Benefit claimants required to register with employment service
Unemployed people who are in receipt of living wage benefits will be required to register with the Flemish employment agency VDAB, ministers said on Monday. Local authorities will receive a combined amount of 20 million euros over two years to support people to find work.
More than 40,000 people in Flanders receive a leefloon, benefits that bring their income up to a certain level. Only 22.5 per cent of them find work after one year of unemployment. The public centres for social welfare (OCMWs) are responsible for supporting social welfare recipients with personalised guidance to help them find work.
While the VDAB is part of this process, in practice, there are significant contrasts between cities and municipalities. Approximately 56 per cent of Flemish benefit claimants are known to the VDAB. Meanwhile, more than half of the 17,000 Ukrainian asylum seekers who receive the equivalent of a living wage are registered with the VDAB. Of these, 40 per cent have found work within a year.
Potential tax reforms
"We will ensure better information exchanges between the OCMWs and the VDAB, and we want to lower the threshold for the VDAB services for the living wage claimants," said minister of the Economy Jo Brouns (CD&V).
Interior minister Bart Somers (Open VLD) has pledged funding for the initiative. "I will provide a premium of 1,000 euros for the municipalities for each activated benefit recipient above the Flemish average," he said. "A municipality can do this with or without VDAB." He wants to give local authorities more freedom in how they get people into work.
The proposed reforms that would result in a tax reduction for benefit claimants have been criticised by Somers' party colleague Vincent Van Quickenborne, the Justice minister, who has called them "highly problematic".
Finance minister Vincent Van Peteghem (CD&V), who put the proposal for tax reform on the table, said on Monday that the tax reduction for those who are not in work could only occur in "a number of exceptional cases".
The government wants to reach an agreement on tax reform before the summer.
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