4. Active labour market programmes in the Brussels-Capital Region

The purpose of this chapter is to analyse Active Labour Market Policy (ALMP) programmes in the Brussels-Capital Region. ALMPs can be classified into six categories, including jobseeker and employer services, training, employment incentives, sheltered and supported employment and rehabilitation, direct job creation and incentives to start a company. Examples of programmes delivered in the region are displayed in Table 4.1. Actiris, as the public employment service (PES), provides most types of programmes, including monitoring the job search of individuals receiving unemployment insurance (UI). Community bodies and municipal public social aid centres (CPAS) deliver ALMPs in their areas of competence, respectively training and federally funded employment incentives, known as emplois d’insertion or “Article 60” (“CPAS contract”). Actiris also liaises with employers and monitors labour demand to facilitate job matching.

The chapter provides an analysis of ALMPs in the region in an international perspective. The chapter begins by introducing the pathways jobseekers take through Actiris as they search for work, including digital and face-to-face services available. Using OECD data on the strictness of activation requirements, the section compares how demanding requirements are for jobseekers to continue receiving UI. Considering regional government leeway to adopt methods, options are discussed in line with the region’s labour market situation. A second section presents Actiris services to employers. This section also discusses the region’s policies to reduce hiring discrimination based on gender, disability, national origin and other characteristics. A focus is brought on ways for the region to better monitor the quality of employment and working conditions. A final section presents the region’s different employment incentives and upcoming deployment of a neighbourhood-level long-term job creation scheme, Territoires Zéro Chômeur de Longuee Durée (TZCLD). Opportunities to maximise the effectiveness of incentives and TZCLD are discussed.

One of the core functions of Actiris is providing placement and matching services to jobseekers through a range of universal and more targeted services for jobseekers who require additional support. This section focuses first on the onboarding process and, second, provides an analysis of counselling methods. Third, the section reviews job-search monitoring procedures and other conditions placed on those receiving unemployment benefits. The section finds that the jobseeker journey within PES may be strengthened through more capacity to deliver face-to-face counselling to those most in need, while digital self-service can accelerate processes for individuals with capacity to find work more independently. The way Actiris monitors job search, or availability checks, entails less strict criteria to search and be available for work than most neighbouring OECD countries. Steps to prompt more jobseekers to search for work in the region’s geographic periphery and complete training are discussed.

Unemployment benefit recipients are the largest client group of jobseekers registered with Actiris. In June 2023, over 100 600 jobseekers were registered within Actiris. Individuals claiming Unemployment Insurance (UI) in the Brussels-Capital Region need to register with Actiris to be entitled to benefits. Out of all jobseekers in Actiris, over 87 200 are outside work, while another 8 200 were employed jobseekers and 5 100 were in training (Actiris, 2023[2]).1 Table 4.2 presents a breakdown of unemployed jobseekers by benefit categories. In June 2023, 15 560 unemployed jobseekers in Actiris were also registered with municipal public social aid centres (Centres publiques d’action sociale - CPAS) responsible for means-tested social benefits, or nearly 18% of the total. Revealing the high levels of disadvantage facing Actiris jobseekers, in June 2023 over 41 200 jobseekers had been unemployed for over two years, or over 47% of all unemployed jobseekers.

Actiris orients jobseekers in a caseworker-based approach to profiling and segmentation. Once registered, profiling tools assess the job-finding prospects of jobseekers and help PES segment jobseekers into different groups to provide employment services more efficiently. While providing more minimal support to those able to find work independently, more intense services can be provided to those with more complex needs and greater labour market distance. Similar to the German PES, Actiris profiling is based on a face-to-face approach in which case workers use discretion to segment jobseekers into groups (Desiere, Langenbucher and Struyven, 2019[4]). Actiris counsellors assess a jobseeker’s autonomy and employability during their initial meeting with a jobseekers, using tools such as language tests and standardised disability screening methods. The counsellor and the jobseeker also agree on an Individual Action Plan (IAP) during this initial meeting.

Some PES in the OECD also use statistical profiling to segment individuals. Statistical approaches entail both benefits and risks. These tools present advantages such as predictive information on unemployment duration but face drawbacks such as potential discriminatory sorting and low acceptability among stakeholders (van Landeghem, Desiere and Struyven, 2021[5]; Delpierre, El Fatihi and Demazière, 2023[6]).

Channelling more jobseekers into self-service options could help reduce caseload for counsellors to prioritise those with more complex needs. The initial meeting takes places within one month for those under 25, while it occurs within three months for older jobseekers. In 2022, 46% of individuals registered with Actiris online, while the majority registered face-to-face or by phone.2 Online application rates for employment services vary within the OECD, though have reached high levels in some countries. Three-quarters or more of jobseekers registered online in the United States (77%), Sweden (91%) and the Netherlands (95%) (OECD, 2022[7]).3 As reported in the OECD database on activation policy rules, Greece, Iceland and Italy, all registrations have to be made online. A greater share of digitally literate jobseekers should be encouraged to register online. Jobseekers that demonstrate at least basic digital skills through registering online via MyActiris should also be compelled to job search independently. This includes online tools and the vacancy platform available through MyActiris until the first personal meeting.

The digital MyActiris tool is the main interface for jobseekers with Actiris caseworkers during job search, complementing in-person counselling. The MyActiris platform contains jobseeker information, their CV, skills and job search preferences. Once jobseeker information, skills and preferences are listed, MyActiris connects individuals with job listings available. MyActiris has integrated a messaging service with employers and a host of record-keeping services which can help validate availability requirements. MyActiris has also reduced paperwork for jobseekers by providing a tool for jobseekers to access documents and register for training online.

As it has done with the VDAB, Actiris could grow its matching potential by widening automated vacancy transmission with the PES in the Walloon Region, Le Forem. Jobs in proximate regions offer strong matching prospects for jobseekers due to the wider job options available. Table 4.3 shows the number of job offers received from the VDAB has increased from nearly 376 000 in 2021 to almost 760 500 in 2022 since the automated data-exchange between VDAB and and Actiris started. Due to this agreement, vacancy exchange is no longer limited to criteria such as shortages or geographic distance. A similar expansion of vacancy exchange could be envisaged with Le Forem in the Walloon Region. Ideally jobseekers should have vacancies for all of Belgium at the fingertips, as for example the Austrian PES achieves with the data base Alle Jobs (“all jobs”).

Increased vacancy transmission with Le Forem could offer new opportunities for matching due to the linguistic proximity with the francophone jobseeker base in Actiris. Increased registration of vacancies from employers in the Walloon Region to Actiris, which grew from over 3 100 in 2021 to nearly 5 700 in 2022, may signal the potential of widening exchange. Indeed, in July 2023, Le Forem, published a list of 158 occupations facing recruitment difficulties or labour shortages, a list which has grown since 2022 (Le Forem, 2023[8]). The number of Brussels residents who commute to the Walloon Region for work is already substantial and could grow further. In 2021, 23 000 residents of the capital commuted to work in the Walloon Region relative to 53 000 to the Flemish Region.

Once assessed, counsellors use their discretion to check in with and assist jobseekers based on progress and exchanges with jobseekers. For those individuals most struggling, counsellors adopt a “proactive” approach in which they contact individuals regularly. Counsellors guide jobseekers to specialised internal services and suggest jobseekers to contracted labour market programmes. Counsellors can recommend training for jobseekers, transitioning them to Bruxelles Formation or the VDAB-Brussel. Depending on counsellors' assessment, some jobseekers also enter contracted-out counselling based on an assessment. Those with complex barriers who enter counselling with Missions locales (see Chapter 3). The VDAB-Brussel can also accept Actiris jobseekers for counselling to search for jobs in the Flemish Region or employment requiring Dutch language.

Actiris caseworkers face high caseloads of jobseekers, weighing on their ability to provide quality counselling. Actiris estimates a 2022 caseload of around 120 jobseekers per full-time counsellor. Research on counsellor-to-jobseeker caseloads within PES suggests lower caseloads help individuals find employment more quickly (Hainmueller et al., 2016[9]). A Randomised Control Trial (RCT) from Austria was able to demonstrate how lower caseloads resulted in a host of favourable results, such as a greater number of job offers and more labour market programme referrals. A cost-benefit analysis of the trial suggested that lowering caseloads is not only effective in shortening unemployment, but also cost-efficient (Böheim, Eppel and Mahringer, 2022[10]). Facing an increased caseload since the pandemic, Actiris caseworkers note they struggle to address the needs of all jobseekers, calling for more attention around hiring, staff investment or efficiency gains.

The ActirisLink” programme may serve as a base for more intensive counselling. The Actiris Link programme provides voluntary intensive twelve months of support to jobseekers finishing training, an emploi d’insertion/“Article 60” contract or meeting other selected criteria. Link support focuses on creating a personal relationship of trust with jobseekers and practical help to face individual situations. 1 569 jobseekers participated in the Link programme in 2019 (Actiris, 2019[11]). A single caseworker follows around 30 individuals. The Link programme operates within a dedicated office in Actiris. Link could cover additional target groups or be piloted with additional groups, such as those in long-term unemployment. It could also serve as a low caseload approach for all of those finishing training who have not found work.

Unemployment insurance (UI) benefits follow federal regulation across Belgian regions, offering relatively higher and longer protection than in other OECD countries. Monthly UI benefits apply a formula to the gross daily wage previously earned according to family status.4 UI in Belgium replaces a higher share of average income than many OECD countries over long unemployment spells, though requires a longer period of work to qualify.5 After twelve months of unemployment, UI in Belgium replaces 59% of average income for single persons without children, which is same rate than in Germany after 12 months, but lower than in France at 68% (Figure 4.1). Funds decrease in small, staggered steps over time (Salvatori, 2022[12]), but different to UI systems in all other OECD countries UI duration is unlimited.

While UI benefits are of unlimited duration, many long-term unemployed are stuck in a poverty trap. In Belgium, UI still replaces 44% of average income after five years of unemployment, much higher than in neighbouring countries. However, it is important to note that income provided by UI may still not be sufficient to avoid the risk of poverty for the long-term unemployed, highlighting the specific policy attention needed for this group. A survey of 2 200 people in long-term unemployed people by a Belgian union found the majority struggle to make ends meets, with many depending on savings and income from family (CTC, 2022[13]).

Actiris monitors the way people receiving UI benefits search for work through availability checks. When PES counsellors monitor availability, they verify if jobseekers able to work meet requirements to receive UI benefits. The OECD classifies requirements to maintain UI into three categories:

  1. 1. Availability and suitable work criteria, which includes the possible obligation of jobseekers to enter ALMP programmes or look for work during participation in programmes, as well as the criteria regarding the parameters of a person’s job search, such as rules around occupational and geographic mobility as well as other valid reasons to reject a job offer;

  2. 2. Job-search requirements and monitoring, such as the number and nature of check-ins;

  3. 3. Sanctions for jobseekers who do not meet requirements.

As Belgian regions are responsible for the monitoring of the UI rules, they have considerable leeway in the implementation and operationalisation of the rules. The federal government defines criteria around suitable employment to be sought and accepted by jobseekers, geographic mobility criteria and job-search requirements. Regions have legislative powers over selected elements of availability, such as setting job search requirements during training, as well as leeway to adapt sanction application (OECD, 2022[7]). Regions also define the check-in process with jobseekers based on a minimum interval set federally (Moniteur Belge, 2015[14]). A distinct Actiris department and its staff conduct availability checks with jobseekers receiving UI benefits, separate from caseworkers responsible for supporting job search.

Requirements to continue receiving UI during job search are less strict in Belgium compared to most neighbouring countries according to OECD indicators. Figure 4.2 compares availability, job search and sanctioning requirements in Belgium with neighbouring countries according to the OECD strictness of activation requirements indicator. The indicator produces a synthetic score on a scale of one to five, with one being the least strict and five the strictest. The indicator is based on the aggregation of a weighted average of the main rules that determine ongoing UI eligibility. Rules are classified into eleven subcategories, which determine the three categories above (availability, job search and sanctions) (OECD, 2022[7]). In 2022, Belgium recorded a lower total strictness score than the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg, and a higher score than France. Data in this section is based on surveys distributed to countries in early 2022.

The Brussels-Capital Region may consider a firmer application of the unemployment benefit availability requirements. According to the OECD UI strictness indicator, leeway to accept or reject available job offers without risking benefits, known as availability, in 2022 were relatively less strict in Belgium compared to bordering countries, except France (

Figure 4.3). Given the high labour demand in neighbouring regions, a firmer application of geographic mobility criteria, defined federally as within a four-hour daily commute or 60 kilometres, may incite more individuals to accept jobs in the region’s periphery when realistic (i.e. feasible transit, childcare availability). Also, requirements around ALMP participation, such as training, are relatively less strict in Belgium compared to most OECD countries. Jobseekers are exempt from job search when training meets a set of minimum requirements.6 Although regions have leeway to adapt this rule, less demanding search requirements while training may be strategic to support a regional strategy to lift the attractiveness of training, upskill the workforce and encourage training entry and completion (Chapter 5). Stronger follow-up or potential sanctions may, however, be considered for withdrawal from training or education without appropriate justification (i.e. health, caring responsibilities) to engage individuals more firmly in training or education completion.

An initial availability check with new UI claimants takes place at the earliest nine months after registration. If negative, staff return to UI recipients five months after the latest check. All check-ins occur in a three-part process, which progresses to sanctions if jobseekers fail to meet requirements:

  • A file check based on job search activity;

  • A meeting with staff where jobseekers are asked to further bring proof of job search;

  • A three-staff panel evaluation with sanctioning authority.

In case of a first negative panel assessment, job seekers receive a warning. After a second negative assessment, benefits are fully suspended for thirteen weeks for single individuals, while a partial reduction applies to isolated people or heads of households.7 After a third negative evaluation, benefits are suspended indefinitely.8 If an evaluation is positive, Actiris checks-in at the earliest twelve months after the positive assessment. Staff conduct availability checks with young people waiting to qualify for integration allowance (allocations d’insertion) more frequently.

Given significant regional leeway to determine availability checks with jobseekers, Actiris may consider meeting with jobseekers earlier and more regularly. The OECD strictness indicator in Figure 4.4 shows expectations on the intensity of a job search are less demanding in Belgium compared to most neighbouring countries. Actiris’ initial availability check at the earliest nine months after registration may be accelerated. In Germany, for example, an initial availability meeting in which a jobseeker integration agreement is reviewed occurs at the latest after six months of unemployment (OECD, 2022[7]). Availability checks for those assessed negatively in a first interview may also occur more frequently than the standard minimum five-months interval described in the Actiris process above. In France, for example, check-ins occur every month from the fourth month of unemployment, compared to every five months in Actiris for those evaluated negatively (OECD, 2022[7]).

The Brussels-Capital Region could introduce partial sanctions to adjust penalties to job search efforts while reducing financial hardship on jobseekers. Sanctions in Belgium are steeper compared to most neighbouring countries (Figure 4.5). In most cases, sanctions in the region entail full temporary suspension of benefits after a warning9. Although sanctions can reduce unemployment duration, research suggests they incite individuals to take up jobs of lower quality and of shorter duration (Arni, Lalive and van Ours, 2013[15]). A review of research also finds an association between benefit sanctions and material hardship and health problems (Pattaro et al., 2022[16]). The possibility to reduce UI benefits partially, as done in the Netherlands and already done in the region for a limited group of jobseekers, allows for progressive sanctioning based on efforts undertaken by jobseekers.

The section explores Actiris services to employers and labour demand. The section presents the work of the Actiris employer service department and explores specific initiatives to encourage diversity in the workplace and improve the quality of jobs.

A specific Actiris department works with Brussels-Capital Region employers. Across OECD countries, PES employer services can involve recruitment assistance, financial support through employment and training subsidies, provision of labour market information and support with human resources (Finn and Peromingo, 2019[17]). Actiris dedicates specific counsellors to employers. When an employer reaches out, Actiris connects the employer with a dedicated counsellor. Employers in other Belgian regions can access Actiris employer services to access jobseekers in the region. Employers can also use MyActiris to feed their job offerings into the Actiris talent pool. MyActiris allows employers to handle outreach directly or allows Actiris to pre-select candidates for the employer.

Dedicated employer counsellors work with employers on their hiring needs. A first meeting is held between the employers seeking support and their Actiris counsellor. This counsellor records employer hiring needs to find a list of appropriate candidates and briefs the employer on Actiris programmes. Within ten working days, Actiris proposes a maximum of six candidates that match the employer’s opening. Actiris then proposes an initial meeting between pre-screened candidates.

Employer-facing counsellors are specialised in broad sectors. The sectors include (1) retail, accommodation, food services and tourism, (2) manufacturing, construction, transportation and logistics, (3) public administration and education, (4) firm services, finance and ICT and (5) personal care services, culture, health, social services and recreation. This division of roles ensures sector-specific counselling that links employers with candidates that have the skills necessary for the sector. The Pôles Formation Emploi (PFE), which engage employers in sector-based training of jobseekers, are described in further detail in chapter 5.

Taking stock of labour market discrimination, the Brussels-Capital Region has deployed a range of policy tools. In 2019, a study by view.brussels, the Actiris labour market observatory, revealed the extent of the high and persistent gaps in employment trajectories based on national origin in the regional labour market (view.brussels, 2019[18]). Chapter 2 highlights the evidence of hiring discrimination, particularly towards individuals born outside the European Union (EU), among employers in the Flemish Region. The regional government has made anti-discrimination and workplace diversity a priority through a series of fifteen policy commitments (Clerfayt, 2022[19]). The commitments plan to review the region’s legislative framework (ordonnances) to provide greater regulatory power to deploy programmes.

Bruxelles Economie Emploi (BEE) addresses hiring discrimination through its labour inspectorate (Inspection Régionale de l’Emploi – IRE). In 2021, the IRE created a dedicated unit to pursue potential cases of hiring discrimination. Despite these steps, only 45 cases of potential hiring discrimination were signalled to the IRE between 2018 and 2021 (Clerfayt, 2022[20]). 2023 legislation (the testingregional decree) strengthened the IRE’s capacity to conduct hiring discrimination inspections in a number of sectors within the purview of the regional government, such as service vouchers for domestic work (titres-services) (Clerfayt, 2023[21]). For example, the testing decree increased information exchange with Actiris and widened criteria to conduct inspections (Moniteur Belge, 2023[22]).

Within Actiris, a principal tool to promote diversity in the workplace of employers are the “Diversity plans” (plans de diversité). Actiris counsellors help employers develop plans to promote diversity in a range of human resource dimensions, including hiring as well as internal and external communications. Since 2010, 273 employers in the region adopted an Actiris Diversity Plan.

Employers provide financing for Diversity plans, which may create obstacles for greater uptake for some employers. Actiris provides three types of Diversity Plans based on specific needs, which employers can request from Actiris (Actiris, n.d.[23]):

  • A plan for SMEs: Actiris counsellors help an SME with a specific theme related to anti-discrimination or diversity, such as prejudice related to people of foreign origin, the inclusion of those with special needs in the workplace or fostering stronger inter-generational workforce relationships. The plan requires financing of EUR 5 000 from employers.

  • A global plan: Actiris provides in-depth sectoral analysis across four human resource and communication areas (recruitment and hiring, staff policies, internal communications and external positioning). The plan requires EUR 10 000 in co-financing from employers.

  • A thematic plan: Employers follow up on and expand the results of past Actiris diversity plans. This measure also requires EUR 10 000 in co-financing from employers.

Actiris also operates “Actiris Inclusive”, a phone line where individuals can report hiring discrimination. Once signalled, Actiris counsellors help support jobseekers who have been discriminated against through tailored guidance (ie. referral to in-house or contracted services) (Actiris, n.d.[24]).

Contractual quality at the low end of the income distribution may be a greater challenge in the Brussels-Capital Region compared to other regions. The type of contracts is one indicator to help assess the quality of jobs based on the security offered by contracts. Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, temporary employment reached 15.5% in the Brussels-Capital Region, 5.6 percentage points higher than the Flemish Region (9.9%) and 3.7 points greater than Walloon Region (11.8%) (view.brussels, 2021[25]). In 2020, over 74% of those working in temporary employment in the region did so involuntarily (view.brussels, 2023[26]).

In addition to lower stability in employment, earnings in some temporary jobs may not be sufficient to make ends meet. In 2022 8.4% of those employed under temporary contracts were at risk of poverty in Belgium, compared to 2.1% of those in permanent contracts (Eurostat, 2023[27]).

Falling working conditions in sectors with high labour demand in the region and its periphery may contribute to labour shortages because they decrease the attractiveness of occupations. Comparable data between 2015 and 2021 on physical workplace risks processed by the Belgian Federal Public Service for Employment (SPF Emploi) suggests working conditions have broadly declined during this time, with differences among sectors and groups (SPF Emploi, 2023[28]). Figure 4.6 presents country-wide workplace risks results processed by SPF Emploi in selected sectors facing shortages in the Brussels-Capital Region and its periphery. The frequency of workplace risks such as painful or tiring positions, lifting or moving heavy loads and exposure to loud noises increased between 2015 and 2021 in wholesale and retail trade, transportation, accommodation and food services in Belgium.

Actiris’ ability to assess the quality of employment and working conditions is important to support fair and durable job placements. The “Go4Brussels 2030 Strategy” plans for view.brussels to introduce a permanent observatory of job quality (Brussels-Capital Region, Brupartners, 2021[29]). Creating a local survey of job quality is strategic to ensure adequate regional data is available for this tool (view.brussels, 2023[26]). The impact of observatory findings may be best supported by an agreed set of definitions and indicators among social partners. Especially at the low end of the income distribution, ensuring jobs available in MyActiris and those communicated by employers to PES meet minimum quality standards can support fair and sustainable job matching. Further quantifying the quality of jobs available can also support counsellors’ ability to best support job seekers into viable jobs during their search.

Working conditions may be a growing challenge to consider in labour market programming. The declining quality of jobs available, especially for certain groups, may decrease the likelihood of a durable match between a jobseeker and an employer. A recent survey of Actiris hiring incentives among jobseekers who have used programmes reveals significant variation in jobseeker satisfaction with the content of occupations they were placed in, which may suggest greater attention to working conditions may support more successful placements for a share of clients (Antoine et al., 2023[30]). Ensuring the quality of jobs targeted by ALMP programmes (i.e. hiring incentives, in-work placements) meets standards may help create a successful match between a jobseeker and an employer.

This section focuses on selected labour market programmes delivered by Actiris. The section brings its focus on the use of employment incentives in the region due to comparatively high spending on this type of instrument. Public employment services (PES) and administration and training are the focus of discussion in Section 4.1 and Chapter 5 respectively. The section also considers the deployment of “Territories with zero long-term unemployment” (Territoires zéro chômeur de longue durée – TZCLD) the region. Municipalities have been asked to develop TZCLD projects in the next round of urban Neighbourhood Contracts (2023-2028/2031) (Vervoort, 2023[31]). TZCLD is an innovative local job creation tool that can offer long-term opportunities for those with the most difficulties to find work. A group of ALMPs, such as sheltered and supported employment and rehabilitation and start-up incentives, are beyond the scope of this section.

Federal and regional government in Belgium devote a greater share of expenditure on active labour market policy (ALMP) relative to OECD peers. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2019, federal and subnational employment services jointly spent 0.92% of GDP on active labour market programmes, compared to an average of 0.63% across OECD countries (Figure 4.7).10 Belgium spends a comparable share of GDP on ALMP programmes as countries such as Sweden and Finland. Of the total ALMP expenditure, Belgium spent 0.34% on PES and administration (category 1) in 2019, among the highest shares in the OECD. Spending on ALMP has enabled the Brussels-Capital Region to develop a diverse range of labour market programmes.

Employment incentives absorb the largest share of spending on active labour market programmes in Belgium aside from PES administration. Figure 4.8 considers expenditure on ALMP programmes. Federal and subnational PES in Belgium devote 25% of spending on ALMPs to employment incentives, compared to 3% in France and Germany, 4% in the Netherlands and 49% in Luxembourg. The OECD considers employment incentives as programmes that encourage the hiring or continued employment of individuals through a temporary support to wages, either through direct financing or a reduction in social security contributions. Research suggests hiring incentives may have positive impact on factors such as long-term employment outcomes and employability of former jobseekers (Brown and Koettl, 2015[32]). The OECD notes employment incentives are particularly effective when limited in time and adapted to different groups, reducing the risk of displacing workers not benefiting from incentives (OECD, 2021[33]).

Recruitment incentives are the most common type of employment incentives in the Capital Region. Recruitment incentives provide funds to employers or directly to those hired for the recruitment of an unemployed person. Incentives can also take the form of reductions in social security contributions, or payroll tax, for employers. A host of different employment incentives, mostly in the form of recruitment incentives, are available in the Brussels-Capital Region, such as the major programmes below:

  • Activa.brussels, administered by Actiris, provides EUR 5 900 over 30 months to employers who hire an Actiris jobseeker who has been unemployed 312 days or longer in the last 18 months. Funds are provided in EUR 350 instalment for the first six months, before moving to EUR 800 for the next 12 months, and decreasing to EUR 350 for the remaining 12 months the ALMP is active. Funds are provided to the employer for them to lower wage costs. A EUR 5 000 training subsidy is available for those under 30 years without secondary school diplomas recruited under permanent contract. To qualify, employers must offer jobseekers an open-ended contract or a fixed-term contract of a minimum of six months.

  • Activa.brussels aptitude réduite, administered by Actiris and modelled on Activa.brussels, targets jobseekers with a certified disability. Employers receive EUR 23 400 over a 36-month period. Employers first receive EUR 750 per month for the first twelve months, before decreasing to EUR 600 monthly for the following 24 months.

  • Stage First administered by Actiris, encourages employers to hire interns by targeting young people under 30 years of age who have completed at most secondary education. Stage First provides a EUR 200 monthly stipend from the employer and a EUR 26.82 daily stipend (maximum) per day from Actiris/ONEM for the duration of the contract, lasting between three and six months (Actiris, 2023[34]). An employer mentor creates an upskilling plan under Stage First, while young people can participate in Actiris labour market mentoring.

  • CPAS contracts (Emplois d’insertion/Article 60), administered by municipal Centres publiques d’action sociale (CPAS) and financed federally, allow employers to benefit from a partial or full exemption from social security contributions to cover part of wage cost. They are available to a wide group of employers, such as local authorities, not-for-profit organisations, other departments in CPAS, associations, hospitals, social enterprises and private employers who have signed an agreement with the CPAS employment department. Only individuals who benefit from CPAS-administered minimum income can benefit.11 CPAS contracts only last as long as the legal duration needed for an individual to qualify for Unemployment Insurance (UI). A monthly EUR 250 tutoring subsidy is available for a 12-month duration to private sector employers (Eurostat, 2019[1]). Chapter 2 provides further details of the programme in the context of the role of CPAS.

  • Social security contribution reductions for older workers (Réduction 57+), which provide recruitment and employment maintenance incentives for workers 57 years old or above. Actiris administers reductions jointly with the federal government. Reductions are not limited in time. Private sector employers, and a very limited number of public sector employers, can benefit from up to EUR 1 000 deduction maximum in employer contributions in social security contributions, per trimester (Actiris, 2023[35]). The incentive is available for both hiring and maintaining jobseekers or workers between 57 and 64 years of age earning less than EUR 12548.67 per trimester in selected sectors.

Employers use activa.brussels in relatively limited numbers, while young people may benefit from specific hiring incentives for full-time jobs. Activa.brussels functions as a “certificate” provided to jobseekers, who can encourage employers to activate the incentive to hire them. In 2021 Actiris had an entitlement to 67 162 activa.brussels jobseekers, of which only under 13% were activated by employers to hire (Antoine et al., 2023[30]). According to the same user survey, in 2021 under 40% of young people who completed Stage First were working for the employer they interned for under the programme, compared to nearly 59% for activa.brussels. The region may consider further targeting activa.brussels and unlocking higher levels of financing for those with greater labour market distance. A policy gap in the region may also include a hiring incentive for job-ready young people to enter full time work, rather than internships. A programme evaluation by Antoine et al. (2023[30]) also suggests simplifying activa payments to remunerate employers directly.

Greater use of existing training instruments may help increase the share of those upskilling while covered by a recruitment incentive. Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, the Brussels-Capital Region spent 20% of its labour market expenditure on training, a comparatively smaller share compared to the Flemish Region and the Walloon Region (Figure 4.9).12 According to a survey of Actiris ALMP programmes, 60% of activa.brussels and Stage First beneficiaries did not receive in-work training (Antoine et al., 2023[30]). The region may consider loosening the maximum 30-year-old age limit on activa.brussels training funding. Figure 4.8 also suggests the region spends less on employment incentives compared to other regions, though shares may be influenced by federal expenditure on CPAS contracts (emplois d’insertion/Article 60) in the region. Job creation spending in the region in 2023 may also differ significantly since the near complete phasing out of the Programme de transition professionnelle (PTP) since the start of 2021. PTP accounted for the highest share of spending in this area in the region in 2019.

The Brussels-Capital Region is developing “Territories with zero long-term unemployment” (Territoires zéro chômeur de longue durée – TZCLD). TZCLD pilots in Belgium are inspired by an experiment underway in France (2016-2026) (Journal officiel de la République française, 2020[36]). In France, local committees propose long-term unemployed people jobs tailored to their needs in social economy organisations.13 Jobs aim to fill the needs of local communities (ie. recycling, gardening, social care) and are financed using benefits previously received by the individual. Jobs are proposed voluntarily, paid at least minimum wage and offered under open-ended contracts.14 The region announced a TZCLD launch in a coalition agreement, and has followed through on this commitment by asking municipalities to develop lists of TZCLD occupations which will be supported using urban renovation and planning contracts (2023-2028/2031) (Parlement bruxellois, 2019[37]; Vervoort, 2023[31]).

TZCLD fills a policy need in the region for individuals for which hiring incentives and training have not been successful at finding or maintaining employment. In June 2023, over 47% of unemployed jobseekers registered with Actiris, representing 41 200 individuals, had been unemployed two years or longer. TZCLD may be of particular help to those who have fallen out of employment once hiring incentives such as Activa.brussels or CPAS contracts have ended. The tool could also provide an option for those who have not been able to enter work durably after one or multiple training experiences. TZCLD may also offer long-term job options within the region to those with barriers to geographic mobility.

As TZCLD is deployed, the region may consider how the programme may be best articulated within existing ALMPs. In France, TZCLD pilot evaluation yielded different recommendations that may be relevant for programme development in the region, such as those below (Dares, 2021[38]):

  • Making clear the involvement of and governance structure for a wide range of local actors (jobseekers, municipalities, PES, training bodies, etc.), who need to devote time and resources to TZCLD coordination and project development.

  • Developing clear criteria for eligible candidates.

  • Considering funding needs for social economy organisations to provide adapted workplaces for long-term unemployed jobseekers.

  • Creating systematic paths for work-based learning and vocational training for long-term unemployed people who enter a TZCLD social economy job.

Municipalities are taking a lead role in TZCLD deployment in the region. A clear institutional framework that lists local committee membership (i.e. Actiris, CPAS, long-term unemployed jobseeker, Mission locale, etc.) will help foster a necessary relationship of trust and division of responsibility between actors. Given the high share of long-term unemployed in Actiris, TZCLD may also gain from clear criteria for those eligible among this group.


[2] Actiris (2023), Évolution du marché de l’emploi bruxellois : Rapport mensuel, https://www.actiris.brussels/media/kk1b0eyo/rapport-mensuel-mai-2023-h-CFE5CBB8.pdf.

[35] Actiris (2023), Reduction 57+, https://www.actiris.brussels/media/tfyjxchq/57-r%C3%A9duction-groupe-cible-travailleurs-%C3%A2g%C3%A9s-h-ADE8AD1E.pdf.

[34] Actiris (2023), Stage First : mode d’emploi, https://www.actiris.brussels/media/2x3iyr1x/mode-d-emploi-first_fr-h-64A0876C.pdf.

[11] Actiris (2019), Rapport annuel de mise en œuvre 2019 Résumé pour les citoyennes et les citoyens Programme Opérationnel Fonds Social européen 2014-2020 pour la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale (RBC), https://www.actiris.brussels/media/zbxl2g3r/r%C3%A9sum%C3%A9-pour-les-citoyens-2019_fr-h-86749A3D.pdf.

[23] Actiris (n.d.), Choisir un plan diversité, https://www.actiris.brussels/fr/employeurs/choisir-un-plan-de-diversite/.

[24] Actiris (n.d.), Discrimination à l’embauche ? Le signaler : c’est le début de la solution, https://press.actiris.be/4-decembre--dossier-de-presse-discrimination-a-lembauche--le-signaler--cest-le-debut-de-la-solution#.

[3] Actiris/view.brussels (2023), Évolution du marché de l’emploi bruxellois : Rapport mensuel, https://www.actiris.brussels/media/idbbmlsb/rapport-mensuel-juin-2023-h-E3DA7CE6.pdf.

[30] Antoine, M. et al. (2023), Evaluation des aides à l’emploi en Région de Bruxelles-Capitale, Présentation du rapport final, IDEA Consult, A la demande du Service public régional de Bruxelles, Bruxelles Economie et Emploi, Service Emploi.

[15] Arni, P., R. Lalive and J. van Ours (2013), “How effective are unemployment benefit sanctions? Looking beyond unemployment exit”, Journal of Applied Econometrics, Vol. 28/7, pp. 1153-1178.

[10] Böheim, R., R. Eppel and H. Mahringer (2022), “More caseworkers shorten unemployment durations and save costs”, WIFO Working Papers 647, WIFO, http://www.economics.jku.at/papers/2022/wp2208.pdf.

[32] Brown, A. and J. Koettl (2015), “Active labor market programs - employment gain or fiscal drain?”, IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 4/12, https://doi.org/10.1186/s40172-015-0025-5.

[29] Brussels-Capital Region, Brupartners (2021), “Stratégie Go4Brussels 2030 : Engager Bruxelles sur la voie de la transition économique, sociale et environnementale”, https://go4.brussels/.

[21] Clerfayt, B. (2023), Tests de discrimination à l’embauche : vote au parlement, https://www.clerfayt.brussels/fr/tests-discrimination-lembauche-vote-parlement-0.

[20] Clerfayt, B. (2022), 15 engagements pour lutter contre les discriminations à l’embauche et promouvoir la diversité en emploi, https://clerfayt.brussels/sites/default/files/files-vd/pdf/15-engagements-discrimination.pdf.

[19] Clerfayt, B. (2022), 15 engagements pour lutter contre les discriminations à l’embauche et promouvoir la diversité en emploi, https://clerfayt.brussels/sites/default/files/files-vd/pdf/15-engagements-discrimination.pdf.

[13] CTC (2022), “Les allocations les plus basses doivent être au-dessus du seuil de pauvreté”, https://www.lacsc.be/page-dactualites/2022/06/13/les-allocations-les-plus-basses-doivent-etre-au-dessus-du-seuil-de-pauvrete.

[38] Dares (2021), Expérimentation Territoires zéro chômeur de longue durée, Rapport final du comité scientifique, https://dares.travail-emploi.gouv.fr/publication/experimentation-territoires-zero-chomeur-de-longue-duree-rapport-du-comite-scientifique.

[6] Delpierre, A., H. El Fatihi and D. Demazière (2023), “The stealth legitimization of a controversial policy tool: Statistical profiling in French Public Employment Service”, Regulation and Governance, https://doi.org/10.1111/rego.12541.

[4] Desiere, S., K. Langenbucher and L. Struyven (2019), “Statistical profiling in public employment services”, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers No. 224, https://ams-forschungsnetzwerk.at/downloadpub/b5e5f16e-en.pdf.

[27] Eurostat (2023), In-work at-risk-of-poverty rate by type of contract - EU-SILC survey, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/databrowser/view/ILC_IW05/default/table?lang=en.

[1] Eurostat (2019), Labour market policy statistics Qualitative report, Belgium 2019, https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1143&langId=en&internal_pagesId=3227&moreDocuments=yes&tableName=INTERNAL_PAGES.

[17] Finn, D. and M. Peromingo (2019), Key developments, role and organization of public employment services in Great Britain, Belgium-Flanders and Germany, ILO Geneva., https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_emp/---emp_policy/---cepol/documents/pub.

[9] Hainmueller, J. et al. (2016), “Do Lower Caseloads Improve the Performance of Public Employment Services? New Evidence from German Employment Offices”, The Scandinavian Journal of Economics, https://doi.org/10.1111/sjoe.12166.

[36] Journal officiel de la République française (2020), LOI n° 2020-1577 du 14 décembre 2020 relative au renforcement de l’inclusion dans l’emploi par l’activité économique et à l’expérimentation “territoires zéro chômeur de longue durée” (1), https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/loda/id/LEGIARTI000042666984/2020-12-16/.

[8] Le Forem (2023), Communiqué de presse: Nouvelle liste des fonctions critiques : 231 formations pour s’y former, https://www.leforem.be/content/dam/leforem/fr/documents/a-propos-du-forem/CP-penuries-liste-metiers-2023.pdf.

[22] Moniteur Belge (2023), Ordonnance portant modification de diverses dispositions visant à lutter contre les discriminations en matière d’emploi, https://www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/cgi/api2.pl?lg=fr&pd=2023-06-29&numac=2023042713.

[14] Moniteur Belge (2015), Arrêté royal modifiant les articles 56 et 58 de l’arrêté royal du 25 novembre 1991 portant réglementation du chômage et insérant les articles 36/1 à 36/11, 56/1 à 56/6 et 58/1 à 58/12 dans le même arrêté, https://etaamb.openjustice.be/fr/arrete-royal-du-14-decembre-2015_n2015205818.html.

[7] OECD (2022), How demanding are activation requirements for jobseekers? Description of policy rules, https://www.oecd.org/social/strictness-benefit-eligibility.htm#link_policy_rules.

[33] OECD (2021), OECD Employment Outlook 2021: Navigating the COVID-19 Crisis and Recovery, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5a700c4b-en.

[39] OECD (2020), The Future for Low-Educated Workers in Belgium, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/0140a728-en.

[37] Parlement bruxellois (2019), Déclaration de politique générale commune au Gouvernement de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale et au Collège réuni de la Commission communautaire commune, http://www.parlement.brussels/texte-de-la-declaration-de-politique-generale-du-gouvernement-bruxellois/.

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[12] Salvatori, A. (2022), “The effect of declining unemployment benefits on transitions to employment: Evidence from Belgium”, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 272, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/cba7af24-en.

[28] SPF Emploi (2023), “2023 - Analyse des données belges sur les conditions de travail recueillies par EUROFOUND (EWC(t)S 2021) - La qualité de l’emploi et du travail en Belgique en 2021”, https://emploi.belgique.be/sites/default/files/content/documents/Welzijn%20op%20het%20werk/Onderzoeksprojecten/Rapport%20EWCS_EIND.pdf.

[5] van Landeghem, B., S. Desiere and L. Struyven (2021), “Statistical profiling of unemployed jobseekers”, IZA World of Labor, Vol. 483, https://doi.org/10.15185/izawol.483.

[31] Vervoort, R. (2023), Thématiques innovantes pour les nouveaux contrats de quartier : Territoire Zéro chômeur et Audit énergétique !, Communiqué de presse, https://rudivervoort.brussels/news_/thematiques-innovantes-pour-les-nouveaux-contrats-de-quartier-territoire-zero-chomeur-et-audit-energetique/.

[26] view.brussels (2023), Baromètre de la qualité de l’emploi de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale.

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← 1. Any person seeking employment, regardless of labour market status, can register with Actiris as long as legally residing and authorised to work in Belgium.

← 2. Shares reflect January to September 2022. Shares communicated to the OECD through policy questionnaire in October 2022.

← 3. The OECD strictness of activation requirements database includes a detailed comparative description of policy rules. Descriptions are based on responses received from member countries on unemployment benefit eligiblity rules on surveys conducted regularly. Please see this link for more information on methods: https://www.oecd.org/social/strictness-benefit-eligibility.htm#link_policy_rules.

← 4. Refer to the OECD Tax Benefit Database, https://www.oecd.org/social/benefits-and-wages/, for more details.

← 5. To benefit from the long-term social protection offered by UI, Belgium requires a longer period of employment than many OECD peers. UI claimants in Belgium need to have worked at least 312 days (over 62 weeks) for those less than 36 years old, 468 days (over 93 weeks) for those between 36 and 49 and 624 days (over 124 weeks) for those over 50. The OECD has noted this “probationary period” needed to access UI, in which workers contribute to the Belgian unemployment fund, is higher in Belgium compared to many of its EU peers (OECD, 2020[39]). As comparison, in the neighbouring Netherlands and France, individuals need to have worked only 26 weeks in both countries to access benefits. A “reference period” of between 21 and 42 months based on age groups limits the time in which working days are considered.

← 6. Training must last at least four weeks long and include an average of 20 hours per week, or at least 27 credits. Additional requirements are described here: https://www.Actiris.brussels/fr/citoyens/dispense-de-disponibilite/.

← 7. Benefits are reduced for isolated people and head of households.

← 8. Isolated people and heads of households face a reduction for six months before indefinite suspension.

← 9. Different rules apply to heads of households and isolated individuals.

← 10. Data from 2019 is used due to greater comparability. Data from 2020-2022 significantly influenced by ALMP measures put in place to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and differentiated measures taken to fight the effects of the crisis on the labour market. Measures put in place varied significantly between countries and lasted until 2022 in multiple OECD countries.

← 11. CPAS administer two types of minimum income programmes, the standard Revenu d’intégration sociale (RIS), or an equivalent social benefit (ide sociale financière équivalente) for those who do not quality for RIS (ie. migrants who do not meet residency requirements, etc.).

← 12. Data from 2019 is used due to greater comparability. Data from 2020-2022 significantly influenced by ALMP measures put in place to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and partially different ALMP measures adopted in Belgian regions. For example, the Brussels-Capital Region deployed the Phoenix.brussels employment incentive measure in 2020, which was prolonged into 2022.

← 13. In France, committees are composed of local government, PES, social economy employers, long-term unemployed people and other actors.

← 14. Jobs are set not to compete with existing local business activity or public services. Organisations receive funds previously sent to the individual as benefits to cover part of wages.

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