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Average Belgian salary climbs to €3,881 gross, but purchasing power declines

08:47 23/05/2023

Despite the fact that the average salary in Belgium has climbed to €3,881 per month gross – an increase of €133 compared to last year and up 9.5% in five years – most employees are unhappy with their earnings, a new study has found.

Just 32% of respondents gave a score of 8/10 or higher when it comes to satisfaction with their salary conditions, slightly lower than last year and 4% lower than in 2020.

The figures come from Jobat, a Flemish job board that also conducts research and surveys related to the labour market in the country.

Its annual salary barometer put the average (mean) monthly salary at €3,881 before tax, RTBF reports, but the accompanying survey reported high levels of dissatisfaction among the 96,000 people who responded.

One reason is likely the rise of inflation and decline of purchasing power across the country, which sees each euro going less far everywhere from the petrol pump to the grocery store.

The median salary calculated by Jobat is €3,486 per month gross (before taxes), meaning half of Belgians take home more than this and half take home less. The median salary has increased by 16% in five years, according to Jobat data.

Tax deductions vary enormously by sector, field of work, company and family circumstances, which is why gross salary is used.

The median salary is also generally considered to give better insight than the average.

“The advantage of using the median wage is that you have a benchmark that divides the population into two groups: those who earn less and those who earn more than the median wage,” said Economist Philippe Defeyt, director of the Institute for Sustainable Development.

“These two indicators say different things, both equally interesting, but you have to be aware that when you work with the average (mean) wage, you have a very heavy impact from those who earn very well.”

Jobat has observed a continuous increase in the number of perks granted on top of salaries since 2020, including meal vouchers, end-of-year bonus, hospital insurance, 13th month, internet subscription and a company car.

The granting of company cars, in particular, has increased by 13% in five years.

But despite these perks, satisfaction remains low as Belgians struggle to get the same bang for their buck from their wages as before and the “extras” are not always equally valuable to all.

“It’s all very well to have hospitalisation insurance, but most workers will not really activate it before a certain age, except in the case of pregnant women,” said Defeyt.

“On the other hand, most workers will use a meal voucher. Another aspect is that when you don't freely choose to affect your standard of living, your purchasing power, you are sometimes obliged to accept things that you don't want.

"We are hearing more and more from employees who may be happy to have a company car but who do not want to have a model as heavy and expensive as the one they are being forced to buy.”

A number of “great perks” also mean little when it comes to a pension, which means that as purchasing power continues to decline, so too does a worker’s standard of living in their future retirement.

Some of the top paying sectors, according to Jobat, are chemicals and pharmaceuticals, energy and environment, banks and insurance.

Some of the lowest are: the hotel, restaurant and catering sector, media, marketing, communication and tourism, sports and leisure.

The average age of survey respondents was 38.5 and almost 30% did not have a university degree, while 37% had a bachelor's degree and 34% had a master's degree.

Jobat did not provide its methodology, meaning it is not known how the data were weighted, whether overtime is taken into account or not, or whether the sample is really representative of the population.

Written by Helen Lyons