top 10 facts about living conditions in Belgium
The small country of Belgium is bordering with France, Germany, Netherlands and Luxemburg. This culturally diverse and overpopulated country has largely been shaped by the immigrants drawn to its border. What is attracting people to the uniquely progressive country of Belgium and why are they sticking around? In the text below, top 10 facts about living conditions in Belgium, that will try to answer these and other questions are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Belgium

  1. Belgium has a considerably dense population compared to its small land mass. Belgium is said to be home to 11.5 million people, according to its latest census back in 2015. With 942 people per square mile, the country ranks as the 33rd most densely populated country in the world.
  2. In addition to its high population, Belgium also has one of the biggest tax rates in the world. In 2014, the average worker in Belgium paid 42 percent of his or her yearly earnings back to the government. The money collected from taxes is used to fund government programs and resources like social security.
  3. The country has a great transportation system. Given the high population in the country, the government has invested in a healthy transportation system including highways, waterways and roads that are used to transport goods in and out of Western Europe. Travel is also easy for citizens with its railways and metro public transportation systems.
  4. Belgium’s growing population and modern nuances have given rise to a serious air pollution problem. According to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), Belgium has second-worst environmental protection in Europe. In 2012, the European Environment Agency reported 11,770 deaths caused by the adverse effects of air pollution in Belgium.
  5. Belgium has mandatory health care that can be issued by the state or by private sector. Similar to the U.S. system, Belgians can select their own providers and pay low upfront costs while insurance covers a large percentage of the rest. Payment is based on the person’s income with a portion of 7.35 percent of gross income being deducted from the employer and the other part deducted from the salary itself.
  6. Belgium has what is known as a compulsory education system that means that no public institution can charge money for school up until the age of 18. Public education is completely free and covered by government funds. The system is so beneficial that private schools don’t even exist in some areas and in adults aged from 25 to 60, around 75 percent have finished some form of secondary education.
  7. Belgium is one of the few countries in the world that has a compulsory voting system. Those that do not vote in elections face a fine. Since the implementation of this system in 1892 for men and in 1949 for women, 89 percent of voters have shown up to cast their vote in elections that were held.
  8. Belgium is a fairly safe and inclusive country because of its liberal political views. In 2003, Belgium became the second country to legalize gay marriage. Belgians also have the right to prematurely choose to die in order to ease the pain and suffering caused by terminal illnesses. Another sign of the country’s inclusivity is the fact that 18 percent of the country’s population was made of immigrants in 2010.
  9. People immigrate to Belgium from all over Europe and, in the past, Belgium has been very liberal with its immigration policy. With the influx of people and a large terrorist attack that occurred back in 2016, Belgium has reigned in some of the masses flooding into the country to keep its people secure. Over the past few years, Belgium received 107,000 applications for asylum and granted only half of them.
  10. The country has a unique political system. Belgium is divided by language and broken up into three regions, all of which have their own government. Each has a parliament, but there are only one monarchy and prime minister that connect all the governments together.

Despite its environmental flaws and dense population, Belgium’s unique way of life and relaxed leadership has set a guideline for economic success that has yet to be outdone by the country’s neighbors. High taxes have allowed the government to take care of its citizens and to enable them to have secure health care and education.

– Catherine Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Belgium
The current average life expectancy rate in Belgium is 81.2 years. This gives Belgium a World Life Expectancy ranking of 24.

The population of Belgium also enjoys efficient health care that is financed through social security and taxes. Although Belgium does not face many hunger issues within its population, they have made many efforts in fighting world hunger.

The top 10 facts about hunger in Belgium presented below do not only tackle the issues that are prevalent in the country’s population today but also cover how this country has contributed to decreasing global hunger and malnourishment.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Belgium

  1. World War I severely and negatively impacted the economic and agricultural stability of Belgium which resulted in a rise in malnutrition. As a densely populated country that was industrialized and urbanized, Belgium depended on large imports of food. The most important product, wheat, was 80 percent imported. The German invasion forced Belgium to self sufficiently feed its territories. By September 1917, the caloric intake of the citizens was reduced to only 1,500 calories a day. This ordeal helped Belgium create more efficient procedures and policies for the present that prevents economically and socially devastating events from occurring again. The Single Administration Document was created in order to describe goods and their movement around the world, developing an organized procedure that documents large imports of agricultural goods.
  2. Belgium works with the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation (DGDC) of the Federal Public Service department for food aid in support of the more malnourished lower class. In turn, the DGDC cooperates with the Belgian Survival Fund (BSF) that helps manage the agricultural program budgets to aid in economic and agricultural sustainability. Belgium addresses food shortages with prevention techniques, potential crisis solutions, food aid, food security, BSF and structural agricultural aid.
  3. The DGDC spends $22.6 million annually on projects to reduce global poverty through food aid and security. Through the BSF, the DGDC allocates $45.2 million in order to finance programs focusing on the causes of food insecurity and poverty. Belgium spends several million dollars supporting structural agricultural aid through multilateral, bilateral and nongovernment organizations funding.
  4. Not only does the DGDC fund programs and projects, but annually increases its contribution to global humanitarian organizations. The DGDC compromised with the World Food Programme (WFP) in favor of more sustainable local markets of food in Africa. The WFP spends over $905 million on food and distribution, making it the largest contributor to the African market and largest consumer of food in the global community.
  5. Belgium supports multiple programs and policies in order to improve food aid security and poverty by spending millions to tackle negative agricultural, economic and social factors every year. Belgium contributed and $5.5 billion for food aid in 2016.
  6. The DGDC encourages structural intervention to maintain agriculture and food security. In direct collaboration with the government of partner countries, systems and networks are strategically built in order to increase food production. Funding is acquired from multilateral cooperation through the European Union and the Consultive Group on International Agricultural Research.
  7. Belgium is one of the key players in the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). A new agreement signed on June 5, 2016, strengthens the collaboration between the two as they work together to improve agricultural sustainability and aid malnourished populations. Support is mainly aimed at FAO’s Regular Program budget through the Multi-Partner Programme Support Mechanism (FMM).
  8. The Belgian Fund for Food Security (BFFS) is an organization with a wide range of policies that ensure all aspects of food insecurity are addressed. Sufficient availability of food production and income to purchase food are priorities when proposing food aid programs. The BFFS focuses on sub-Saharan Africa in areas of high food insecurity with a budget of $282.7 million, designed to last from 2010 to 2022.
  9. Belgium contributes to reducing global poverty with many food aid programs. The distribution of free food to those who suffer from food insecurity is managed through the WFP, as well as the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) and various Belgian nongovernmental organization. Food security projects help restore agricultural stability by distributing seeds, fertilizers and equipment to those after suffering a crisis.
  10. According to multiple studies referred in a Flanders today publication, senior Belgians are more likely to be malnourished because their bodies do not communicate hunger and they do not receive the necessary protein and fiber. Seven percent of the elderly population are malnourished whereas 29 percent of older adults are at risk of dietary deficiencies. Professor Maurits Vandewoude of Antwerp University, who co-operated one study, states that many older adults over the age of 65 will claim that nothing is wrong because they don’t feel sick. However, Vandewoude articulates that those making the claims are still mobile and have not seen extreme changes.

By learning from war and history, Belgium has successfully decreased the level of malnourishment apparent in the country.

The country donates its time and money to organizations that help countries around the world to fight hunger, and many government institutions help increase agriculture and food security.

This top 10 facts about hunger in Belgium list highlights the important role the country of Belgium plays in the international community and serves as an example of how dedicated the global community should be to eradicating world hunger.

– Aria Ma

Photo: Flickr

Education in Belgium

Belgium has one of the most complex and successful education systems in the world. Between 2008 and 2012, 98.9 percent of male children and 99.2 percent of female children were enrolled in primary school. These statistics show that mandatory primary school is enforced and taken seriously in Belgium.

Compulsory education lasts 12 years, similar to the United States, and goes from age six to age 17. Belgium also has equal primary and secondary education enrollment rates for both boys and girls, showing equal access to education for both. What is even more impressive is that since 2007, at least 20 percent more women than men have enrolled in higher education.

Education in Belgium is monitored by a number of comprehensive policies. In 2002, the Decree on Equal Educational Opportunities created local consultation platforms to ensure fair school admission and enrollment processes. In March of 2014, the “M Decree” was passed, which is meant to promote the inclusion of students with special education needs in mainstream schools. The Decree indicates that schools may only refer students to “special education” if they can justify having tried all possible methods to allow them to follow mainstream education programs.

This system is very thorough and accounts not only for what happens while children are in school, but also works to make sure they can integrate effectively into the labor market. It is this system that improves not only education and literacy rates, but economic success, crime rates and domestic stability.

Education in Belgium is setting an incredible example for the rest of the world. While it is a very rich country, its model can still be used to improve education in other, less financially stable, countries. It continues to improve further, as seen with its 2014-19 plans to implement measures to reduce dropout rates, and will hopefully help lead education systems in developing countries to similar heights.

Liyanga De Silva

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Belgium

The country of Belgium in northwestern Europe is not one that is especially burdened by poverty. its working class includes a small number of people who live below the poverty line; in 2007, it was reported that 7 percent of Belgium‘s population was classified as “poor.” Moreover, a mere 14.8 percent of Belgium’s population is “at risk of poverty”, and so Belgium’s government has not implemented any sort of massive policy in order to protect its people that are of low socioeconomic status.

However, these rather low statistics should not indicate that the existing poverty rate in Belgium is unimportant or should be ignored. In fact, a wide variety of causes of poverty in Belgium exist, and these causes should be addressed so that the government may implement specific policies and improve the lives of the different groups of people most likely to be living in poverty.

Single-parent families
One of the major causes of poverty in Belgium is that many families that are headed by single parents suffer from an inadequate income. Single parents, especially those who work low-wage jobs, bring home less income than parents who share their total household incomes with their spouses.

Young people
According to a report published by the Belgian Resource Center for the Fight Against Poverty in 2006, young people are particularly susceptible to poverty due to the increased difficulty of finding work compared to older people.

Women are at a higher risk of being burdened by the effects of poverty for many reasons. Among those reasons, consistent with the aforementioned report, is the increased rate of discrimination that women face in the workplace.

Location is a determining factor of one’s likelihood to be affected by poverty, because location ultimately controls one’s access to various resources. For instance, certain areas may not provide workplaces that offer health insurance.

While Belgium may not be burdened by a large poverty rate, there are still many groups of Belgians that fall below the poverty line. These different groups of people may benefit from specific policies implemented by the government in order to address their individual, respective issues.

Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr

The Poverty Rate In Belgium
Belgium is a country located in western Europe between France and the Netherlands. It became an independent nation from the Netherlands in 1830 and was then controlled by Germany during World War I and II. The foundation of the EU and NATO allowed the country’s capital, Brussels, to become the home for numerous international organizations. The influence of the organizations and membership in the EU and NATO has allowed the poverty rate in Belgium to remain low.

Currently, the poverty rate in Belgium rests at 15 percent. Like many other European nations, Belgium has a high standard of living and per capita income. Belgium consistently ranks among the top nations in the Human Development Index (an index that measures the quality of life in countries). In 2007, Belgium ranked number seven, which was ahead of the country it once was a part of — the Netherlands.

When measured in 1992, 3.7 percent of the population was in the lowest 10 percent of the income bracket. About 9.5 percent were in the lowest 20 percent, 14.6 percent were in the second 20 percent, 18.4 percent were in the third 20 percent and 23 percent were in the fourth 20 percent of income.

The highest 20 percent made up 34.5 percent and the highest 10 percent made up 20.2 percent of income. These statistics indicate the low poverty rate in Belgium and the little income inequality.

Although there is little income inequality in Belgium, 16.7 percent of people under the age of 18 lived in families that fell below the poverty line. Since 2012, the risk of being under the poverty line for people under the age of 18 has decreased considerably. Thanks to numerous social welfare programs, the risk of a person under 18 being under the poverty line in Belgium has fallen from 27 to 15 percent.

The social welfare system is a primary reason for why the poverty rate in Belgium remains low. The country has programs for family allowance, retirement, medical benefits, unemployment insurance and even a program that provides a salary in the event of an illness.

Belgium is a country that has managed to tackle the issues of income inequality and poverty while remaining a small nation. The social welfare system in Belgium in conjunction with its cooperation with the EU and NATO are one of the primary reasons for the success of the country. Thus, countries interested in lowering their poverty rates should follow Belgium’s example.

Nicholas Beauchamp
Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in BelgiumAs a First World country, Belgium enjoys the benefits of a solid healthcare system and a high life expectancy; however, it is not without its share of problems. The most common diseases in Belgium are, for the most part, many of the same diseases the U.S. struggles with today. In no particular order, here are just three of the most common life-threatening illnesses in Belgium currently and what is being done to combat them:

1. Cancer. This comes as no surprise, as cancer is one of the leading causes of death in most industrialized nations. Breast and prostate cancers are by far the most common types. In 2012, the World Health Organization reported over 14 million cases of breast cancer and over 13 million cases of prostate cancer in Belgium. Second in prevalence to these two types is bowel cancer, which affected roughly 5.5 million people in 2012. Lung cancer has also been a major issue, especially in 2009, when Belgium saw a rise in mortality rates for women with lung cancer. This rate has gone down since 2011, when smoking was banned in all public places in Belgium, but the disease is still incredibly prevalent. In 2012, Belgium reported an estimated 5 million cases of lung cancer. Perhaps because of this Belgium is a world leader in cancer research. In 2015, 513 different clinical trials in cancer treatment were underway, with 15 new cancer drugs approved for reimbursement the previous year. Since 1980 – thanks to these trials – the average life expectancy for cancer patients has gone up three years, and the many researchers in Belgium hope to continue this trend.

2. Heart disease. Another one of the most common diseases in Belgium, it was ranked as the number one cause of both death overall and premature death between 2005 and 2015. Thankfully, that mortality rate has dropped roughly 5.3 percent in that time. It is still, however, the leader in mortality by far; The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimated about 105 million years of total lives lost in 2015 due to heart disease. In Europe as a whole, however, the number of lives lost due to heart disease has decreased in recent years thanks to the introduction of increased screening, new surgical procedures, new drugs and lifestyle changes – such as quitting smoking – to the population.

3. Mental illness. This is a tricky category to define, and yet it clearly needs to be addressed. In 2015, the IHME estimated that nearly 67 million years were lost due to self harm, which is significantly higher than the European average. Suicide remains one of the top causes of premature death in the country. In response to this, the World Health Organization devised a Mental Health Action Plan for 2013-2020, which states that mental health services in Belgium will switch from institutional psychiatric care to an inclusive care system with a focus on community. This is part of a sweeping mental healthcare reform which has already shown to be effective in improving health and social outcomes for patients.

Many of the most common diseases in Belgium are complex, lifestyle-based illnesses with no one simple solution. However, through a combination of research, lifestyle changes and health reform, Belgium hopes to continue to improve the quality and length of life for its residents.

Audrey Palzkill

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality In BelgiumA key indicator of the economic prosperity of a nation is the water quality. In first world countries such as the U.S., Canada and most of Western Europe, citizens can drink tap water without any concerns of getting a water-borne illness. One must contrast this to many developing nations where drinking water from their water systems without purification first could potentially be fatal.

Originally a part of the Netherlands, Belgium gained its independence in 1830. Currently, Belgium is a federal constitutional monarchy, which also utilizes a parliamentary system to deal with the day-to-day legislation of running the country. Due to its parliamentary system allowing citizens to have input in what the government does, the water quality in Belgium is very high compared to even first world countries such as the U.S.

A majority of the 589 municipalities in Belgium have programs in place run by their local governance responsible for maintaining the water supply and water quality. Also, Belgium has more than 62 water supply utilities throughout the country.

On top of this, Belgium also has 100 small municipalities that are privately owned that help improve the water supply. This combination of private and public water sanitation allows for the free market to help lower prices for clean water without forgoing having a governmental backup in case the free market fails. All three of these programs is one reason for the high water quality in Belgium.

Although the water quality in Belgium is high enough for its citizens to drink tap water without any ill health effects, the wastewater treatment in the country has lagged behind. In fact, wastewater sanitation did not start to get addressed within the country until 2007 after the European Court of Justice forced the Belgian government to make changes in 2004.

Wallonia, a region of Belgium, supplies 55 percent of the national need for water while it only contains 37 percent of the countries population. This fact becomes an issue due to the fact that Flanders and Brussels both rely on water from Wallonia. Flanders and Brussels rely on receiving clean water from Wallonia, 40 percent, and 98 percent, respectively.

Although there are present issues with wastewater sanitation in the country, the Belgian government has made strides in the past decade in improving its water supply after the court ruling in 2004.

The high water quality in Belgium is one reason why living in the nation is so desirable. One other reason is that the Belgian sanitation departments in the Belgian government recognize the importance of the fundamental right to water.

To help all citizens be able to achieve access to clean water, the Walloon and Brussels regions have set up a program to provide economic support for individuals who have trouble obtaining drinking water. This fund is called The Social Funds for Water, and through this organization, citizens in those regions of Belgium have had their access to water increase dramatically. In addition to this program, every citizen in Flanders has the right to a supply of 15 cubic meters of water per person per year in the country.

The high water quality in Belgium is something the international community should applaud. Every citizen has a right to access clean water, and both the private and public sectors strive to make sure this can happen. Although the country has issues with wastewater sanitation, great strides have been made to improve the water sanitation systems in the country better since the court ruling in 2004. The water quality in Belgium is something all nations to strive to achieve, not only due to its quality but because every citizen has the right to drink clean water.

Nick Beauchamp

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in BelgiumHuman rights can be defined as things that all people are entitled to. This, of course, includes the people of Belgium, a small country in Western Europe with a population of about 11.5 million. Belgium is a monarchy in which the King plays a largely symbolic role. In reality, a parliamentary democracy primarily governs the nation. While they are protected in some regards, human rights in Belgium are not where they could be.

Human rights in Belgium are not evenly granted. According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2016 report, “The main human rights problem was heightened hostility and discrimination against racial and religious minorities in employment, housing, and societal attitudes.” These prejudices are not simply the continuation of outdated ideas. Recent events have emboldened them.

Following terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, Muslims and Jewish human rights in Belgium were threatened. The previously mentioned report by the U.S. Department of State’s said that Muslim women were especially affected by the restrictions put in place by the government. Additionally, “Anti-Semitic incidents occurred in schools, the media, and elsewhere in society.” This elucidates an important concept about how events and circumstances that may seem isolated are often connected in some way.

On July 10, the European Court of Human Rights made an important decision on one of the issues relating to Muslim women’s human rights in Belgium. The court ruled that banning full face veils is not a violation of human rights law. The case was brought to the court by two Muslim women who argue that the ban violates their rights, both as private citizens and as members of a religious faith.

There is clearly room for improvement when it comes to human rights in Belgium. However, a well-rounded assessment of the situation shows that the country does not completely fail in this regard either.

With regard to respect for the integrity of the person, Belgium does well. Its one blemish, according to The State Department’s report, is that there is room for improvement when it comes to prison and detention center conditions.

Another area in which Belgium thrives is regarding freedom of speech and expression. Belgians’ free speech and the free press is protected by the nation’s constitution and law. The nation has also made considerable efforts to quell dangerous rhetoric, as the 1995 Belgian Holocaust Denial Bill elucidates. According to Revolvy, it is illegal in Belgium to challenge the existence of or justify the Holocaust. The bill passed the Chamber of Representatives without a single “no” vote, demonstrating Belgium’s willingness to combat hate speech.

Human rights in Belgium are not perfectly protected. However, that does not mean that the country is not succeeding on many of these fronts and working to improve others.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Google

Belgium's Cost of LivingBelgium is a small and beautiful country which is well known for being the center of European politics.  Brussels, Belgium’s capital, hosts the official seats of the European Council, Council of the European Union, European Commission and even the headquarters of NATO. Other than the nation’s international notoriety, Belgium has a reputation for being an excellent place to live, with a booming economy and access to numerous social programs.

However, Belgium does have one downside.  This is an incredibly high cost of living. In fact, Belgium’s cost of living is 9.7 percent greater than in the United States, where the median income is $53,046.

While Belgium’s cost of living may be higher overall, it is lower in all of the right areas. For example, the cost of groceries in Belgium is 4.82 percent lower on average when compared to other nations, and renting an apartment is 21.25 percent less expensive. This fact means that people who have a lower income in Belgium have a better opportunity to keep food on the table, and more options for long-term housing.

Another point to consider while examining Belgium’s cost of living is the benefits Belgians receive through their government. The average income tax rate in Belgium is 42 percent, which is the highest tax rate in the world.

Although this high of a tax rate might appear to be an inconvenience, the Belgian government uses the money to fund their extraordinary social programs. Due to these social programs, while the unemployment rate may be 8.4 percent, only 3.4 percent of the country falls into the lowest 10 percent of income.  This statistic is a sign of significant social progress.

These income tax payments fund Belgium’s social security system, which is extensive and open to all citizens. Additionally, some allowances are even available to foreigners. The social security system includes unemployment benefits and allowances in the event of sickness or accidents at work. Other benefits include family allowances which could take the form of maternity leave or pensions.

In addition to social security services, medical services are also publicly funded without much additional cost. If a Belgian requires medical care for something as simple as the flu, they will not have to pay much out of their pocket. Without these unexpected costs, Belgians have more of their income to spend on food or other necessary expenses.

Even though Belgium’s cost of living is high, and the income taxes take almost half of each worker’s accrued income, the government provides safety nets that give benefits that far outweigh the costs. Ultimately, the low cost of healthy groceries, more available housing, and government assistance programs make Belgium a great place to live, even if the cost of living in the nation is high.

Rachael Blandau

Photo: Flickr

With the recent conflict in Syria and other nations, Belgium has prepared for a huge influx of asylum applications. However, with the huge numbers pouring into neighboring countries, Belgium is somewhat “spooked.” Following are nine facts about Belgium refugees:

  1. With the huge influx of migrants and refugees, the Director of a Belgian regional tourism office warned hotels in March 2016 that they would lose government help and funding if they housed asylum seekers for more than three months.
  2. Additionally, the Mayor of the port city of Zeebrugge called for a “camp like Guantanamo” to house Belgium refugees and told locals to not feed refugees to discourage a large number of refugees attempting to find asylum in Belgium.
  3. In the past year, Belgium police have arrested 363 refugees, and in January it increased to 950. This increase comes after the dismantling of the “Jungle” housing camp in Calais, France, which housed nearly 4,000 people, and the border reinforcement in Hungary.
  4. Refugees detained in Belgium are sent to the last European country before arriving in Belgium, or if they have no documentation given the opportunity to claim asylum and released. The Interior Minister has said those arrested would reach thousands as migrants struggle to find alternative routes to Britain.
  5. In the wake of several refugee shelters being dismantled due to violence, local families have volunteered to host Belgium refugees.
  6. In August 2015, there were approximately 5,600 Belgium refugee applications, with about 1,900 of those applications coming from Brussels.
  7. Most of the refugees seeking temporary asylum in Belgium are Syrian. In 2016, 452 refugees entered Belgium and 448 of those refugees were Syrian. In addition, in the last four years, Belgium has accepted 862 refugees, and more are expected in 2017, including about 550 Syrians planning to enter the country that couldn’t be resettled per the EU-Turkey agreement.
  8. In 2016, 12,197 asylum seekers were granted Belgium refugee status, a record that doubled from the previous year. The 3,281 refugees that did not qualify for refugee status were granted protection until they could be resettled or granted refugee status later.
  9. In 2017, and for the next two years, the Belgian population is predicted to increase about 85,000 people each year. Half of the influx is attributed to refugees entering the country, while the other half is attributed to “natural” additions.

With the impending increase of refugees over the next few years, the government continues to find ways to control the flow and provide resources to Belgium refugees.

Amira Wynn

Photo: Flickr