Number of self-employed people on the rise in Belgium
Belgian statistics office STATBEL published on September its report regarding employment and labour market.
In the second quarter of 2022, 71.4% of people aged 20-64 in Belgium are in work, compared to 71.9% in the first quarter of 2022 and 70.5% in the second quarter of 2021. This is what emerged from the new results of Statbel, based on the Labour Force Survey (LFS).
The ILO unemployment rate of 15-64-year-olds shows a slight increase compared to the previous quarter, from 5.4% to 5.7%, but decreases compared to the second quarter of last year, when the figure was 6.2%. For the population aged 15 and over, general employment has increased by 2.6% between the second quarter of 2021 and 2022, but there is a big difference in evolution between wage earners and self-employed people. While the wage-earning population increases by 1.1%, there is an increase of 12% in the number of self-employed people. Within the wage-earning population, there is also a difference in evolution between wage earners from the private sector on the one hand and those from the public sector on the other: the employment rate of wage earners from the public sector decreased by 4.5% while the number of wage earners in the private sector increased by 3.1%.
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Labour market remains favourable compared to last year
71.4% of people aged 20-64 in work
After reaching 71.9% in the first quarter of 2022, the employment rate dropped slightly to 71.4% in the second quarter. Compared to the second quarter of last year, however, we do see an increase: the percentage of employed people in the population aged 20 to 64 rises from 70.5% in the second quarter of 2021 to 71.4% one year later. In absolute terms, this means that in the second quarter of 2022, 4,812,000 people aged 20 to 64 are in work in Belgium. If we look at the population of 15 years and older, this is 4,956,000 people.
the second quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of 2022, the employment rate increased for both women and men, for 20-54-year-olds and people over 55 and for low-skilled, medium-skilled and highly-skilled people (chart 1). Looking at the region, we see an increase in Brussels and Flanders compared to last year. In Flanders, the employment rate increases from 75.0% to 76.3% and in Brussels from 61.6% to 64.8%. In Wallonia, however, we note a slight decrease, from 65.4% to 65.0%.
Evolution of employment by status
While the total number of employed people increased by 2.6% between the second quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of 2022, we see some remarkable differences depending on the status of those employed. This way, we see that in one year 81,000 self-employed people have been added, compared to only 45,000 wage earners. In relative terms, this represents a huge difference. It means an increase of 12.0% for the self-employed against an increase of only 1.1% for the wage earners. Note that this is the status in the main job. A possible second job was not taken into account. The term 'self-employed' includes both self-employed people without staff and employers with staff. The category of helpers is also classified as self-employed. The term 'wage earners' includes the statuses of blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, statutory civil servants and contractual civil servants.
When we make a further distinction between the private sector and the public sector (= statutory and contractual civil servants) within the group of wage earners, we note another striking difference. While the number of wage earners in the private sector increased by 3.1% between the second quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of 2022, the number of wage earners in the public sector decreased by 4.5%.
Profile of self-employed people
If we zoom in on the profile of the self-employed (as their main occupation) in Belgium (chart 3 + figures in attachement), we see that the majority of them are highly skilled (55% of all self-employed in Q2 2022). It is also in this category that most self-employed people were added in the past year (+41,000), even though, in relative terms, the increase among the low-skilled and medium-skilled was slightly higher (+15% among the low-skilled, +13% among the medium-skilled and +11% among the highly-skilled).
In terms of regions, most self-employed people live in the Flemish Region (64% of all self-employed people in Q2 2022), which is proportionally slightly more than the share of the Flemish Region in the total working population (61%). In both absolute and relative terms, we see here the strongest increase in the number of self-employed people between the second quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of 2022: the number of self-employed people rose by 65,000 (+16%). Proportionally, the number of self-employed people in Wallonia rose slightly less by 15,000 (+8%) and in Brussels, the number of self-employed people remained more or less the same.
Self-employed people are mainly found in the middle age group (25-49 years), but they are also relatively strongly represented in the older age group: 42% of all self-employed people are 50 years or older, while only 32% of the total working population is over the age of 50 in the second quarter of 2022. Among young people, the self-employed make up a small group, yet this number has more than doubled in the past year (+104%). Among the elderly, too, there is a sharp increase of 15% or 41,000 people in absolute terms.
In terms of gender, men are the most represented among the self-employed (65% compared to 53% in the total employment). However, in the second quarter of 2022, proportionally slightly more female self-employed workers were added than male self-employed workers. +17% for women against 10% for men.