Transitions on the labour market

Unemployed people find work less quickly than in the previous quarter

Work & training
Unemployed people find work less quickly than in the previous quarter

The figures for the second quarter of 2022 on the labour market transitions indicate that people continue to work easily, although the transition to work is slowing down for various groups of the unemployed. This is what emerged from new figures of Statbel, the Belgian statistical office. While between the first quarter of 2021 and 2022, 35.2% of the unemployed found work, between the second quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of 2022, this dropped to 31.1%. While 35.4% of the unemployed were still unemployed after one year in the first quarter of 2021, this is already 42.2%. Especially among men and medium-skilled people, we see more unemployed people continuing to look for work. Statbel publishes today the labour market transitions between the second quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of 2022.

Introduction

To assess the situation of the labour market, it is not only important to know how many people are unemployed, inactive and employed, but also how many people change their status within a given period of time. How many of the unemployed in this quarter were also looking for work a year earlier? How many of them have gone into work? What percentage of working people were also working a year earlier? Questions that can be answered with the Labour Force Survey, as this is a survey in which respondents are questioned several times.

In this press release, we discuss the evolution of the labour market status of people who were employed, unemployed or inactive one year ago (second quarter of 2021) and compare it with their status in the current quarter (second quarter of 2022). We also publish the comparison between the status in the previous quarter and the status in the current quarter. These figures are not discussed in this text, but can be found under Figures on the website.

Working

A very high percentage of people who were working a year ago are still working today. 94.4% of working people who were in work in the second quarter of 2021 are still in work in the second quarter of 2022. In addition, 1.4% of working people are unemployed a year later and 4.2% are inactive.

If we look at these figures for different groups, we see that the percentage of people who stay in work is high everywhere: for men and women, in the three regions and for people with and without the Belgian nationality. Only for age and level of education there are larger differences. Among 30-74 year olds, 96.2% remain in work, compared to 85.0% among 15-29 year olds. Highly-skilled people (those with at least a higher education diploma) easily stay in work: of those employed in the second quarter of 2021, 97.5% are still in work a year later. The percentage of low-skilled people who stay in work is lower: 83.7% of low-skilled people who were in work in the second quarter of 2021 still have a job after one year.

Unemployed

Among the unemployed, we see in the second quarter of 2022 slightly fewer people who have made the transition from unemployment to work than in the previous quarters. While in previous quarters around 40% of the unemployed were in work one year later, this has now dropped to 31.1%. This is a serious setback compared to the previous quarters: it now seems more difficult for the unemployed to find work than just after the Covid crisis. 42.2% of the unemployed are still unemployed and looking for a job a year later. 26.7% have become inactive and are therefore no longer looking for a job or not available to start working within two weeks. In absolute numbers: of the 315,000 unemployed, 133,000 are still unemployed a year later, 98,000 are working and 84,000 have become inactive.

We see large regional differences here: of the Flemish unemployed in the second quarter of 2021, 30.9% are still unemployed after one year, in the Brussels-Capital Region this percentage is 52.0% and in the Walloon Region 48.2%. Both in the Flemish and Walloon Regions, there is a clear increase of people who remain unemployed over a period of one year: from 19.2% last quarter to 30.9% this quarter in Flanders and from 42.6% to 48.2% in the Walloon Region. There is also a clear increase in the number of men and medium-skilled people who remain unemployed.

Inactive

Inactive people are still entering the labour market slightly more often (8.5%) than before the Covid crisis, but the percentage of inactive people that is still inactive one year later remains high: 88.8% of inactive people are still inactive one year later. 2.7% are looking for work; more than 3 million Belgians aged 15-74 are out of work.

Men (87.2%) stay inactive slightly less long than women (90.1%); young people (15-29 years; 84.8%) also stay inactive less long than those over 30 (90.6%). Highly-skilled inactive people remain proportionally least inactive, although even among them 84.6% remain inactive after one year. Among the medium-skilled people 87.5% remain inactive, among the low-skilled people 92.1%.

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:

https://statbel.fgov.be/en/themes/work-training/labour-market/employment-and-unemployment

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.

Level of education

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.