A new agency to advise on employment policies: the Higher Council for Employment

To give a new impetus to its employment policies, Belgium's Federal Government has created a new Higher Council for Employment, designed to accelerate the monitoring of employment developments - including the effect of collective agreements on job creation - and to advise on its decision making.

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

The new Council is billed as a technical body independent of the Government and the social partners. It has three missions:

  • to draw up opinions and recommendations on measures to promote employment, in particular those included in sectoral or intersectoral collective agreements;
  • to support income restraint for the self-employed and other types of income, including rents, dividends and social benefits; and
  • to make recommendations on the evolution of wage costs when exceptional circumstances threaten economic competitiveness.

The Council is chaired by the Minister for Employment and Labour. It comprises experts and senior officials from the regional employment and training agencies for: Wallonia- Office communautaire et régional de la formation professionnelle et de l'emploi (FOREM); Flanders- Vlaamse Dienst voor Arbeidbemiddeling en Beroepsopleiding (VDAB); and the Brussels Region- Office régional bruxellois de l'emploi (ORBEm); as well as from the national administration responsible for the payment of unemployment benefits, Office national de l'emploi (ONEm). Academics in the fields of economics, psychology and education and an expert from the Planning Office (Bureau du Plan) also sit 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 is 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 because, in their capacity as negotiators of collective agreements, they would be both judge and judged.

Above all, the Council is expected to speed up the current production of studies on the evolution of the employment situation by using the sources available in the various institutions of the Council's members. However, there remains some doubt as to the real ability of this Council to evaluate the social partners' actions.

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