European Semester 2015/2016 country fiche on disability Belgium

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European Semester 2015/2016 country fiche on disability


Report prepared by: Geert Van Hove (expert since September 2015) and Gauthier de Beco (former expert)

With comparative data provided by the ANED core team

The Academic Network of European Disability experts (ANED) was established by the European Commission in 2008 to provide scientific support and advice for its disability policy Unit. In particular, the activities of the Network support the development of the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 and practical implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People in the EU.

This country report has been prepared as input for the European Semester from a disability perspective.

The statistics provided in October 2015 are based on the EU-SILC 2013. This is the most recent microdata available to researchers for analysis from Eurostat. This report may be updated as new data becomes available.

Table of contents

Summary of the overall situation and challenges 4

Assessment of the situation of disabled people with respect to the Europe 2020 headline targets 6

Description of the situation and trends in relation to each target area 24

Assessment of policies in place to meet the relevant headline targets 26

Review of the European Semester from a disability perspective 30

Assessment of the structural funds ESIF 2014-2020 or other relevant funds in relation to disability challenges 33

Recommendations 35

Summary of the overall situation and challenges

Belgium can be seen as a ‘perfect case study’ for the transition from a traditional disability-welfare approach, to a rights based approach that makes sure persons with disabilities take a position as active citizens with access to community services available to others. The traditional approach is based on a strong medical model and leading to several segregated systems (e.g. special school system, segregated sheltered workshops, segregated residential care). These systems are leading to lifelong dependency and exclusion).1

We can observe progress in the introduction and implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which was ratified by Belgium in 2009. Initiatives such as the collection of the jurisdiction linked to the UNCRPD by the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities2 and the ‘Handistreaming Methodology’ of the Federal Government can be seen as examples of good practice.
At the same time Belgium has still a lot of work to reorganise and reconvert the historically developed ‘special/parallel/segregated systems’. The available data confirm big challenges concerning the high unemployment level of persons with disabilities and the limited entrance of persons with disabilities to the tertiary education level.
In the analysis of different fields of policy and practice more and more attention is given to the specific group of ‘persons with mental health problems’ as a special target group who are distant from the labour market and in danger of exclusion.
Concerning the lack of available data (one of the big concerns in international evaluations about Belgium) we see that on Federal and Regional Levels ideas of ‘working with measurable indicators’ are gaining entrance.

Assessment of the situation of disabled people with respect to the Europe 2020 headline targets

1.1Strategic targets

Table 1: Europe 2020 and agreed national targets for the general population

Europe 2020 targets

National targets3


75% of the 20-64 year-olds to be employed



Reducing the rates of early school leaving below 10%


At least 40% of 30-34–year-olds completing third level education


Fighting poverty and social exclusion

At least 20 million fewer people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion


Relevant disability targets from national strategies or sources:

While building a new action plan ‘disability 2016-2020’ Belgium has engaged (due to its federal structure of state) five experts (C-5 members) representing different regional administrations within the Committee of Experts on the Rights of people with Disabilities (DECS-RPD): VAPH (Flemish Region), AWIPH (Walloon Region), PHARE (Brussels region), DPB (German speaking Region) and the Federal Service Social Affairs (with positive advice of the National High Council for Persons with Disabilities).
This C-5 council for Belgium established the following priority domains for action (period 2016-2020), although these are not quantified targets:

  • Actions in favor of legal/juridical capacity of persons with disabilities and their self-determination;

  • Actions to promote independent living through a diverse offer of support options;

  • Actions to promote access to the labor market;

  • Actions to promote participation in all domains of civil society and this from childhood on;

  • Actions to support persons with severe support needs, especially through the organization of measures for the social protection of their (volunteer) caregivers; e.g. through a guaranteed offer for home-based support provisions;

  • Actions giving priority to individualized/personal solutions into society (taking into account personal choice) instead of residential/segregated options.

1.1.1A note on the use of EU data

Unless specified, the summary statistics presented in this report are drawn from 2013 EU-SILC micro data.4 The EU-SILC sample includes people living in private households and does not include people living in institutions. The proxy used to identify people with disabilities (impairments) is whether ‘for at least the past 6 months’ the respondent reports that they have been ‘limited because of a health problem in activities people usually do’.5 Responses to this question vary between countries and national data sources are added for comparison, where available.

Table 2: Self-reported ‘activity limitations’ as a proxy for impairment/disability (EU-SILC 2013)

Source: EUSILC UDB 2013 – version 2 of August 2015

It is relevant to observe that Belgian estimates of impairment prevalence fall slightly below average, especially for older people, which may affect estimations of equality gaps.
In subsequent tables, these data are used as a proxy to estimate ‘disability’ equality in the main target areas for EU2020 – employment, education and poverty risk.6 The tables are presented by disaggregating the estimated proportion of people who report and do not report limitations for each indicator (e.g. among those who are employed, unemployed, at risk of poverty, etc.).

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