Employment, Poverty and Globalization
Edited by Hans-Jürgen Andreß and Henning Lohmann
Chapter 3: When Famialism Fails: The Nature and Causes of In-Work Poverty in Belgium
Ive Marx and Gerlinde Verbist INTRODUCTION Gauging from comparative studies, including those which appear in this book, Belgium enjoys a relatively low incidence of low pay as well as a comparatively low poverty rate among its working-age population. Nevertheless, the ‘working poor’ constitute a signiﬁcant proportion of the working-age population living in relative poverty. In this respect, Belgium is not atypical in the Continental European context (see Lohmann and Marx in this volume). Belgium presents a particularly interesting case study when it comes to the particular nature and causes of in-work poverty as it manifests itself in the Continental European welfare states. Belgium bears many of the hallmarks of what Esping-Andersen has called the conservative welfare state model, in which the Christian Democratic ‘subsidiarity principle’ has institutionalized familialism in the sense of supporting the malebreadwinner/female-caregiver model. Belgium’s labour market and welfare state remain geared towards the breadwinner: minimum wages are comparatively high, job security protection is elaborate, derived social security rights extensive; the tax system supports the sole breadwinner model, and so on. On the surface, Belgium appears to epitomize the archetypal European welfare state caught in a ‘welfare without work’ conundrum. Because of its largely defensive response to economic change – partly in an eﬀort to preserve breadwinner-type jobs – the country seems to have found itself trapped in a vicious circle of high spending on social transfers, high taxation and sluggish job growth – all to the detriment of women’s employment chances, especially those of the least skilled. There...
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