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April 2018 - What proportion of Brussels residents is in receipt of a social integration income?

Brussels Institute for Statistics and Analysis (BISA) - In the spotlight - Proportion of people receiving a social integration income in the population of 18 to 64-year-olds

Proportion of people receiving a social integration income in the population of 18 to 64-year-olds (2006-2016)

Source: PPS Social integration, Statbel (NR), calculations by BISA

What is a social integration income?

A social integration income (SII) is an allowance Public Centres for Social Welfare (PCSWs) pay to people to allow them to lead a life in keeping with human dignity, provided they meet a number of criteria. Prerequisites are:

  • Belgian citizenship (or, in the case of non-nationals, being registered in the population registers, having acquired the status of recognised refugee or stateless person or being in the process of family reunification with a Belgian or European citizen);
  • having one’s place of residence in Belgium;
  • having reached adulthood or being assimilated to an adult;
  • a lack of sufficient resources and the inability to generate them;
  • being willing to work;
  • having exhausted one’s social security and maintenance payments entitlements.

One Brussels resident in 15 benefited from a social integration income during 2016

49,993 residents of the Brussels-Capital Region qualified at least on one occasion for a social integration income (SII) from the PCSW during 2016. This represents 6.6 % of the population of 18 to 64-year-olds[1] living within the Brussels Region, which boils down to one person in fifteen. This ratio by far exceeds that of the country’s other regions. In Wallonia, the 89,092 registered recipients account for 4 % of the population of 18 to 64-year-olds, while the 54,566 beneficiaries in Flanders make up 1.4 % of the population in that particular age group.

These figures include both the people who received the SII all year round and the people who only availed of the allowance on an occasional basis, whether for one or several months. Thus, this indicator measures the share of 18 to 64-year-olds who, in the course of the year, found themselves in a financially precarious situation, be it occasionally or for an extended period of time, and who simply could not make ends meet (whether through work, income support or unemployment benefits).

From one Brussels resident in 20 during 2006 to one in 15 during 2016

Within the space of 10 years, the people eligible for SII among the population of 18 to 64-year-olds within the Brussels Region has risen dramatically: from 4.7 % in 2006 to 6.6 % in 2016. During that same period, it also rose significantly in the Walloon Region, from 2.5 % to 4 %, while in the Flemish Region the increase was rather more measured, from 1 % to 1.4 %.

There are various, structural or cyclical, factors that can explain these increases over this 10-year period:

  • the declining socio-economic situation in Belgium, following the financial and economic crisis that hit the world in 2008;
  • the numbers of people who were taken of the unemployment benefits scheme because they were unable to prove that they were actively looking for work;
  • the changes in the unemployment benefits legislation:
    • the time limit on professional integration allowances, which produced its first effects in January 2015;
    • the extension of the professional integration placements for new job-seekers, introduced on 1 January 2012;
    • the increased rate of degressivity of unemployment benefits, which came into effect in November 2012;
    • the tightening of the eligible criteria for the insertion allowance since January 2015.
  • the increase, since 2015, in the number of recognised refugees associated with the refugee crisis: in the Brussels Region, the number of refugees qualifying for the SII rose from 1,370 in 2006 to 3,350 in 2016;
  • the transfer of some 1,000 people who qualified for subsidiary protection under the social assistance scheme to the social integration scheme within the Brussels Region during December 2016.

Yet, these elements still do not fully explain the increase in the numbers of SII recipients. Aside from the above factors, there is a wider phenomenon of insecurity that needs to be taken into consideration. On the one hand, certain segments of the population are increasingly likely to fall into the poverty trap: single-parent families, poorly qualified people, part-time workers.., while, on the other hand, some of these segments are growing disproportionately. Single-parent families and part-time workers are two examples of that.

Contrasting situations from one municipality to the next

The Brussels regional figures mask a significant diversity at municipal level. While less than one resident in 30 of the municipalities of Auderghem, Ganshoren, Uccle and Woluwe-Saint-Pierre availed of the SII during 2016 on at least one occasion, that ratio rises to one resident in 9 in Saint-Josse-Ten-Noode and to 1 in 8 in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean.

Between 2006 and 2016, Forest was the municipality that saw the most dramatic increase in the number of residents in receipt of an SII: from 3.5 % to 7.6 %. Conversely, with a rate of about 7 % and 10 % respectively, the ratio in Saint-Gilles and Saint-Josse-Ten-Noode has remained stable. Interestingly, the number of recipients did not reduce in any one of the nineteen Brussels municipalities.


The statistics on SII beneficiaries are compiled by the PPS Social Integration on the basis of information furnished by the PCSWs across the country. The number of beneficiaries is calculated on a month-by-month basis. There are two possible ways to compile the annual statistics:

  • calculating the annual average on the basis of the twelve monthly figures. This tends to be the preferred approach if one wants to estimate the number of people who are regularly deemed to be eligible for an SII;
  • recording the total number of individual beneficiaries over the course of the year. In this particular method, any person who has received the SII at least one month of the year is counted as a beneficiary, while any person who received the SII for several months is still only counted as one person. This approach, which is the one presented in this particular edition of “In the Spotlight”, enables us to estimate the number of people who had no option but to turn to the PCSW for support, whether on an occasional or regular basis.

More figures on the recipients of a social integration income can be found under the theme “Insecurity and welfare benefits” on the BISA website.


PPS Social Integration, 2017. Statistical Bulletin, no. 19 (in Dutch) - October 2017.

PPS Social Integration, 2017. Recognised refugees and persons eligible for subsidiary protection from the PCSW (in Dutch). Focus, no. 18 - June 2017.

[1] This ratio is somewhat overestimated given that, during 2016, a limited number of people under the age of 18 and over the age of 65, i.e. 3 % of the Brussels Region, also qualified for a social integration income. These would be young people who no longer get any support from their family or elderly people who are waiting to be transferred to the “guaranteed income for elderly persons”, otherwise known as GRAPA, scheme.