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indicator value unit
Population 11.1 mil.
Visitors per year 6.2 mil.
Renewable energy 5.1 %

How’s Life?

Belgium performs well in many measures of well-being relative to most other countries in the Better Life Index. Belgium ranks above the average in work-life balance, income and wealth, housing, civic engagement, education and skills, subjective well-being, health status, jobs and earnings, and personal security but below average in environmental quality.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Belgium, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is USD 28 700 a year, less than the OECD average of USD 29 016 a year. There is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn about four times as much as the bottom 20%.

In terms of employment, over 62% of people aged 15 to 64 in Belgium have a paid job, below the OECD employment average of 66%. Some 66% of men are in paid work, compared with 58% of women. In Belgium, 5% of employees work very long hours, much lower than the OECD average of 13%, with 7% of men working very long hours compared with just 3% of women.

Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. In Belgium, 74% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, lower than the OECD average of 76%. This is truer of women than men, as 72% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 75% of women. This difference is close to the OECD average and suggests that Belgium succeeds in delivering quality education regardless of gender. In terms of the quality of its educational system, the average student scored 509 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), higher than the OECD average of 497. On average in Belgium, girls outperformed boys by 5 points, below the average OECD gap of 8 points.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Belgium is 81 years, one year higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 83 years, compared with 78 for men. The level of atmospheric PM2.5 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 18.6 micrograms per cubic meter, above the OECD average of 14.05 micrograms per cubic meter. Belgium performs better in terms of water quality, as 83% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, higher than the OECD average of 81%.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation in Belgium, where 88% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, in line with the OECD average. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens' participation in the political process, was 89% during recent elections; considerably higher than the OECD average of 68% and one of the highest in the OECD.

In general, Belgians are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Belgians gave it a 6.9 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5.

For more information on estimates and years of reference, see FAQ section and BLI database.


OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys Belgium 2017

Belgium performs well in many economic and social dimensions. However, in spite of several important reforms in recent years productivity growth has weakened markedly since the financial crisis. Reinvigorating productivity growth is vital to sustaining increases in living standards.

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Belgium in Detail