This National Reform Programme contains the structural measures taken over the past 12 months by the federal government and the governments of the Regions and Communities. The purpose of these measures is twofold:

-to meet the country-specific recommendations made by the European Council to Belgium in July 2015, with the exception of the recommendation concerning the budget and the national debt, which is dealt with in the Stability Programme 2016. In particular, the Council recommends (1) to link the statutory retirement age to life expectancy, (2) a comprehensive tax reform including broadening the tax base and shifting the tax burden away from labour, (3) to improve the functioning of the labour market by reducing financial disincentives to work, increasing labour market access for specific target groups and addressing mismatches between supply and demand of certain skills, and finally (4) to restore competitiveness.

-to meet the targets mentioned in the Europe 2020 strategy as concerns labour, R&D and innovation, education and training, energy and climate and guaranteeing social inclusion.

The most recent figures about the Europe 2020 progress indicators globally paint an encouraging picture. Since the economic crisis, the total employment rate remains below the established path towards its objective, but the employment rate of women and of older people (55-64 years) is rising, and the employment rate gap between non-EU citizens and Belgians shrinks, as well as the percentage of young people neither in employment nor in education or training. The proportion of 30-34 year-olds with a higher education degree increases, whereas the percentage of early school leavers still goes down. As regards R&D intensity, greenhouse gas emissions, share of renewables and primary energy consumption, Belgium is also more or less on the right track to meet the targets. On the other hand, the objective of reducing the risk of poverty and social exclusion is much more difficult to achieve.

The governments in place have confirmed their commitment to meet the Europe 2020 targets. The measures which have been taken to this end and which are mentioned in this National Reform Programme include among others: the pension reform of August 2015, the tax shift (including the decrease of employers’ social security contributions, the increase of deductible professional expenses, an increase of the tax-free allowance and the modification of the rates and the brackets of the tax scale in the personal income tax), the structural reforms of the labour market, the federal plan for small and medium enterprises and the allocation between the regions of the climate and energy targets.

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