Work cheques could relieve youth unemployment, says minister

Summary

Federal employment minister Monica De Coninck is considering the idea of “work cheques” to encourage employers to hire unskilled youth

Programme would replace Activa

Federal employment minister Monica De Coninck wants to introduce “work cheques” to help youths with few job skills to find work. She calculates that a scheme could reduce unemployment figures by 15,000.

In an interview with De Tijd newspaper, De Coninck said that the 23% youth unemployment rate in Belgium is much higher than in neighbouring Germany or the Netherlands. She expressed concern at the large number of young unemployed people with no qualifications.

She proposed a simple system in which companies could buy cheques for €10 an hour to employ a young person. The scheme – similar to service cheques used for employing home help – would only apply for workers under 30 with no secondary school diploma who had been out of work for at least six months.

The work cheques would replace the current system known as Activa, which provides a €1,000 monthly subsidy for companies that take on young people with no qualifications. De Coninck says the Activa system has proven unpopular with small businesses because it involves excessive paperwork.

The NSZ union, which represents the self-employed, has responded enthusiastically to the proposal. “We can only applaud this proposal, because the Activa system is too complicated, too bureaucratic and too obscure for small employers who don’t have an administrative department,” said NSZ chair Christine Mattheeuws.  

But De Coninck’s proposal has been criticised by the Flemish parties CD&V and N-VA. They say that responsibility for targeted employment measures like this will pass from the federal government to the regions on 1 July. “At the very least, the regions should be consulted,” said Flemish minister-president Kris Peeters (CD&V) on his Twitter account.       

Federal employment minister Monica De Coninck proposes introduction of “work cheques” to encourage employers to hire unskilled youth.

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