The Social Barometer shows, supported by indicators, that poverty affects more and more Brussels residents. All age categories are affected.
Brussels, capital of precariousness and inequality. This is the clear observation of the Social Barometer 2019: more than all the other Regions and big cities of the Kingdom, it blackens all the indicators.
Nothing new ? If: the phenomenon is getting worse. The proof, among others, by the number of beneficiaries of social integration income: it increased by 68% in ten years in Brussels, and doubled among young people aged 18 to 24. In total, one in five Brussels residents – 17% of 18-24 year olds, 21% of 18-64 year olds – live on a replacement income, far more than the Belgian average. Figures that Marion Englert, a scientific collaborator at the Social and Health Observatory (author of the report), links to unemployment reforms. “These data are indeed very interesting. Among the most striking elements, the sharp drop in the number of job seekers, in particular those receiving compensation: 20,000 less in ten years. This can be partly explained by an improvement in the labor market. But, at the same time, there are 15,000 additional people who receive income from the CPAS. Without speaking of a direct communicating mud, there is clearly a link with the tightening of the conditions of access to unemployment benefits and integration. Clearly: there is a transfer from Social Security to social assistance. “
A third of Brussels residents below the poverty risk threshold
Replacement income, with the exception of pensions and disability benefits, is all below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold. This is the case for social integration income, unemployment or integration allowance, income guarantee for the elderly. Consequently, a third of Brussels residents live below this level (compared to 10% of the Flemish and 22% of the Walloons). Furthermore, the report also points out, if unemployment has been falling steadily in Brussels since 2015, any job “is not enough to protect against insecurity”. And point to low wages, limited working hours, short-term jobs. If part-time is a little less frequent in Brussels than in the two other Regions, it is suffered by 17% of workers in the capital, against 4% in Flanders and 10% in Wallonia.
The precariousness worsens in all age categories, seniors are not spared. This is evidenced by the increase in income guarantees for the elderly (Grapa, granted to people over 65 whose income is too low to ensure their subsistence). In 2009, 9% of pensioners in Brussels benefited, they are now 12%, the Belgian average is 5%, the overall number in the country is stable … If Brussels remains a Region younger than its neighbors, it will nonetheless experience a demographic boom within its elderly population: 5% growth over the past ten years, 12% over the next ten. “The share of elderly people living in poverty could increase in Brussels, as suggested by the upward trend in the Grapa,” points out the Observatoire de la sante et du social.
The scientific team also recalls that the precariousness figures are still underestimated since they do not take into account the “hidden poor” that are the homeless and men and women in an irregular situation, in a situation of very great poverty.
Lack of income ravages all of life. Evidence, highlighted by statistics. One in five children is born in a household with no income from work. The level of resources influences the rate of birth or infant mortality, life expectancy, health. At school, a quarter of Brussels secondary school students, all fields combined, are at least two years behind in school. Housing, more expensive in the capital, drives the point home. “The share of the budget devoted to rent is large or even untenable for many Brussels residents”, denounces the Observatory. Given the prices on the rental market, recipients of social integration income must spend half or more than two-thirds of this RIS on rent. With the result, a roof often of poor quality: 22% of Brussels households report problems of housing cramps, humidity, heating, which further exacerbates health problems.
The most unequal city in the Kingdom
And yet Brussels is a rich city? Right… But it is above all a land of inequality. The Gini coefficient – one of the indicators of income inequality, based on tax statistics – is higher in Brussels than in Antwerp, Ghent, Liege or Charleroi. Even the labor market betrays this singularity: nowhere are wage inequalities as high as in Brussels. The average income of a low-skilled worker in Brussels is lower than in the other Regions, while the income of a senior manager is higher. All indicators of life are fracturing the territory of Brussels. Income? They range almost from simple, in Saint-Josse, to double, in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre. La Grapa? One in four seniors benefits from it in Saint-Josse, one in twenty-five in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre. The share of borrowers with at least one bad credit? One in five in … Saint-Josse, double the regional average. Ditto for the employment rate, the quality of health, etc.
A barometer which confirms, if need be, the urgency of combating precariousness in the capital. A major challenge which does not only concern the Brussels authorities, which requires resources but also coordinated action by all levels of power, given the overlapping of the policies concerned.
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