In the October update of the FPB medium-term outlook for Belgium, GDP growth reaches an average of 2.3% for the 2006-2011 period. This development will be driven by both domestic demand and exports, although the contribution of net exports to economic growth is expected to be limited. The growth of private consumption (1.9% on average) should be in line with the growth of household disposable income in real terms (2% on average). Gross fixed capital formation should grow by 2.7% (on average). The structural loss of export market shares should remain significant, with exports increasing by 5.5% a year on average, compared with a 6.8% growth in our potential export markets.
After climbing to 2.4% in 2006 because of high energy prices, inflation (as measured by the private consumption deflator) should fall below 2% in the medium term, mainly because of limited wage growth, the increase in interest rates and moderate rises in prices of imports (notably owing to the decrease in oil prices). Total employment is expected to increase by about 38,500 jobs a year during the 2006-2011 period, despite new job losses in manufacturing. The factors behind this performance are: a relatively favourable macroeconomic context, limited wage increases, a further small reduction in working time and various measures taken to promote employment. Nevertheless, the fall in the unemployment rate is expected to be limited due to the substantial rise in the labour force. However, at the end of the projection period - when baby-boomers will leave the labour force on a massive scale - the growth of the labour force should lose momentum, allowing the decrease in the unemployment rate to accelerate.
All in all, economic growth should be stronger for the next six years compared to the previous six years, leading to the same average GDP growth rate during the period 2000-2011 as during the period 1990-1999. At the same time, the pace of employment growth should have nearly doubled (yearly 35,000 on average during the same period 2000-2011, against slightly less than 20,000 yearly during the former decade), reflecting a considerable decline in productivity gains. [...]