Belgian pension reform aims to get people working longer

Belgium agreed a long-awaited pension reform plan on Monday morning. The reform aims to keep pensions affordable and encourage people to work longer, said the prime minister and the ministers for Pensions and SMEs.

After reaching an agreement following all-night negotiations, the ministers unveiled their plan at a morning press conference. They said the pension deal would encourage people to work longer through a one-off net pension bonus, keep the pension system affordable, and bring the different pension schemes closer together.

The package of measures will have an impact of 0.5 per cent of GDP by 2070, amounting to 3 billion euros. Four-fifths or 2.4 billion euros of the planned cuts will come from capping the mechanism by which civil servants' pensions rise along with salaries.

The pension bonus for people who work one to three years longer is a concrete measure to encourage people to stay in the workforce, said prime minister Alexander De Croo. "We need the skills of older workers," he said.

'Serious and credible response'

The new plan also fleshes out a previously agreed reform requiring people to work at least 20 years to qualify for a minimum pension. Pensions minister Karine Lalieux (PS, French-speaking socialists) said that measures for women would accompany the reform by counting a range of parental and caring leave as work.

For minister for SMEs David Clarinval (MR, French-speaking liberals), the pension agreement is a "serious and credible" response to the European Commission that can guarantee the affordability of the pension system.

Both trade unions and employers' organisations expressed their dissatisfaction with the plan. The ACOD and ACV Public Services unions are dismayed that the government has announced a pension reform without consulting the unions. "This defies all imagination. It is incomprehensible and unacceptable," said ACOD president Chris Reniers.

Business organisation Unizo said it was "disappointed" by the reform. "This is not a pension reform, but a few adjustments at the margin," says Unizo chief Danny Van Assche. The organisation calls for measures beyond a "very limited and inefficient measure" such as the pension bonus.

Opposition parties were also quick to voice their criticism. For Flemish nationalists N-VA, the pension agreement is nothing more than "a convulsion of a government that is no longer able to reform". On Twitter, N-VA leader Bart De Wever called the plan "an outright attack on the pension security of future generations".


Minister of Pensions Karine Lalieux, prime minister Alexander De Croo and minister of SMEs David Clarinval © BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE

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Belgium reaches deal on pension reform
After a night of negotiations, the Belgian Council of Ministers agreed on a series of pension reform measures on Monday morning, the prime...

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