Working conditions in Flanders deteriorated in past 15 years
In the past 15 years, the number of people experiencing work-related stress in Flanders has increased. Since 2013, there has also been an increase in work pressure and emotional and physical strain, according to analysis by the Social and Economic Council of Flanders (SERV), the primary advisory body to the Flemish government on socioeconomic policy.
In 2004, 12.1 per cent of people worked under physically taxing conditions. By 2013, the figure was only slightly higher at 12.9 per cent but rose to 15.3 per cent by 2019. SERV points out that high physical strain affects the "workability" of a job. More workers become mentally fatigued, lose motivation or have a harder time balancing work and private life.
Overburdening of workers occurs when the muscles and joints in the back, shoulders and arms are used intensively while, for example, moving products. If an employee moves too little and sits still for too long, there may be underuse. Both over- and under-exertion can lead to health problems.
The SERV Innovation & Labour Foundation's "workability survey" studied eight types of physical strain. Between 2004 and 2019, there was a notable increase in the proportion of workers who experience noise pollution (+3.2 percentage points), hazardous substances (+0.7), physically demanding tasks (+3.9), uncomfortable or strenuous work postures (+3.9) and repetitive hand/arm movements (+2.5).
A positive trend was noted in two areas. The proportion of workers facing vibration from tools/machines and extreme temperatures during work decreased by 2.3 pp and 1.4 pp respectively.
The deteriorating working conditions also affect a considerable number of foreigners working in Flanders - a percentage that has increased steadily over the past decade.
According to statistics from HR agency Partena Professional, in November 2021, 16.9 per cent of the workforce in Belgium was non-Belgian. In 2012, more than 15 per cent of people working in Belgium had a foreign nationality. The French are the largest group, increasing from 3.4 per cent of the total in 2012 to 3.8 per cent in 2021. At the same time, workers from Eastern Europe almost doubled from 1.4 per cent to 2.7 per cent, although the share of Polish workers fell.
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