Ways to Enter a public state

ins and outs, ups and downs of social security

By Marie-Louise Reedijk, cultuurloket & Nicolas Galeazzi

Dear Fellow Foreigners,

We know systems shape societies and vice versa, but no system is so complete it doesn’t create, or carry cracks, and - every system is afraid of its margins. Even though the margins and cracks are where systems can breathe and move, it ignores, suppresses or exploits them. (see “Refugee As Agent Of Change” on page and the guideline on). However, as people on the move in so many different ways, we might know or feel close to these places, trying to find our ways into, through, or out of the catchy system. I’m using here a ‘we’ that might not be appropriate at all. The scale of problems and privileges might be too far apart, and our cases and circumstances may not be comparable. But whenever a glimpse of true solidarities emerges across the various social divides, we should better catch and enjoy it than let us split into the predictable particles that most systems try to slot us in.

There are many systems we can talk about in this sense. A crucial one, for survival in many European states, is the social security and healthcare system. The Belgian one shall be the subject of this article. Together with cultuureloket.be, we tried to reconstruct the administrative forest of the social security system in Belgium. Based on our personal experience and difficulties in understanding and managing this entrance, and with the legal advice of Marie-Louise Reedijk from cultuurloket,2 we tried to gather the most relevant information someone might need to consider in order to find a way towards social security. What speaks here might be the voice of bureaucracy when it pronounces the word ‘mutuality’.1


NON-EU residents

Look for: The Ultimate Cookbook for Cultural Managers. Hands-on guides to visa and taxation rules on pearle.eu

EU resident

EU residents, incl. Norway, Switzerland and Ireland can directly obtain a work permit via the Schengen Convention.

You need a RESIDENCE PERMIT (for your stay) from the Belgium federal government, AND a WORK PERMIT from the regional governments: Flanders, Brussels, Wallonia.

Obtaining a working and a residence permit are subject to various rules related to the application submission and substantive conditions. For both, go to an office of population and civil registry of your local authorities.

For taxtation, look for the same documents on pearle.eu as non-Eu residents.


Do you pay tax abroad?

Again, look at The Ultimate Cookbook for Cultural Managers – Artist Taxation in an International Context, Updated 2021 by pearl.eu

Other ways of working and earning

Some links:


Employed or Self-employed?

Depending on the kind of job, the job opportunities, your situation, and your security needs, you personally might lean to either or: independent (self-employed) or employed working status. However, in Belgium, social security contributions are amongst the highest in Europe; in contrast its benefits are pretty substantial. This is possible because a majority of workers pay contributions as an employee. The more people work as employees, the better and more sustainable the system can be. That’s the logic. But not every job fits the employment status, and not all sectors provide enough employment. As a performing artist, you are more likely to be employed than a fine artist. Working in education parallel to working as an independent artist might need two different statuses, etc. Architects, designers and visual artists are more likely to work under self-employment status.

You have four possibilities

  1. Long-term contract (determined or undetermined): as an employee, you and your employer pay social contributions to your monthly income. With these payments, you will build up certain rights.

  2. Short-term contracts: you compose an employee status with several temporary jobs administrated by an interim agency (uitzendkantoor), a social agency for artists (SBK), or an association which can employ you.

  3. Self-employed: you invoice for your ‘service’ or ‘product and therefore work as self-employed. You will build up certain rights as well. You administrate yourself (probably with an accountant), pay TVA on each ‘sale’, pay less social security contributions, and will have less access to its benefits (see below).

  4. Combined employed and self-employed status: As a secondary self-employed person (Zelfstandig in bijberoep), you will need a minimum of 50% employment and pay social contributions but will (generally) not earn rights as a full-time self-employed person. There are certain exceptions to these rules.


Disclaimer: All amounts and percentages are subject to change. These amounts and percentages were up-to-date in July 2022.


  • Payment on monthly income
  • There is a part paid by the employer, part paid by the employee
  • The social contributions on your gross income are around 58%

drawing by Axel Claes


How much social contributions do you pay and when? Social Contributions of a self-employed worker

  • Provisional: min. € 840,97 (4x a year)
  • Definitive: 20,5 %

Social contributions of a self-employed worker (as complementary to part-time employment)

  • Provisional: min. € 93,04 (4x a year)
  • Definitive: 0,5 %​

Yearly update to be checked niss.be

How do you pay for these contributions?

You need to subscribe to a social insurance fund.

Here is a list of social insurance funds nisse.be/ > List of social security funds How it works: businessbelgium.be > Social Insurance Fund economie.fgov.be > starting a business




For medical benefits and allowances, you are required to join a health insurance fund. Compared to other countries, they are cheaper in Belgium, as the state largely pays for health care. A List of Health insurance funds you can find here: www.riziv.fgov.be/nl > contacteer ziekenfondsen Explanation in English: www.expatfocus.com/belgium > Belgium Health Insurance

Illness or Invalidity


You will be guaranteed a reimbursement in case of illness. For more information:


Periods of incapacity for work of longer than seven days are reimbursed from the first day. Terms and conditions read here: rsvz.be > uitkering arbeidsongeschikte zelfstandige

occupational accident

After an accident at work, you are declared temporarily disabled if you cannot resume work immediately.


All employees in the private sector are insured against occupational accidents and accidents on the way to and from work.


No specific coverage for occupational accidents or occupational diseases. Self-employed workers are not insured against occupational accidents. However, they can avail themselves of the sickness and disability benefits that apply in the self-employed scheme.

Palliative care

(palliatieve zorg/soins palliative)

Benefits for the period the person in question is minding a child or partner in time of need.


Benefit for palliative care to child or partner (palliatief verlof)


Informal care by the self-employed worker (mantelzorg voor zelfstandige)


All you need to know you’ll find here thevillage.be


(Maternity allowance / Kraamgeld/allocation de naissance)

A one-time sum is given to employees and self-employed persons at the birth of a child.


Contact www.famifed.be


Contact your Social Security Fund

Maternity Leave

Period of rest before and after giving birth. This is paid by the health insurance fund. Information: Brussels famiris.brussels Flanders groeipakket.be Wallonia aviq.be (no English)


mother 15 weeks
father three days by the employer, max. 17 days paid by the health insurance.


mother 12 weeks (three mandatory and nine by choice)

Paternal leave

(Ouderschapsverlof/congé parental)

Parental leave is a specific leave that allows you to temporarily suspend or reduce your work commitments in order to raise your young children. thevillage.be> admin > types of leave > parental leave*


there are different types of paternity leave. For more information, you can check this website: vlaanderen.be > ouderschapsverlof


birth and paternity leave are combined. 15 days or 30 half days for births starting January 1, 2021. Apply for your paternity and birth leave with your social security fund by the end of the quarter following birth. For more information, you can read up here rsvz.be > Vaderschaps- en geboorteverlof

Adoption Grant

(adoptie premie/ prime d’adoption)

If you adopt a baby, you are entitled to an adoption premium. Information: Brussels Flanders Wallonia


Same amount as a self-employed worker


Same amount as an employee

Child benefits

(kinderbijslag/allocations familiales)

The payment of child support: iriscare.brussels > Citoyens > Familles avec enfants > Les allocations familiales à Bruxelles


a certain amount of money based on the needs of the family (income, handicap and size of the family)


the same amount of money as the employee


Both the employee and self-employed have the right to a minimum pension. For more information, check socialsecurity.be > *pensioen

Survivor’s pension

If your spouse dies, then under certain conditions, you are entitled to a survivor’s pension. The calculation of a survivor’s pension starts from the career of the deceased spouse. For more information, check socialsecurity.be > *wat-bij-overlijden


Unemployment benefits (Werkloosheidsuitkering/allocation de chomage)
Vacation pay (Vakantiegeld / Congé payé)


Cessation of activity, bridging allowance (Uitkering voor stopzetting van onderneming, overbruggingsuitkering / Indemnité de cessation d’activité, allocation de transition)


Axel Claes after Ad Reinhardt

  1. A recommendable book on this subject: Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graber 

  2. General Disclaimer: All information is subject to change. The information provided has to be adapted to each personal situation. All the referenced numbers are subject to indexation and change, and we cannot take responsibility for updates and new rules. For further help, contact cultuurloket.be for free.