Employment Protection, Unemployment Compensation and Activation in Europe
Globalization and Welfare series
Edited by Paul de Beer and Trudie Schils
Chapter 7: Belgium
Johan De Deken INTRODUCTION Since the mid-1970s Belgium has been transformed from a unitary state into a federal state, in which a significant proportion of labour market policies have been devolved to the regional authorities. Not only was the responsibility over social security and labour market policies now distributed over various levels of government, but the different authorities also started to follow different policy pathways. In order to provide a basis for understanding the division of responsibility, this chapter starts with a very cursory introduction to some of the peculiarities of Belgian federalism. There are two main complications in the devolved political structure that gradually developed after the constitutional reform of 1970. On the one hand, there has been devolution towards territorially defined jurisdictions. In this respect, Belgium is not that different from other countries with a federal structure: there is a federal jurisdiction and there are three regional jurisdictions. On the other hand, though, there has also been devolution towards three language communities. The main problem here is that the language communities and territorial entities do not correspond, and in some regions, in particular in the Brussels region but also in the German-speaking part of Wallonia, shared or parallel jurisdictions might exist. What further complicates the matter is that over time an asymmetric governance structure emerged, in which the governments of the Flanders region and the Flemish community have developed into one single body with its adjunct administration, whereas the Walloon regional government and the French community government have...
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