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The Belgian labour market during and after the crisis

J. De Mulder and M. Druant
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J. De Mulder: National Bank of Belgium, Research Department
M. Druant: National Bank of Belgium, Research Department

Economic Review, 2011, issue i, 89-104

Abstract: The article looks at the impact that the 2008-2009 recession had on the Belgian labour market and, whilst taking account of the varying severity and duration of the economic downturn, draws a comparison with other European countries. More specifically, the consequences are investigated with regard to the adaptation of volume of labour and labour costs, and also the composition of employment. The analysis for Belgium shows that the crisis was accompanied by a less than proportional contraction in the volume of labour, resulting in a fall in labour productivity. The reduction in the volume of labour was only partly reflected in the trend in employment as the use of measures aimed at limiting working time, with a considerable fall in the number of hours worked per employee as a result, was accompanied by considerable labour hoarding. In general terms, the crisis did not result in a fall in the activity rate, but there is a major risk of discouragement among low-skilled young people. The increase in long-term unemployment points in turn to the threat of a rise in structural unemployment, which may adversely affect the potential for growth in the economy. The crisis did not have a moderating effect on the trend in hourly labour costs. After allowing for the productivity trend, the labour cost handicap, expressed in unit labour costs, narrowed temporarily with respect to the three neighbouring countries, but an increase in this handicap was once again posted in 2010.

Keywords: labour hoarding; long-term unemployment; labour productivity; labour cost handicap; hysteresis (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J21 J23 J24 J30 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbb:ecrart:y:2011:m:june:i:i:p:89-104