OECD Economic Surveys: Belgium

Every 18 months
1999-0766 (online)
1995-3704 (print)
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OECD’s periodic surveys of the Belgian economy. Each edition surveys the major challenges faced by the country, evaluates the short-term outlook, and makes specific policy recommendations. Special chapters take a more detailed look at specific challenges. Extensive statistical information is included in charts and graphs.

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OECD Economic Surveys: Belgium 2017

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20 June 2017
9789264277458 (PDF) ; 9789264277489 (EPUB) ;9789264277380(print)

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Belgium performs well in many economic and social dimensions. However, in spite of several important reforms in recent years productivity growth has weakened markedly since the financial crisis. Reinvigorating productivity growth is vital to sustaining increases in living standards and supporting inclusive growth. Keys to improving productivity include increasing market entry and exit in the business sector, reducing skills mismatches, enhancing mobility in the labour market, improving public infrastructure and fostering innovation.

While overall education levels are high, some suffer from poor skills, especially those with a low socio-economic or immigrant background. The labour market performance of immigrants, especially women, and low-skilled and older workers is comparatively weak. Improving the capacity of the educational system to provide disadvantaged students with necessary skills would enhance inclusiveness. Further reducing social security contributions on low wages would facilitate the entry of low-skilled workers into the labour market, while the participation of older people could be boosted by more on-the-job training and increased use of flexitime.

Enhancing productivity and inclusiveness will depend on enhancing social and physical infrastructure investment. Transport infrastructure investment to relieve bottlenecks around big agglomerations would promote both productivity and environmental goals. Given high public debt, these investments could be financed through reductions in inefficient public spending, user fees or by tapping private sources of finance.


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  • Basic statistics of Belgium, 2015

    This Survey was prepared in the Economics Department by Lilas Demmou and Manav Frohde, under the supervision of Piritta Sorsa. Statistical research assistance was provided by Pedro Herrera Gimenez with general administrative assistance provided by Anthony Bolton and Brigitte Beyeler. The Survey also benefitted from consultancy contributions by Francois Rycx, Vincent Vandenberghe and Peter Walkenhorst.The Survey was discussed at a meeting of the Economic and Development Review Committee on 20 March 2017 and is published on the responsibility of the Secretary General of the OECD.

  • Executive summary
  • Assessment and recommendations
  • Follow-up to previous OECD policy recommendations

    This Annex reviews action taken on recommendations from previous Surveys. They cover macroeconomic and structural policy priorities. Each recommendation is followed by a note of actions taken since the February 2015 Survey. Recommendations that are new in this Survey are listed in the relevant chapter.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Thematic chapters

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    • Making the business environment more supportive of productivity

      A favourable business environment is crucial to boosting Belgium’s productivity and inclusiveness and to sustain improvements in long-term economic prosperity. This chapter assesses the impact of the business environment on productivity performance. Innovation management, technological diffusion, private and public sector investment, and regulatory and competition policies all affect productivity growth. Key challenges for Belgium include improving the effectiveness of existing tax exemptions for R&D activities, addressing regulatory burdens on firms, improving access to finance for young innovative firms and fostering an entrepreneurial start-up culture.

    • Raising and mobilising skills to boost productivity and inclusiveness

      A highly educated and skilled workforce has been an important driver of productivity performance and prosperity in Belgium. This chapter examines the skills policies that could help improve productivity and inclusiveness. Productivity growth would benefit from an increased focus on lifelong learning, and improved and more flexible working conditions for older workers. Establishing institutions to foster more efficient allocation of students and skills would also help underpin productivity growth. Improving inclusiveness requires increasing access and participation in tertiary education, especially for students with a disadvantaged background. Digitalisation opens great opportunities for labour productivity growth but is disrupting the nature of employment relationships. It calls for measures that encourage information and communication technology (ICT) upskilling and adapting tax and benefit systems to the rise of on‐demand jobs linked to the use of e-platforms.

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