Globalization and Welfare series
Edited by Klaus Armingeon and Michelle Beyeler
Chapter 7: Belgium: increasing critique by the OECD
Philippe Pochet INSTITUTIONAL AND POLITICAL CONTEXT OF THE BELGIAN WELFARE STATE The foundations of the Belgian social security system are contained in a 1944 agreement of the Employer/Worker Committee, which inspired the Belgian government. Built on the principles of social insurance and solidarity, the Belgian system owed less to the influence of Beveridge and more to the influence of Bismarck. Three separate social security schemes cover the three major categories of workers: wage-earners, the self-employed and public employees. Social benefits are financed mainly by employers and employees (the state also contributes, but its part is decreasing). The funding of social security has been complemented since the mid-1980s by other sources of funding (called alternative funding) and since the mid-1990s by specific levies on incomes (Arcq and Chatelain 1994). Decision-making is shared between the government and representatives of the social partners. Belgian society is divided into ‘pillars’ (Socialist, Christian and to a lesser extent Liberal); these pillars have their own institutions in society, covering all facets of life. The education system is shared between public and private schools. The latter are mostly Catholic, and dominant in the Flemish region. Trade union coverage is high at around 60 per cent of the population in the paid labour force. The CSC/ACV (Christian unions) and FGTB/ABVV (Socialist unions) are the main ones. There is also a less important Liberal union. Christians, Socialists, Liberals and the ‘neutral’ mutualities, as well as the doctors’ association are important actors in the health care system. Nevertheless, the social...
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