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!
Many jobs but too few qualifications?
Employers in Brussels are increasingly looking for highly qualified employees. There are currently 90,000 Brussels residents looking for work, while there is certainly no shortage of job offers. There is therefore a growing need for training to provide the lower qualified workers among them with the necessary knowledge and experience. Work should be accessible and public, that was also one of the objectives of the BCA. People who find themselves in accessible jobs can thus hone their skills and move on to other jobs. The free jobs can go to other low-skilled workers, so they also have the opportunity to work and grow. Companies play an important role here!
That is why the Brussels Citizens’ Assembly asks that companies be encouraged to invest more in the training of lower-skilled workers within the company. So Agora asked: What is currently being done to encourage companies to train more low-skilled workers? In response to the parliamentary question, Minister Bernard Clerfayt (Défi) gave us a little more explanation about the current situation and initiatives. Ms. Clémentine Barzin (MR) joined the debate.
The Brussels labour market is a paradox: a state of affairs
Clerfayt confirmed that there is indeed a problem, he talks about a paradox. The Brussels labour market is very demanding in terms of skills and qualifications, while at Actiris there are on average more people registered with low qualifications. The qualifications required also change over time, just think of digital skills such as learning to use new computer programs. It is therefore necessary to retrain employees in order to prepare them better for new challenges. This is positive for the entire labor market because these new skills are also important in other jobs. In this way, people can build on the knowledge they have already acquired during their professional career. The federal government is responsible for this. The latter took a series of decisions without consulting the Brussels Government, which is obviously a pity.
Today, however, the federal government has an important proposal on the table. Previously, companies were obliged to invest 3% of their payroll in training for their employees, but this would now change. That money was most often spent on managerial training, which meant that less qualified people did not get the chance to learn. The new scheme would oblige companies to invest 3% of each employee's payroll in training from now on, which amounts to a minimum of 5 days training per year per employee.
We won’t be jumping on the bandwagon yet, but it is going in the right direction
Because the Brussels Citizens' Assembly wants to focus on more support for low-skilled workers, this new regulation is a step in the right direction according to Agora. Still, it could be a bit more specific. Because the lowest qualified workers need the most support, the BCA proposes to engage in positive discrimination. Thus, Agora can concretely propose to invest the 3% of the wage bill, which used to go mainly to training managers, now in the lowest qualified people. In this way, we can reverse the damage done by the previous regulation as quickly as possible.
The Brussels Government also cited a series of mechanisms to help job seekers. For example, a training incentive through the Activa programs, individual vocational training in companies through the VDAB or Bruxelles Formation, immersion courses and more. Currently, the results of these mechanisms are not yet visible. The gap between the qualifications of job seekers and the jobs available is still large. Minister Clerfayt did let it be known that an evaluation of the mechanisms is on the agenda this year. Agora is curious about the results.
The BCA insists that the least qualified should best be given priority over more educated individuals for access to training. Agora sees the new regulation requiring companies to train every employee as the beginning of a stronger legal framework. This will undoubtedly provide more support for low-skilled workers. Yet it remains to be seen how these efforts will translate into practice. We will keep a close eye on the results of all these initiatives.