Belgium has a very extensive social security system. Foreigners also are entitled to certain allowances and to social services.
The benefits which you may enjoy as a foreigner are strictly dependent on the conditions under which you are resident on Belgian soil.
If you are planning to live, work or study in Belgium, your social security entitlements (such as family allowance, pensions, reimbursement of medical costs and work incapacity allowance) depend on agreements, if any, signed between Belgium and your country as well as on European legislation. Entitlements also depend on your personal situation and vary according to your nationality and employment status (salaried worker, self-employed, on secondment, retired, etc.).
You can use Coming2belgium, a special online tool developed by the social security institutions, to find out what you are entitled to under the Belgian social security system.
The Belgian social security system is based on the payment of social contributions on your income from work. These social contributions serve to finance the social security system.
Each month the employer pays a considerable amount on top of your salary into the social security fund. The employee also pays a proportion of his gross salary in social security contributions. This fund is then used to pay social security:
- allowances in the event of sickness
- unemployment benefits
- allowances in the event of incapacity for work through sickness or invalidity
- allowances in the event of accidents at work
- allowances in the event of industrial disease
- family allowances
The self employed can also claim social security. The self employed therefore pay a social contribution. This contribution is a lower percentage than the joint contribution of employers and employees, but gives fewer rights. However, the self employed may pay extra voluntary contributions which give them additional rights in certain cases. At the beginning, the self-employed pay "provisional contributions".
For civil servants there are a number of rules which differ from those for employees and the self employed. Employees who work under contract for a government department may claim social security for employees.
There are also supplementary support systems. These supplementary support systems are not paid on the basis of contributions made, but are financed with government resources.
To receive these forms of support you must meet strict legal conditions. As a rule these forms of support are dependent on your available income. Foreigners cannot always claim Social Security and support to the same extent as Belgians.
The supplementary support systems are:
- income support
- the income guarantee for the elderly
- the guaranteed family allowance
- payments for people with a handicap
- payments for help to the elderly
Everyone in Belgium is entitled to social services from the public social welfare centre, CPAS/OCMW.
They provide social services so that everyone can live with dignity. They investigate what help is most appropriate given the personal or family circumstances, and offer the appropriate means to meet people's needs.
For asylum seekers and people without legal residence there are limits to these services. For asylum seekers the government also subsidises a special reception structure in place of the usual CPAS/OCMW service. For people without legal residence the service is usually restricted to urgent medical help.