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Study offers insight into Belgium's 300,000 stay-at-home caregivers

11:04 23/10/2021

About 300,000 people in Belgium of working age identified their main occupation last year as being a housewife, househusband or other stay-at-home caregiver – down from more than a million in 1986, new figures reveal.

The analysis, in a new study by the Institute for Sustainable Development, is mainly based on data from the Labour Force Survey carried out by Statbel, and focused on those under 65 in order to uncover more data on the employment rate of 20 to 64-year-olds.

A large majority of these 300,000 with no connection to the labour market were at home to take care of children or dependent persons and 95% were women. As a percentage of the corresponding population, the share of stay-at-home carers fell from 18% in 1986 to just over 4% in 2020.

In a little less than 35 years, the age structure of the population of housewives/husbands has remained more or less stable: about 45% are over 50, 35% are aged 35-49 and 20% are under 35.

Brussels has a significantly higher share of housewives/husbands than the overall Belgian population. This is particularly the case for 20 to 34-year-olds, who accounted for 29% of the total in Brussels.

Four out of 10 had held a job in the past - and in 81% of cases, their last job was at least three years ago. Almost all of them (99%) were not actively looking for another job in the month preceding the survey. Most of them said this was for personal or family reasons, as they want to care for a child or other dependent by themselves.

The ISD is trying to ascertain if these people could possibly constitute a labour resource (alongside others) to help achieve an employment rate of 80%.

"It is difficult to answer on the basis of data from the Labour Force Survey alone, but we will still note the large number of people involved in childcare or care of dependent persons,” the study said. “It is likely that more childcare facilities and more support services for dependent people would free up individuals for the labour market.”


Written by Richard Harris