Liberal parties call for time limit on unemployment benefit

Liberal parties MR and Open Vld want to see a time limit placed on unemployment benefits. Their leaders said on Monday that they would put the idea – which they say is gaining ground among politicians but not yet among the left – on the federal government’s agenda.

Flemish Open Vld and francophone MR want to support more long-term unemployed people to find work. Those without a job after two years of unemployment would have to accept a basic minimum-wage job proposed by employment agency VDAB or lose their benefits.

"If we want to lower taxes today, we need more people working"

“We are the only ones to have linked tax reform and labour market reform,” said MR leader Georges-Louis Bouchez in a speech at MR’s Labour Day event at Tour & Taxis in Brussels, where the liberal parties are in opposition. “If we want to lower taxes today, we need more people working. We also need to reform the labour market and unemployment.”

He was joined on stage by Open Vld leader Egbert Lachaert, who said the liberals would “put the limitation to two years on the government’s table”.

Bouchez criticised the socialist parties, in particular the francophone PS. “PS is treating this issue like the greens are treating the nuclear [issue]: they know it has to be done, but for dogmatic and electoral reasons they are not doing it,” he told Belga.

However, in his own 1 May speech, PS leader Paul Magnette rejected the idea. “When you are prime minister, you don’t pit workers against the unemployed,” he said. “That is not in the coalition agreement and so we will not talk about it.”


MR leader Georges-Louis Bouchez and Open Vld leader Egbert Lachaert at MR's 1 May meeting in Brussels © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

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