Belgium's Cost of Living
Belgium is a small and beautiful country that 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% 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% lower on average when compared to other nations, and renting an apartment is 21.25% 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%, 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%, only 3.4% of the country falls into the lowest 10% 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