Analysis of Belgian working conditions data collected by Eurofound (EWCS 2021)

Analysis of Belgian working conditions data collected by Eurofound (EWCS 2021)

Analysis of Belgian working conditions data collected by Eurofound (EWCS 2021)

January 2022 – October 2022| FOD WASO

About the project

Job quality and workability is a theme that has gained increasing importance in recent years and has become high on the policy agenda, both in Belgium and in the European Union. From a medical perspective, the important impact of work-related factors on the growing problem of health complaints such as stress, burnout and musculoskeletal disorders, as well as their consequences on labour participation, are pointed out; the cost to the health care system is the subject of much speculation. From an economic perspective, the importance of job quality for the promotion of productivity is pointed out; an economy based on creativity and innovation needs employees who feel good about themselves and are fully committed. Job quality and especially elements such as intrinsic job motivation, task autonomy and learning opportunities are considered very important in this context. The focus on ‘workable work’ comes from the debate on raising the retirement age, where ‘social sustainability’ should enable employees to work longer. In these discussions, however, a number of global trends that are also manifesting themselves on the Belgian labour market are viewed with some trepidation. Don’t technological changes, the pressure to flexibilise, and departing labour regulations lead to increasing inequality? Is the precariousness of certain jobs or employee groups on the rise? Has the COVID-19 pandemic increased existing inequalities or revealed specific labour market problems and challenges that were not anticipated?

As a result, policymakers have started to pay particular attention to the quality of work. Already in his policy statement to the Chamber in November 2020, the Federal Minister for Labour and the Economy, Pierre-Yves Dermagne, stated that the government’s ambition is to ensure that Belgium: (i) becomes a more inclusive country, where no one is excluded and where each individual is recognised according to his value and protected; (ii) becomes a prosperous country, where work is valued and rewarded; (iii) becomes a sustainable country that takes others and its environment into account. The link between social and environmental sustainability is thus made. The quality of work and the well-being of employees were priorities for this government at the start of the legislature. In doing so, it continues to build on the previous policy, which, in accordance with the European employment strategy, sought to create ‘more and better jobs’. Once again, the European level is reinforcing the pursuit of better job quality by having all Member States endorse the European Pillar of Social Rights (EU PSR) in 2017. The implementation of the EU-PSR should lead to better jobs, fairer working conditions, and better social protection. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 epidemic, this debate is resurfacing.

To meet these objectives through evidence-based policy, the monitoring of job quality developments is crucial. Scientifically, this involves measuring the zero line, describing the situation, and making a comparison over time and space, as well as looking for determining factors. The data collected in the European Working Conditions Survey by Eurofound are ideally suited for such monitoring. The sometimes limited sample numbers in other Member States have been tackled for Belgium by efforts of the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue through an expansion of the Belgian sample for 2010, 2015 and 2020/2021.