Transitions on the labour market

Fewer transitions from unemployment to work in 2022

Work & training
Fewer transitions from unemployment to work in 2022

Of the approximately 4.92 million employed people aged 15-64 in 2022, 4.55 million were also working a year earlier. 105,000 people were unemployed and 262,000 were inactive. 95% of employed people in 2021 remained employed in 2022. It was slightly more difficult for unemployed people to find a job between 2021 and 2022 than between 2020 and 2021, so more people remained unemployed. The percentage of inactive people who remained inactive also increased.


Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, publishes today figures on individual changes in labour market status in 2022, compared to the year before. The modern labour landscape is constantly changing and more and more people are making transitions between employment, unemployment and inactivity. This could be for various reasons, such as exploring new career opportunities, starting your own business, or taking a break for personal or health reasons. It is important to understand that these transitions are normal and are part of the natural career path. Here we discuss labour market transitions between 2021 and 2022, with a focus on 15-64-year-olds.

The longitudinal nature of the Labour Force Survey makes it possible to measure the dynamics on the labour market. For example, is someone who is employed at a given time still employed a year later, or has this person become unemployed or inactive?

Between 2021 and 2022, 32.6% of the unemployed found a job

Between 2021 and 2022, 38.1% of the unemployed remained unemployed, 32.6% found a job and 29.3% became inactive (i.e. not available for work and/or not actively looking for work). Furthermore, 95.0% of employed people remained in work, 1.5% became unemployed and 3.5% became inactive. More information about employed people who remained in work is available here. Among inactive people, 84.3% remained inactive, 11.5% found work and 4.2% remained unemployed. Below, we take a closer look at how the transitions are going for high-skilled people.

High-skilled people


If we take a look at how transitions are taking place among the higher educated, we see a lot of stability in terms of employment: people who are higher educated, i.e. who have at least a bachelor's degree, stay in employment very easily. For all groups studied, 97.5% of the high-skilled employed in 2021 are still working a year later: this may be in the same job or a different one, but they always find work again quickly. The largest group of the higher educated aged 15 to 64 is in this situation: 80% are employed at both times, i.e. 2.4 of the 3 million higher educated.


If we take a look at the unemployed, we first see that this is a very small group: only 82,000 higher educated were unemployed in 2022. We see that high-skilled women (51.8%) get a job (back) faster than men (40.0%). There are also regional differences: in the Flemish Region, 56.8% of unemployed people in 2021 have a job a year later. This figure is 44.3% in the Brussels-Capital Region and 36.9% in the Walloon Region. So we also see these regional differences among the higher educated, although it seems easier for high-skilled people to find a job in Brussels.

By age, the trend is clear: the younger the high-skilled person, the quicker they find a job (excluding the 15-24 age group). People without the Belgian nationality also find work faster than Belgians.


About 360,000 high-skilled people are inactive in 2022. The majority, 305,000, was also inactive a year earlier. On average, 71.5% of inactive people in 2021 were also inactive a year later. This percentage is higher for women (74.3%) than for men (66.4%). 74.8% remained inactive in the Walloon Region, 71.3% in the Flemish Region and 65.5% in the Brussels-Capital Region. The largest group, both in terms of percentage and number, that remained inactive is the 55-64-year-olds (84.3%), followed by the 15-24-year-olds (74.2%). People with the Belgian nationality (73.1%) remain more often inactive than non-Belgians (65.5%).

Methodological information

The figures presented here are the results of the Labour Force Survey (LFS), a survey harmonised at European level. The definitions regarding employment and unemployment that are used are those of the International Labour Office (ILO) to allow international comparison. We distinguish three ILO statuses on the labour market: employed, unemployed and inactive. The definitions applied are available here.

Please note that temporarily unemployed persons are temporarily absent from work and are counted as employed.

The Labour Force Survey is a continuous survey, which means that the sample is spread evenly over the 52 weeks of the year. The selected respondents answer a questionnaire mainly related to their activity in the course of a given reference week. The respondents participate four times: they participate for 2 consecutive quarters, then don’t for 2 quarters, and then participate again for 2 quarters. This way, we can observe what the labour market status of a given respondent is in a given quarter, and a quarter and/or a year later: e.g. is someone who is unemployed still unemployed in the next quarter and/or year?

So, if one speaks of a particular status in a particular quarter, it is by definition the status in the reference week. If one indicates to work in the reference week of quarter Q and in the reference week of quarter Q+1, they are counted twice as employed. There are, of course, a number of cases that were unemployed in the meantime, for example, but this is beyond the scope of our data.

The quarterly transitions are the sums of weighted observations of respondents who participated in the successive quarters (e.g. 2019Q4-2020Q1, 2020Q1-2020Q2).

The quarter-specific annual transitions are the sums of weighted observations of respondents participating in the same quarter of two consecutive years (e.g. 2019Q1-2020Q1).

The annual transitions are the means of four quarter-specific annual transitions for two successive years (e.g. 2019-2020).

Respondents who did not participate in one of two waves (= interviews) cannot be taken into account in this analysis. Respondents in the longitudinal sample are in both quarters at least 15 years old and at most 74 years old.

The longitudinal sample is calibrated to the estimated distributions of ILO labour market status per age, gender, region, level of education and nationality in the start and end quarters.

The published figures are based on the Labour Force Survey. They are no exact figures but approximations based on the extrapolation of a random sample from the Belgian population. This must be taken into account when interpreting the results. When the unweighted number of people is lower than 30, data should be interpreted with caution.


The level of education is measured using a detailed questionnaire, and the people are then divided into three groups.

Low-skilled people are people who list lower secondary education as their highest level of education. Medium-skilled people  are people who obtained a diploma of higher secondary education but not of higher education. High-skilled people obtained a diploma of higher education.