National Reform Programme - Belgium 2018
This National Reform Programme sets out the structural measures taken by the Belgian governments over the last twelve months. Their purpose is twofold:
- respond to the country-specific recommendations that Belgium received from the European Council in July 2017, except for the recommendation relating to the budget and the public debt, which is dealt with in the Stability Programme of 2018. Specifically, the aim is to (1) continue fiscal consolidation and accelerate the reduction of the general government debt ratio, distribute the corresponding objectives among the levels of governance, remove distortive tax expenditures, and create room for infrastructure investment, (2) ensure that the most disadvantaged groups have equal opportunities as other people to participate in education and the labour market, (3) promote investments in knowledge-based capital by way of measures to increase digital technologies adoption and diffuse innovation diffusion, and increase competition in business services, retail trade and network industries.
- meet the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy in the fields of work, R&D and innovation, education and training, energy and climate, and social inclusion.
The most recent figures (2016) on the Europe 2020 progress indicators paint a fairly encouraging picture. Since the economic crisis, the employment rate in the 20-64 age group has remained below the established path towards its objective, but it is rising yet. The employment rates of women and older workers has increased and the percentage of young people neither in employment nor in education or training are moving in the desired direction. To the contrary, the employment rate gap between non-EU citizens and Belgians has risen again. The share of people in their early 30s with a higher education degree follows the path towards its objective, the latter being more ambitious than that for the EU as a whole. The percentage of early school leavers has – if a setback does not occur in de coming years – reached its 2020 objective by 2016. This objective is more ambitious than that for the EU average as well. As regards R&D intensity and the share of renewables, Belgium is also on track to meet these respective targets. The same basically holds for greenhouse gas emissions and primary energy consumption, but these indicators showed a certain setback during 2015 and 2016. The objective of reducing the risk of poverty and social exclusion appears difficult to achieve.
The Belgian governments confirmed their strong commitment to meeting the Europe 2020 targets. Among the main measures adopted to that end in 2017 are the federal ‘summer agreement’ holding tax and labour market measures, the interfederal ‘energy pact’ that should smoothen the energy transition, and the transposition of the Directive regarding the recognition of professional qualifications. Progress has also been made in the tax shift, poverty-reduction programmes, plans for strategic investments, equal opportunities in education and employment, digitising the economy. promoting and financing innovation, promoting entrepreneurship, reforming education, and enhancing competition in e.g. retail trade and telecommunications.