Pepijn Kennis has been appointed as member of parliament for Agora Brussels to represent The Brussels Citizens' Assembly (BCA). He deals with the wishes and objectives of the BCA on employment and labour issues in order to give citizens a voice in the Brussels Parliament. Through parliamentary questions, Pepijn can critically check ministers and their decisions. The questions and answers in the committee serve to check whether the demands of The Brussels Citizens' Assembly are given sufficient attention by the Brussels government. By actively involving Brussels residents in political decisions through the Assembly, we show that a democracy can also be inclusive, deliberative and participatory!
The BCA considered the question: "How can we give every Brussels citizen access to a suitable and dignified job?". To answer that question, the 45 randomly drawn citizens of the BCA chose to divide the question into 4 different themes, namely:
1) how do we give access to work to every person from Brussels
2) how do we make work more accessible
3) how do we ensure decent work
4) how to create a job that suits each person
Today we will discover how the Brussels Government deals with the issues of decent work and how these measures exactly correspond to the objectives of the citizens' resolution on work and employment. Pepijn Kennis (Agora.Brussels) put some questions to the competent Brussels Minister for Employment and Vocational Training, Bernard Clerfayt (Défi).
What is decent work and what is the problem?
The Brussels Civic Assembly notes that there are many undervalued professions in Brussels. They are often physically demanding professions with unusual or difficult timetables and difficult working conditions that are also paid low wages. Some examples are waste collectors, social workers, domestic workers and nurses. The Civic Assembly therefore wants to focus on upgrading these professions. Furthermore, attention is also given to professions with an added social value. These professions contribute to the general well-being of society, without necessarily being recognized for it.
Because there is clearly still much work to be done, the Citizens' Assembly asks the Government to introduce the following measures for these professions: (1) free public transport in Brussels, (2) domestic help and childcare, (3) adapted equipment and work tools and (4) adapted health insurance. This support can help people within these two occupational categories quickly and effectively.
The plans of the government
In response to the parliamentary question, Minister Clerfayt stated that he wants to work on filling bottleneck professions.
There will be an initiative to set up round table conferences whereby the Brussels public services for employment and training will work together with the other sectors involved. Together they want to draw up action plans for the sectors where there are many bottleneck professions. The budget for those action plans is 2 million euros.
Furthermore, in 2022 an additional budget of 2.7 million will be released to increase the training allowance and to provide training where there is a great need. Furthermore, a budget of 1 million Euros will be released for the development of a dynamic information platform on the labor market via the Actiris website. Minister Clerfayt also mentioned that he will work to overcome a number of other specific levers on bottleneck professions.
No clear vision on added societal value
Although work is clearly being done on the issues surrounding bottleneck professions, Agora was still left with some questions. The BCA deliberately does not talk about bottleneck professions, but about undervalued professions and professions that provide an added societal value. Some bottleneck professions can also have societal value, but that is certainly not always the case. It is not because there are too few people for a particular job that that job has an important societal role. A shortage of financial directors is not a crisis for the common good; a shortage of healthcare personnel, on the other hand, is.
Minister Clerfayt states that it is difficult to determine which professions bring more societal value to the community. The value of a job, says Minister Clerfayt, is already determined by the salary. Agora, following the citizens' resolution on employment, obviously does not agree with this. After all, that would mean that the social added value is entirely determined by the functioning of the economy. A stockbroker, for example, earns more than a garbage collector, but that does not mean that stockbrokers have a greater social role.
Minister Clerfayt referred us to employers or other responsible actors for some questions because he does not consider himself competent. We pointed out to him that many of the jobs we were discussing here are in the public sector. The Minister can therefore take the initiative to hold more consultations with, for example, the municipalities or the regional government in order to do everything possible to improve working conditions! This can be done, for example, for healthcare, waste collection or the police.
What exactly belongs to the 'bottleneck professions' must be given sufficient attention. Not all bottleneck occupations are equally important for social welfare. Although some themes certainly correspond to the objectives of the BCA, the focus on jobs with social added value should not disappear. Agora continues to monitor the decisions of the Brussels Government in the name of the BCA work and employment.