National Reform Programme - Belgium 2017

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 2016, except for the recommendation relating to the budget and the public debt, which is dealt with in the Stability Programme of 2017. Specifically, the aim is to (1) continue fiscal consolidation, distribute the corresponding objectives among the levels of governance and simplify the tax regime, (2) keep wage developments more closely in line with productivity gains and developments in the neighbouring countries, pursue an efficient active labour market policy and reform education and vocational training, (3) promote innovation through investments in knowledge-based capital, increase competition in business services and retail, invest in transport infrastructure and energy production capacity.
  • 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 (2015) 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. In contrast, the employment of older workers has increased and the employment rate gap between non-EU citizens and Belgians has shrunk. Progress in women's employment and in the percentage of young people neither in employment nor in education or training has stalled. The same applies to the share of people in their early 30s with a higher education degree, which is still considerably above the EU average. The percentage of early school leavers does continue to show a downward trend. As regards R&D intensity, greenhouse gas emissions, the share of renewables and primary energy consumption, Belgium is also more or less on track to meet these respective targets. On the other hand, the objective of reducing the risk of poverty and social exclusion is much more difficult to achieve.

The Belgian governments confirmed their strong commitment to meeting the Europe 2020 targets. Among the main measures adopted to that end and described in this National Reform Programme are the reform of the Law of 1996 on the promotion of employment and the safeguarding of competitiveness, poverty-reduction programmes and plans for strategic investments and energy transition. Progress has also been made in promoting and financing innovation, creating an internal market of regulated professions, modernising industry, promoting entrepreneurship, reforming education and enhancing competition in retail trade.