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Belgians Can Work 4-Day Week as Full-Time Staff in New Deal

Aim is to add flexibility to Belgium’s rigid labor market

By | John Martens | Lyubov Pronina |

Belgian employees won the right to perform a full work week in four days instead of the usual five without loss of salary, part of an agreement that aims to make Belgium’s notoriously rigid labor market more flexible.

Employers will still have the right to turn down employees’ requests for a condensed work week, on condition they explain their refusal in writing, Deputy Prime Minister and Labor Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne said Tuesday in Brussels. For companies, it will become easier to introduce evening and night work without prior agreement from all labor unions.

“The goal is to give people and companies more freedom to arrange their work time,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on Tuesday in Brussels. “If you compare our country with others, you’ll often see we’re far less dynamic.”

Only about 71 out of 100 Belgians in the age group from 20 to 64 years have a job, fewer than the euro-area average of about 73 and a full 10 percentage points less than in neighboring countries such as the Netherlands and Germany, according to Eurostat data for the third quarter of 2021. Belgium’s seven-party federal coalition agreement set a goal for an employment rate of 80% by 2030, a panacea that would serve to keep its legal pensions affordable or finance future tax cuts.

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