Higher Council for Employment: a new body to support employment policies

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To give impetus to Belgian employment policies, the Federal Government has recently created a new body to advise on its decision-making and to speed up the monitoring of employment trends.

The Higher Council for Employment (Conseil supérieur de l'emploi) has been set up at the initiative of the Minister for Employment and Labour, Miet Smet, to help the Government prepare its employment policies.

The new Council is billed as a technical body, independent of the Government and the social partners, with three objectives:

  1. to draw up opinions and recommendations on measures to promote employment, in particular those included in sectoral or intersectoral collective agreements;
  2. to encourage the self-employed to show moderation in relation to their incomes and to support similar restraint with respect to other forms of income, such as rents, dividends, social benefits and so on; and
  3. to make recommendations on ways to control wage costs when exceptional circumstances threaten economic competitiveness.

The Council is chaired by the Minister for Employment and Labour. It is made up of:

  • experts and senior officials from the employment and training agencies for Wallonia (Office communautaire et régional de la formation professionnelle et de l'emploi, or FOREM), Flanders (Vlaamse Dienst voor Arbeidbemiddeling en Beroepsopleiding, or VDAB) and the Brussels Region (Office régional bruxellois de l'emploi, or ORBEm);
  • experts and senior officials from the national office responsible for the payment of unemployment benefits, ONEm (Office National de l'Emploi); and
  • academics from the fields of economics, psychology and education. An expert from the Planning Office (Bureau du Plan) also sits on the Council. The secretary is the representative of the National Bank (Banque nationale)

As is the case with the Higher Council for Finances (Conseil supérieur des Finances), this new body's role will be more that of a watchdog, paying particular attention to the impact of collective agreements on job creation. The social partners have therefore not been asked to participate in their capacity as negotiators of collective agreements, as this would lead to role conflict (they would be both the judge and the accused).

Above all, the Council is expected to accelerate current production of studies on employment trends by using the sources available in the various bodies and institutions of its members. However, there remains some doubt as to the real ability of the Council to evaluate the social partners' actions.


Revue nationale du travail, Nov-Déc 1996, Ministère de l'Emploi et du Travail

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