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indicator value unit
Population 11.0 mil.
Visitors per year 5.8 mil.
Renewable energy 4.81 %

How’s Life?

Belgium performs well in many measures of well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks among the top ten countries in several topics in the Better Life Index.

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 27 811 USD a year, more than the OECD average of 23 938 USD a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn almost 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 65%. Some 67% of men are in paid work, compared with 57% of women. People in Belgium work 1 574 hours a year, less than the OECD average of 1 765 hours. Some 4% of employees work very long hours, much lower than the OECD average of 9%, with 6% of men working very long hours compared with just 2% for women.

Having a good education is an important requisite for finding a job. In Belgium, 71% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, close to the OECD average of 75%. This is truer of women than men, as 71% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 72% of women. This difference is lower than 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 6 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 PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 21.2 micrograms per cubic meter, above the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter. Belgium performs better in terms of water quality, as 84% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, in line with the OECD average.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation in Belgium, where 91% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 89%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 89% during recent elections; considerably higher than the OECD average of 72% and one of the highest in the OECD.

In general, Belgians are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 81% of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc.) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc.). This figure is slightly higher than the OECD average of 76%.

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


OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys Belgium 2015

This 2015 OECD Economic Survey of Belgium examines recent economic developments, policies and prospects. Special chapters cover integration of immigrants and the housing sector.

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Belgium in Detail