The social security system is financed in half by employers, while employees and the state account for a quarter each. The system is extensive but suffers from severe underfunding.
Social insurance includes old-age and widow’s pension, sickness, parental and unemployment insurance, holiday allowance and insurance in the event of an accident at work and occupational injuries. Widows, pensioners and the disabled have free health care. Employees have four weeks of vacation.
- Countryaah Official Site: Official statistics for population in Belgium, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.
Due to the proportion of the elderly increasing and the number of employed persons being low, the payments have long exceeded the fees. The cuts in government spending during the 1990s greatly exceeded social support systems, and yet further changes were needed to keep spending under control.
During the 2000s, several laws were passed that triggered loud protests from the Catholic Church and the Christian Democrats. As other countries in the world, after the Netherlands, Belgium legalized active euthanasia in 2002. Twelve years later, Belgium became the first in the world to allow euthanasia even for severely ill children, with no lower age limit.
Since 2003, gay couples can enter into marriage and since 2006 they also have the right to adopt children.
Religion plays a pretty minor role in most Belgians’ lives. Nearly one in three residents call themselves non-religious, though many traditionally reside in the Catholic Church. About a quarter of those who get married do so in the church or equivalent, and just over half of the children are baptized according to religious traditions.
The woman’s position is quite strong and society is generally quite equal, although gender discrimination and wage differences still exist. About a third of women work part-time. Women do not usually change their last names when they get married. After the 2014 elections, women hold almost half of all seats in the federal parliament.
FACTS – SOCIAL CONDITIONS
Infant Mortality: 3 per 1000 births (2018)
Proportion of population with access to clean water: 100.0 percent (2015)
Proportion of the population having access to toilets: 99.5 percent (2017)
Public expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP: 10.5 percent (2015)
Public expenditure on health care per person: 4 149 US dollars (2016)
Proportion of women in parliament: 38 percent (2018)
Nationalists strong in local elections
The Flanders nationalists have great successes in the municipal elections. The right-wing nationalist N-VA wins in three out of five provinces in Flanders, and in Antwerp the party’s leader Bart De Wever becomes new mayor. At the same time, the Flemish xenophobic VB is going back. N-VA’s demand for more self-government in Flanders, especially with regard to taxes, is gaining more weight. In French-speaking Wallonia, a split of Belgium is feared.
Angry when the serial killer’s wife is released
Michelle Martin, ex-wife and aide to the serial killer Marc Dutroux (see Modern History), leaves prison after 16 years and goes to the monastery. The court’s decision provokes strong reactions in the country.
Electoral change should resolve political crisis
Parliament votes in favor of a constitutional amendment that divides the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde (BHV) constituency into two: the bilingual Brussels becomes a new constituency, while the Flemish Halle-Vilvoorde together with Leuven form the constituency of Flemish Brabant (which coincides with the province of Flemish Brabant, which surrounds Brussels). BHV’s composition has been a hot topic of contention for several years (see also Political system). There are now only six municipalities in Flanders – outside of Brussels – where residents are still allowed to vote on French-speaking parties.