Belgium: Trade unions criticise pension reform proposals

Proposed reforms to Belgium's pension system will – along with other changes – extend the retirement age to 67 by 2030. The proposed reforms have attracted strong criticism from the country's trade unions, but support from employer associations.

The pensions system in Belgium is due to undergo a process of reform. The reform seeks to achieve four key objectives:

  • extending the retirement age to 66 by 2025 and 67 by 2030;
  • continuing the reform of early retirement by extending the minimum age for retirement to 62.5 years by 2017 with 41 years of a career and to 63 by 2018 with 42 years of career (with some exceptions);
  • continuing the reform of survival pension benefits by delaying access to the benefits to 50 years of age in 2025 and 55 years in 2030;
  • reforming the calculation mode as well as the administrative procedure for granting occupational integration benefits.

Trade unions have criticised the measures, saying they will have damaging effects (particularly in terms of youth employment and unemployed people); they also object to what they see as a decision having been taken without adequate social dialogue. They regard this as a new provocation on the part of the Government. From the perspective of the the trade unions, this situation calls for extra pressure to be put on the government.

From the perspective of the employer associations, this structural reform is vital in order to protect the country's model of prosperity. Moreover, they stress, as does the Minister of Pensions, the need to follow the trend across the EU of extending the retirement age.

According to the Minister of Pensions, the governmental decision to set new measures with new objectives leads to social dialogue. For instance, a pensions reform committee has been set up to discuss the implementation of measures (such as long careers, 'unsustainable' jobs and part-time work). Among other proposals, the committee has already discussed a part-time pension combined with a part time-job for the two years before the retirement age and a new method to calculate seniority through points (per year of activity, with exceptions made for unsustainable jobs). While the government had hoped to reach an agreement before the summer break, recent consultations have led to the decision to undertake further discussions before voting on new measures.

The new reforms will also affect the public sector, where three civil servants in four retire before the age of 60. The unions active in this sector will have recourse to the Council of State to repeal the measures. 


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