2022. This represents about 12,200 respondents in Flanders, 9,500 in Wallonia and 3,400 in Brussels.

our 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.

e 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.

 

 

 

Annex 1: Profile of the number of self-employed people and wage earners in comparison with the total employment (Q2 2022).

  Total wage earners Self-employed people Total employment
Low-skilled people 12% 11% 12%
Medium-skilled people 37% 34% 37%
Highly-skilled people 51% 55% 51%
 
Brussels-Capital Region 10% 10% 10%
Flemish Region 61% 64% 61%
Walloon Region 29% 26% 28%
 
15-24 years old 7% 4% 7%
25-49 years old 63% 54% 62%
50 years and + 30% 42% 32%
 
Men 51% 65% 53%
Women 49% 35% 47%

Annex 2: Profile and evolution of the number of self-employed people (Q2-2021 - Q2 2022).

  Wage earners - private sector Wage earners - public sector Self-employed people
Q2 2021 Q2 2022   Q2 2021 Q2 2022   Q2 2021 Q2 2022  
Low-skilled people 427,000 429,000 +1,0% 78,000 73,000 -7,0% 72,000 82,000 +15,0%
Medium-skilled people 1,255,000 1,316,000 +5,0% 286,000 244,000 -15,0% 231,000 261,000 +13,0%
Highly-skilled people 1,359,000 1,391,000 +2,0% 749,000 745,000 0,0% 374,000 415,000 +11,0%
Brussels-Capital Region 271,000 292,000 +8,0% 126,000 136,000 +8,0% 76,000 77,000 +1,0%
Flemish Region 1,918,000 1,983,000 +3,0% 606,000 576,000 -5,0% 422,000 487,000 +16,0%
Walloon Region 852,000 861,000 +1,0% 380,000 350,000 -8,0% 179,000 194,000 +8,0%
15-24 years old 250,000 255,000 +2,0% 38,000 44,000 +17,0% 14,000 29,000 +104,0%
25-49 years old 1,924,000 1,995,000 +4,0% 715,000 654,000 -9,0% 385,000 410,000 +6,0%
50 years and + 867,000 886,000 +2,0% 359,000 363,000 +1,0% 277,000 318,000 +15,0%
Men 1,653,000 1,689,000 +2,0% 471,000 442,000 -6,0% 448,000 490,000 +10,0%
Women 1,388,000 1,447,000 +4,0% 641,000 620,000 -3,0% 229,000 267,000 +17,0%
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.

Low-skilled people are people who have at best a lower secondary education diploma. Medium-skilled people have obtained an upper secondary education diploma, but no higher education diploma. High-skilled people have a higher education diploma.

Forms

Methodology