Belgium leads Europe in inactivity due to sickness or disability

More than 7.2 per cent of all 20- to 64-year-olds in Belgium, or almost half a million people, are not working because of illness or disability. This was shown on Thursday in a report by the High Council for Employment, which also made recommendations on how to get more people into work.

Since the beginning of the century, the number of people unable to work due to illness or disability has increased by a factor of 2.5. That has continued to rise quarter on quarter ​ - except during the pandemic - while the outflow from the unemployment system has been much slower.

The Council attributes this to factors such as the ageing of the workforce and the increasing number of women working outside the home, and institutional changes. Unmotivated leave has been abolished, early retirement has become stricter and the retirement age has been raised. There are also differences between sectors, with workers in more precarious jobs such as cleaning, logistics, or family and elderly care more likely to be out of work because of illness.

Mental health

The most common conditions are mental health problems (37 per cent), followed by musculoskeletal disorders (32 per cent). Two-thirds of people with disabilities leave the system within six months. Returning to work after that is much more difficult, especially for those aged 55 and over.

"The first six months are crucial. Early intervention is important for successful reintegration," the council ays, advocating an expansion of the target group for reintegration and faster referrals by health insurance funds.

The council also wants to make employers more responsible for prevention and reintegration, introduce partial recognition of disability and offer a bonus for those who voluntarily return to full-time work.



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