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International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
Following a deep recession in 2020 and further contraction in 2021Q1, the euro area economy recovered rapidly in the second and third quarters thanks to high vaccination levels, increasing household and business adaptability to the virus, and continued forceful policy support. Looking ahead, while supply chain disruptions, elevated energy prices, and resurgences of Covid-19 cases—including those related to the Omicron variant—are likely to pose near-term headwinds to growth, the recovery is set to continue in 2022 as the impact of the pandemic on economic activity continues to weaken over time and supply-side constraints ease. Medium-term output losses relative to pre-crisis trends will vary significantly across countries and sectors as will the extent of labor market scarring. Price pressures are building up as production bottlenecks are set to persist for a while. However, inflation—despite increasing significantly in recent months due to transitory factors—is projected to moderate during 2022 and remain below the ECB’s inflation target over the medium term. Uncertainty surrounding the outlook remains high and largely related to pandemic dynamics and legacies, including induced behavioral and preference changes.
Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, Veronika Penciakova, and Nick Sander
We estimate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on business failures among small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in seventeen countries using a large representative firm-level database. We use a simple model of firm cost-minimization and measure each firm’s liquidity shortfall during and after COVID-19. Our framework allows for a rich combination of sectoral and aggregate supply, productivity, and demand shocks. We estimate a large increase in the failure rate of SMEs under COVID-19 of nearly 9 percentage points, ab-sent government support. Accommodation & Food Services, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation, Education, and Other Services are among the most affected sectors. The jobs at risk due to COVID-19 related SME business failures represent 3.1 percent of private sector employment. Despite the large impact on business failures and employment, we estimate only moderate effects on the financial sector: the share of Non Performing Loans on bank balance sheets would increase by up to 11 percentage points, representing 0.3 percent of banks’ assets and resulting in a 0.75 percentage point decline in the common equity Tier-1 capital ratio. We evaluate the cost and effectiveness of various policy interventions. The fiscal cost of an intervention that narrowly targets at risk firms can be modest (0.54% of GDP). However, at a similar level of effectiveness, non-targeted subsidies can be substantially more expensive (1.82% of GDP). Our results have important implications for the severity of the COVID-19 recession, the design of policies, and the speed of the recovery.
Ms. Yuanyan S Zhang
Wage rises have remained stubbornly low in advanced Europe in recent years, but, at the same time, newer EU members are experiencing rapid wage acceleration. This paper investigates the drivers of this wage divergence. Econometric analysis using error correction models suggests that wage growth responds more quickly to changes in unemployment in the newer EU members than in advanced Europe, where wages are more closely related to inflation and inflation expectations in the short run, implying greater inertia in nominal wage rises in advanced Europe. In the years after the global crisis, this inertia contributed to the build up of a real wage overhang relative to sharply slowing labor productivity, which subsequently dragged on nominal wage rises even as unemployment began to decline. Spillovers of subdued wage growth between euro area countries also weighed on wage rises in advanced Europe.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This Article IV Consultation highlights that Belgium has experienced nine consecutive years of economic growth. Per capita GDP has surpassed pre-crisis levels, and unemployment is at its lowest level in four decades. The financial sector has also undergone structural changes and increased its resiliency to shocks. The authorities have implemented important reforms in recent years that have contributed to job creation, improved competitiveness, and lowered the deficit. However, the reform agenda is unfinished, and the new government should take advantage of the still favorable economic conditions to press ahead with further reforms to strengthen the resilience and growth potential of the economy. The priority should be to rebuild fiscal buffers by gradually moving toward a balanced budget in the medium term, supported by efficiency-oriented spending reforms. It is also imperative to boost productivity growth by supporting entrepreneurship, increasing investment in infrastructure, strengthening competition in services, and fostering innovation.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This Selected Issues paper focuses on long-term impact of Brexit on the European Union (EU). This paper examines consequences of Brexit on the EU27 under various post-Brexit scenarios by using two different complementary approaches. Our results, which are broadly in line with recent findings in the literature, are twofold. First, Brexit would have negative effects on the EU27 as well, given the depth and the complexity of the EU-U.K. integration. Similar to various empirical studies, it has been observed that the estimated long-term output and employment losses (in percent) for the EU27 in the study are on average lower than the corresponding losses for the UK estimated in the literature. The level of output and employment are estimated to fall at most by up to 1.5 percent and 0.7 percent in the long run in the event of a ‘hard’ Brexit scenario, respectively. A “soft” Brexit outcome would lead to much lower losses.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This 2018 Article IV Consultation highlights that the economic recovery in Belgium is gaining momentum, with real GDP growth expected to approach 2 percent in 2018 after an estimated 1.7 percent in 2017. It is driven by strong investment and solid consumption growth, and supported by favorable financial conditions as well as a strengthening recovery throughout Europe. Employment growth has picked up, thanks in part to past reform efforts. The fiscal position has improved, reflecting a mix of cyclical, structural, and one-off factors. The medium-term outlook, however, remains subdued in the absence of further structural reforms to raise potential growth, and subject to both external and domestic risks.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This Selected Issues paper studies diversification in Luxembourg’s economy and the role of the government. The economy of Luxembourg appears to be more concentrated than that of comparable countries. Sectoral output is more concentrated than in other countries; this relative lack of diversification is true even when the financial sector is excluded and even compared with other European countries with a small population. However, employment concentration is similar to that in other countries. Luxembourg specializes in sectors whose labor productivity is somewhat higher than in several benchmark countries. The government should continue to further diversify the economy by fostering an environment for growth.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This 2017 Article IV Consultation highlights Belgium’s recovery, which is expected to strengthen modestly in 2017, with real GDP projected at 1.6 percent. The medium-term outlook remains constrained by structurally weak growth in advanced economies. Downside risks are significant, including those related to global and regional uncertainties that could affect trade and financial markets. Fiscal sustainability therefore remains tenuous and sensitive to potential shocks. Although private employment has been recovering, there is entrenched high unemployment and inactivity among certain groups, including the young, those with few skills, and immigrants from outside the European Union.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This paper discusses two key issues of the Belgian economy: (1) making public expenditure more efficient and (2) addressing the Belgian labor market-segmentations and distortions. Belgium faces fiscal challenges that call for a substantial consolidation over the medium term. The sizable expenditure reduction contemplated by the authorities will be difficult without deeper structural reforms. Reforms that improve the efficiency of public spending can help underpin fiscal adjustment while minimizing the drag on growth and protect social cohesion. The Belgian labor market suffers from rigidities and fragmentation. The design of policies to increase employment rates among these vulnerable labor market segments requires a thorough reflection of symptoms and underlying causes.