The objective of the report is to provide an overview of the main drivers of economic growth and the productivity evolution in Belgium, in comparison with its three neighbouring countries and the US over 1970 and 2015. Recent evolutions, over 2000-2015, are analysed in details in order to shed light on the impact of the great recession. The growth accounting methodology is applied to explain labour productivity growth for the total economy, manufacturing and market services.
Working Paper 11-17 [17/10/2017]
Belgian government investment, and specifically the part spent on infrastructure, is relatively low both in historical terms and compared to neighbouring countries. A simulation with the European Commission’s Quest III model suggests that increasing government investment permanently by 0.5% of GDP leads to a growth in GDP, private consumption and private investment. The impact of alternative financing mechanisms is compared. Finally, a budget neutral shift of investment in favour of infrastructure is found to yield significant benefits in terms of GDP and its main components already in the medium run.
Working Paper 01-17 [26/01/2017]
The paper analyses the long-term trend of Belgian economic growth and the more recent evolution of labour productivity including the impact of the crisis. It identifies the causes of declining trend of productivity gains by analysing the structural changes in the economy and by applying the growth accounting methodology on industry-level data. Finally, possible policy actions are detailed which minimise the negative short term impact on aggregate demand while maximising the positive effect on labour productivity growth.
Working Paper 06-15 [02/10/2015]
This working paper analyses the performances of the Walloon innovation system in 2010. It concentrates on the six dimensions of the innovation system: knowledge development, human resources, R&D valorisation, innovation absorption capacity, entrepreneurial skills and financing capacity. These pillars are assessed by comparing the Walloon performances with those of European countries and regions with a similar industrial heritage. The analysis underlines the good performances of the mobilisation of financial resources in favour of R&D activities but also a potential problem in terms of human resources available for these activities. Maintaining a sufficient flow of competence by new science graduates and engineers and by the implementation of lifelong learning remains the key challenge in the years to come.
Working Paper 04-12 [28/02/2012]
Headlines Belgian economy
The European Union set up the Europe 2020 Strategy as the successor to the Lisbon Strategy to monitor and stimulate structural reform by the Member States. In the first semester of each year (the so-called European Semester), the Member States compile their Stability & Convergence and National Reform Programmes. At the turn of the semester the European Council develops policy recommendations to be implemented, preferably during the second semester. Sound performance on structural issues lays a foundation for healthy potential growth around which the business cycle oscillates.
Following the calendar of this renewed strategy, the Federal Planning Bureau decided to move the structural performance update – traditionally published in December - to the March issue and adapt the calendar of the business-cycle updates accordingly. The present December issue is, however, a one-off issue exclusively devoted to the system of innovation. Innovation has been recognised in the Europe 2020 strategy as the first of seven ‘flagships’ that should secure smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth. Innovation should have a positive impact on productivity growth and hence encourage potential GDP growth and employment. Measured in terms of R&D, not more than a few Member States achieve an innovation effort that is comparable to that of the other advanced economies of the world.
The system of innovation is an assembly of six interlinked dimensions: knowledge development by R&D; human resources; valorisation of R&D, e.g. through patents; innovation absorption capacity within and among enterprises; entrepreneurship; and financing. A good performance on each of the six is needed for a system to perform optimally. This December issue monitors the performance of Belgium on each of the dimensions. Other EU countries, the USA, and Japan serve as a benchmark. The performance seems to be mixed, so efforts are still needed to drive further improvement of the Belgian innovation system as a condition for growth and jobs.
STU 04-11 was finalised on 16 December 2011.
Short Term Update 04-11 [Contributor - 16/12/2011]
This Working Paper deals with the estimation of direct, inter-industry domestic and international R&D stocks for 25 Belgian industries over the period 1995-2007. Two categories of stocks are constructed to estimate potential rent spillovers and knowledge spillovers. Domestic inter-industry and foreign R&D stocks are weighted with Supply and Use tables and bilateral trade data to estimate rent spillovers (through intermediate consumption) and with international patent citations matrices to estimate knowledge spillovers.
Working Paper 10-11 [20/07/2011]
In this Working Paper the impact of potential determinants of total factor productivity, i.e. the part of output that cannot be explained by the quantity of production factors, is estimated for Belgium using industry-level data for the period 1988-2007.
Working Paper 07-11 [26/04/2011]
Headlines Belgian Economy
In October, the FPB prepared an update of its medium-term economic outlook of May 2010. This new outlook covers a longer period (2010-2020) than usual because it was drawn up in the framework of the macroeconomic surveillance process under the Europe 2020 Strategy, with a view to the preparation of the draft Belgian National Reform Programme.
This new outlook for Belgium is based on an international context that is marked by a recovery that should emerge in 2010-2011 and even gain momentum in the medium term. Nevertheless, the uncertainty surrounding these forecasts continues to be higher than before the financial crisis. Large budget deficits and global imbalances continue to threaten the stability of worldwide economic growth.
Yearly Belgian economic growth should amount to approximately 1.8% in 2010 and 2011 (based on our September forecast described in STU 3-10) and fluctuate around 2% thereafter. After a sharp decline in 2009, domestic demand has been expected to rise again in 2010, despite the on-going fall in business investment. As of 2011, domestic demand should rise at an average yearly rate of 1.8% as its various components regain their trend-based growth. Belgian exports, which fell by 11% in 2009, have recovered significantly in 2010. Thereafter, exports should grow at a rate close to its historical average. The contribution of net exports to GDP growth should be positive for the whole projection period (0.3-0.4 %-points on average for 2012-2020). Employment seems to have already experienced a moderate recovery in 2010.
Employment should increase further in 2011 and 2012, but at a limited pace as employers try to push up labour productivity and average working time from the historically very low levels that they reached in 2009. From 2013 to 2015, employment growth should become more sustained before gradually dropping again towards the end of the forecast. Employment as a percentage of the population aged between 20 and 64 years should initially fall from 68% in 2008 to 66.9% in 2010, but should recover to 68.2% in 2015 and 69.8% in 2020, a rate still well below the 75% target set by the EU. Unemployment (broad
administrative definition) is expected to peak in 2012 at a level that is 103 000 units higher than in 2008. From 2013 onwards, unemployment should slowly decline and reach 591 000 units in 2020.
The general government budget deficit should shrink from 6% of GDP in 2009 to 4.8% of GDP in 2010, 4.6% in 2011 and 4.5% in 2012. Thereafter, the deficit should remain almost constant up to 2020. A further and considerable fiscal adjustment is thus necessary to cut back the deficit to 3% of GDP in 2012 and achieve a balanced budget in 2015 in accordance with the Stability Programme of January 2010.
STU 04-10 was finalised on 22 December 2010.
Short Term Update 04-10 [Contributor - 22/12/2010]
- Working Paper 18-10 [21/10/2010]
- Working Paper 14-10 [28/05/2010]
- Working Paper 01-10 [22/02/2010]
In view of the new round of stability and convergence programmes (SCP) by the EMU member states, the FPB transmitted a medium-term outlook for the Belgian economy to the federal government. In this outlook, the short-term international assumptions are based on the November forecasts of the EC. These assumptions result in a gradual recovery of Belgian GDP in 2010 (0.8%) and 2011 (1.6%), after a decline of 3.1% in 2009. More information on this simulation can be found on pages 5-6.
As world trade appears to recover at a faster pace than expected in the EC outlook, the FPB produced a technical update of the SCP-simulation. This second simulation results in relatively stronger Belgian economic growth in 2010 and 2011 (1.1% and 1.7% respectively). From 2012 to 2014 economic growth is expected to be 2.1% on average, which might not be sufficient to close the output gap by 2014. Comments in the next paragraphs are based on this exercise.
Private demand was heavily affected by the financial and economic crisis. Private consumption suffered from a lack of confidence which brought an important increase along in the savings rate in 2009. In the medium term, consumption growth should gradually recover but remain below 2%. Gross fixed capital formation plummeted in 2009 and is unlikely to recover soon as idle production capacity is still abundant. From 2011 to 2014, average investment growth should amount to 2.1%. Exports declined by more than 10% in 2009, but should recover from 2010 onwards and reach an average growth rate of 4.4% from 2011 to 2014.
As employment typically reacts with a lag to the business cycle, the decrease in employment should even be stronger in 2010 than in 2009, before increasing gradually from 2011 onwards. The (broad administrative) unemployment rate should increase by 2.5 percentage points in 3 years and reach 14.3% in 2011. From 2012 onwards the unemployment rate should diminish somewhat, but total administrative unemployment should still amount to more than 730 000 persons in 2014 (130 000 persons more than in 2008).
Due to the recession the public deficit increased to 5.8% of GDP in 2009. Under an unchanged policy assumption the net public financing requirement should decline by 0.6% of GDP in 2010 and roughly stabilise somewhat below 5.5% in the medium term.
STU 04-09 was finalised on 21 December 2009.Short Term Update 04-09 [Contributor - 21/12/2009]
- Working Paper 05-09 [15/04/2009]
The Working Paper analyses the performances of the Walloon innovation system in 2008. This analysis concentrates on the six dimensions of the innovation system: knowledge development, human resources, R&D exploitation, innovation absorption capacity, entrepreneurial skills and financing capacity. These foundations are evaluated by comparing the performances of the Walloon innovation system with the performances of innovation systems of other countries and regions in Europe. They were chosen for their socio-economic proximity to the Walloon region. The examination of the Walloon innovation system reveals a problem that is essentially connected with the capacity to turn research and innovation efforts into economic results that are sufficient for the Region.Working Paper 02-09 [10/02/2009]
The FPB has revised its medium-term outlook for 2008-2013 for the Belgian economy. For the 2008-2010 period, the outlook adopts the international economic scenario provided by the OECD outlook of November 2008. The uncertainty surrounding the results is exceptionally large and downside risks could prove to be greater than upside risks. The greatest downside risks include a longer than expected period of distress on financial markets, and that emerging markets could be hit harder than anticipated.
The outlook for Belgium shows average GDP growth reaching only 1.5% during the period 2008-2013 (1.9% for the period 2001-2007). This relatively weak performance is largely explained by weak GDP growth in 2008 (1.4%), a fall in economic growth next year (-0.3%) and a limited recovery in 2010. Over the period 2011-2013, GDP growth is expected to stabilise at a rate slightly above 2%, which might not allow the output gap to be completely closed by the end of the projection.
After dynamic growth in 2007, private consumption expansion should be much more limited in 2008 and 2009. From 2010 onwards, household demand growth should increase gradually and then stabilise at a rate close to 2%. After dynamic growth in 2008, gross fixed capital formation should slightly decrease in 2009, before recovering in 2010 and increasing by 2.4% on average during the 2011-2013 period. Given the unfavourable international environment next year, exports are expected to decrease in 2009. Over the period 2010-2013, exports should increase by 4.4% on average and the contribution of net exports to GDP growth is expected to be slightly positive.
The worsening of the economic situation should lead to a decrease in employment in 2009. In the medium term, employment should increase again, at a yearly rate reaching 0.8% at the end of the projection. With employment growth heavily affected by the adverse economic situation in the short run and in view of the increase in the labour force, the unemployment rate (broad definition) will soar to 12.9% by 2010 (against 11.9% in 2008), before levelling off at around 13.2% from 2011 onwards. Total administrative unemployment should stand at almost 700,000 persons in 2013 (65,000 persons more than in 2007).
Under the assumption of unchanged policy, the public accounts are expected to deteriorate markedly, with a net public financing requirement of 1.6% of GDP in 2009, 2.4% in 2010 and up to 2.6% in 2011-2013.
STU 04-08 was finalised on 11 December 2008.Short Term Update 04-08 [Contributor - 11/12/2008]
The objective of the report is to provide an overview of the main drivers of economic growth and the productivity evolution in Belgium, in comparison with the EU and the US, between 1970 and 2005, based on a consistent data set. The growth accounting methodology is applied to explain value added and labour productivity growth for the total economy, manufacturing and market services. This decomposition exercise diverges from what has been applied in Belgium up to now, as it uses capital services flows rather than the capital stock and labour services flows rather than the number of hours worked to measure the contribution of these factors of production to economic and productivity growth. Contributions of the main industries to value added, employment and productivity growth are also estimated.Working Paper 17-08 [29/09/2008]
Using dynamic panel data on 20 Belgian market sectors over 1987-2005, the paper analyses the link between Multifactor Productivity (MFP) growth and three frequently cited determinants: business R&D, labour skills and ICT use. The theoretical framework of the analysis is given by the Aghion-Howitt model which explains the rate of MFP growth by the distance to the world technology frontier.Working Paper 11-08 [29/06/2008]
- Working Paper 06-08 [10/03/2008]
On the basis of its short term economic forecast of September and revised figures for the medium-term international economic environment, the FPB has updated its medium-term outlook 2007-2012. GDP growth should reach 2.1% on average and should be driven by both domestic demand and exports, although the structural loss of export market shares should remain significant: while growth in our potential export markets will reach 6.8% a year on average, exports are expected to record an average annual increase of 5.4%.
The growth of private consumption (1.8% on average) should be in line with the growth of real disposable income (1.9% on average). Gross fixed capital formation should continue to register sustained growth, attaining an average of 3.1%, mainly reflecting an increase in business investment, but also an acceleration of public investment in view of the local elections of 2012. Inflation (as measured by private consumption deflator growth) should be below 2% on average during the projection period, despite an acceleration in 2008: inflation could even climb to 2.5% next year, according to the latest update of the monthly inflation forecasts of FPB. Limited wage increases (lower than productivity gains), the increase in interest rates, a negative output gap and a moderate increase in imported costs are the main factors accounting for the low inflation rate in the medium term.
Total employment will increase by more than 40,000 jobs a year on average during the projection period, due to sustained economic growth combined with persistently modest labour productivity (1.4% per year). Due to ongoing structural shifts in the sectoral composition of employment, the manufacturing industry will incur a further loss of 6,000 jobs a year on average, whereas market services should gain 46,000 jobs a year. The employment rate is expected to increase from 62.6% in 2006 to 65.4% in 2012; the fall in the unemployment rate (from 13.8% in 2006 to 11.0% in 2012 -broad definition) should accelerate at the end of the projection period, when baby-boomers will leave the labour force on a massive scale.
The pace of employment growth should have nearly doubled during the period 2001-2012 compared with the previous decade, despite very similar average economic growth rates for both periods.
STU 04-07 was finalised on 10 December 2007.Short Term Update 04-07 [Contributor - 13/12/2007]
In order to improve our understanding of the divergent evolutions that recently emerged between European countries in terms of labour productivity, this paper compares the labour productivity growth of three small open European countries: Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands. The analysis focuses on market services as they are the most important single factor that is responsible for the divergences. The comparison shows that, while Austria and Belgium recorded a decrease in their productivity growth between 1995 and 2004, the Netherlands followed the American pattern and has recorded an increase in their growth rate since 1995. The decomposition of labour productivity growth makes it possible to underline the important role played by total factor productivity (TFP) in the Dutch upsurge in productivity growth. The breakdown of the data by industry shows the importance of the Distribution sector in the Dutch performance. The growth of TFP observed in the Distribution sector is then linked to different potential determinants: ICT accumulation and use, labour qualifications, R&D and innovation and regulations.Working Paper 14-07 [05/11/2007]
To improve our understanding of the divergent evolutions that recently emerged between European countries in terms of labour productivity, this working paper compares the labour productivity growth of three small open European countries: Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands. The analysis focuses on market services as they are the most important single factor that is responsible for the divergences.Article 2007100507 [05/10/2007]
The objective of this report is to provide an overview of the main drivers of economic growth and productivity evolution in Belgium between 1970 and 2004, based on a consistent data set. The growth accounting methodology is applied to explain value added and labour productivity growth for total economy, manufacturing and market services. This decomposition exercise diverges from what has been applied in Belgium up to now, as it uses capital services flows rather than capital stock to measure the contribution of capital factor to production growth. Contributions of the main industries to value added, employment and productivitygrowth are also estimated. Working Paper 05-07 [16/03/2007]
This Working Paper presents the different methodologies currently used to construct a volume index of capital services and analyzes the effects of methodological changes on capital services and total factor productivity estimates for Belgium over the period 1970-2004. The measurement of capital services is realized in two steps. First, productive capital stocks have to be estimated for each type of asset. Two methodologies are generally used: the geometric and the hyperbolic profile. Secondly, these stocks are aggregated, using the user costs of capital (exante or ex-post approach) as weights to derive an overall index. For the economy as a whole and the entire period, under an ex-post approach, the volume indices of capital services estimated with a hyperbolic age-efficiency profile grow at a higher rate than the indices estimated with a geometric profile. This general conclusion is, however, not observed in every sector. Under an ex-ante approach, the different volume indices are quite similar for the whole economy, even if the indices grow generally at a slightly higher rate in the case of a geometric pattern. A higher growth rate of the volume indices generates a higher capital contribution and, consequently, a lower TFP contribution. Over long periods of time, the different TFP estimates are relatively similar. Over shorter periods, the different methodologies generate more significant variations in the TFP contribution.Working Paper 03-07 [01/03/2007]
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.
This medium term outlook does not take into account the measures taken within the framework of the 2007 budget.
STU 4-06 was finalised on 11 December 2006.Short Term Update 04-06 [Contributor - 15/12/2006]
This working paper analyses public financing in two countries that have already reached the Barcelona goal (R&D expenditure on GDP at least equal to 3%), Finland and Sweden, and compares it with the situation in Belgium. This comparison covers not only the quantitative aspects but also the organisational dimension of the public support for innovation.Working paper 09-06 [29/09/2006]
- Planning Paper 101 [20/09/2006]
- Short Term Update 04-05 [Contributor - 23/12/2005]
Following the Lisbon strategy designed to transform the European economy into the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based society, the Barcelona Summit quantified one of the available instruments to reach this ambitious objective by fixing the amount of resources which have to be devoted to r&d by 2010, at 3% of the European gdp.
Working Paper 03-05 [14/03/2005]
What could be the implications of the Barcelona objective in terms of the main economic variables for Belgium and the eu? What are the needs for human capital to reach this objective? How are these needs covered by the current trends in the supply of qualified labour in Belgium? These are the main questions analysed in the present working paper.
The latest update of the FPB’s medium-term outlook for Belgium shows average GDP growth reaching 2.3% during the 2004-2009 period. This development can be largely accounted for by domestic demand, whereas the role of (net) exports is expected to be more limited. As in 2003, private consumption should evolve in quite a dynamic way during the projection period (1.9% on average), mainly as a result of an expansion of households’ disposable income. At the same time, gross fixed capital formation (and particularly business investment) should recover, with annual growth reaching 3%. The structural loss of export market share should be confirmed with exports increasing by 5.3% a year on average, compared with growth of 6.3% of our potential export markets.
Inflation should remain slightly below 2% in the medium term, mainly thanks to limited wage increases and moderate rises in imported costs. Employment is expected to increase by about 32,000 jobs a year during the 2005-2009 period. This performance can be explained by several factors: a relatively favourable macroeconomic context, limited wage increases, a reduction in working time and various measures taken to promote employment. At the same time, the working population should rise considerably. As a consequence, despite the creation of many jobs, the fall in the unemployment rate should be very limited.
The FPB’s October update of the medium term outlook for Belgium does not yet take into account the measures decided within the framework of the 2005 budget.Short Term Update 04-04 [Contributor - 17/12/2004]
- Working Paper 15-04 [01/06/2004]
The latest update of the FPB’s medium-term outlook for Belgium is pointing towards GDP growth of 2.3% on average from 2004 to 2008. This development can be largely accounted for by domestic demand, whereas the role of (net) exports is expected to be more limited. After moderate growth in 2003, the evolution of private consumption should be more dynamic during the 2004-2008 period, particularly thanks to a favourable development in households’ disposable income (stimulated especially by reductions in personal income tax). The growth in gross fixed capital formation should reach an average of 2.9% during the period 2004-2008, notably reflecting the expansion in business investment. Export growth should be 5.1% on average, compared with growth of 5.6% in our potential export markets: the structural loss of export market share should be confirmed.
Inflation should be below 2% in the medium term, thanks to moderate wage increases compatible with productivity gains, cuts in social security contributions and the extension of production capacity. Employment is expected to show a gradual improvement: an average increase of 34,000 jobs should be seen during the 2004-2008 period. The unemployment rate in a broad sense should decrease from 14.2% by mid-2003 to 12.8% in 2008, a large proportion of the labour expansion being absorbed by growth in the labour force.
Given the present prospects for future economic growth, assuming no policy change but taking into account the most important measures decided within the framework of the 2004 budget, the financing capacity of public administrations should go into deficit in the medium term (0.5% of GDP in 2008). The goal of a positive financing capacity (0.3% of GDP in 2007) is not expected to be reached without additional budgetary measures. Nevertheless, the total public debt to GDP ratio should continue to fall, going down by about 17 percentage points between 2002 and 2008.Short Term Update 04-03 [Contributor - 04/12/2003]