Labour market analysis for the second quarter of 2020 2020-10-01

Compared to the same period of 2019, the salaried employment during the second quarter of 2020 has dropped sharply. In terms of the number of jobs, the drop is rather limited (-0.7%). However the decrease of the volume of work in full-time equivalents (FTE) is particularly large

This evolution is the direct result of the coronavirus crisis and of the related measures introduced as from the midst of March. The sharp decrease occurs in a large number of branches but some branches are more severely affected than others. 

In relation to the previously expected tendency (a growth rhythm of +1.3 %), the coronavirus crisis has caused a total loss of volume of work amounting to almost half a million of full-time equivalents. This loss consists for approximatively 90% in work performances that are converted in temporary unemployment. The remaining loss of 10 % results to about the same extent from the termination/cancellation of very temporary contracts and the reduced influx of new workers.  

Coronavirus crisis and labour market

The complete or partial closure of a whole lot of companies manifests itself principally in two ways on the labour market : temporary unemployment and the ending or not renewing of temporary contracts. These two phenomena are both visible in the figures, be it in another way.

In the case of temporary unemployment, the link between the worker and the employer is maintained but no work or only partial work is executed, which leads to a direct decrease of the volume of work in full-time equivalents.

When temporary contracts are ended or not renewed, this leads especially in the branches making use of a large number of very temporary contracts (temporary employment sector, horeca sector, …) to an immediate decline of the number of jobs. As these very temporary jobs (such as the flexi-jobs in the horeca sector) are often supplementary jobs, the drop of the number of employed workers is less pronounced. Moreover the loss of the volume of work of these jobs is rather limited.   

Agriculture, forestry and fishery

In agriculture and horticulture the salaried employment consists to a large extent in seasonal work (in the form of occasional work). Measures have been taken to maintain the supply of labour (which comes in ordinary times for more than 75% from abroad). There was a higher demand for workers outside the traditional category of seasonal workers. However these workers mostly work less hours and days than the ordinary seasonal workers. Consequently the number of jobs has certainly increased considerably (+10% compared to the second quarter of 2019) but the volume of work has only increased slightly (+2.5%). 

Industry and building sector

Industry and the building sector are not part of the sectors that have been closed by the government. Nevertheless several companies have been fully or partially closed for a while in this branch, in the first place due to the need to adjust the working conditions to the health regulations.  

This only has a very limited impact on the number of jobs : -0.3% on an annual basis. However the volume of work in full-time equivalents sharply declines (-15.6% on an annual basis), especially in the textile and clothing sector, the printing works, the production of electrical appliances, the production of means of transport and the furniture industry. The building industry has also experienced a sharp downturn with a decline of almost -20 %. Only the pharmaceutical industry still experiences a solid growth.

Services sectors

Especially in the commercial services a large number of sectors have been forced to a full or partial closure (horeca sector, sale and repair of cars, the non-food retail, the travel sector, the cleaning services). Unlike in the other sectors,  due to the larger presence of workers with very short contracts, there is a noticeable impact on the number of jobs (-2%) and a large effect on the volume of work (-21%). The fall is strongest in the aforesaid closed sectors and the temporary work sector. As far as the sectors are concerned that have been able to switch to a large extent to teleworking, there is a more limited impact on employment. This applies amongst others to the financial sector, the ICT and the “Legal, accounting, business and technical services”.  

In the non-commercial services, there is still a slight increase in the number of jobs (+0.4%) and there is globally a limited decrease of the volume of work (-4%). The volume of work has especially declined in the sectors  “Art, entertainment and recreation services, sports”
(-44%), “Other personal services” (-20%) and ʺSocial services without housingʺ (-16%). The impact is very limited in the government sectors Public administration (-1.5%) and Education
(-0.5%), ʺHealth care and social services with housingʺ (-1%).  

Temporary work

The demand for labour through temporary work has dropped massively due to the full or partial closure of companies using temporary workers. At the end of June 2020, 18% less jobs have been counted in the temporary work sector compared to the end of June 2019 (-20% for blue-collar workers, -17% for white-collar workers). The volume of work in full-time equivalents during the second quarter of 2020 has declined very strongly: -33% as a whole, -35% for blue-collar workers, -31% for white-collar workers. In the service voucher companies the activities have also been scaled back strongly at the end of June, leading to a drop of the volume of work in full-time equivalents by -45%.  

Employee profile

The decline in employment is somewhat stronger among male workers (-14.5% in volume of work) than among female workers (-12.4%) and is strongest in the youngest age groups (-24% among the young people under 25 years, -15% in the group of workers between 25 and 39 years).

The decline occurs almost completely in the private sector (-18.6% in volume of work) and concerns in the private sector both the full-time jobs (-16% in volume of work) and the part-time jobs (-21% in volume of work).

This drop applies to the population of the three regions and this mostly in terms of volume of work : the Brussels-Capital region (-17%), the Flemish region (-13%) and the Walloon region

More information

Rapid employment estimates (in French)

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