Belgium Tops Europe in Strikes: Recent Trends and Implications

Sarhan Basem

Brussels (Brussels Morning) – Belgium tops European strike days, followed by France and Finland. Germany sees fewer, despite recent increases. Strike days per 1,000 employees highlight varied labour disputes across these countries, influenced by economic policies and union actions.

Belgium remains the strike champion of Europe, according to figures from the German research institute WSI of the Hans-Böckler Foundation, an organ of the German trade unions. There are 103 strike days per 1,000 employees in our country per year in the period 2013-2022.

How does France compare in labour dispute strike days?

France is in second place with 92 strike days due to labour disputes. For France, it is noted that the figures only concern the private sector.  A notable increase is Finland, which now occupies third place, with 90 strike days per thousand employees. A few years ago the Finnish average was still 52.

How do Germany’s strike days compare to others?

Germany also saw the number of social conflicts, and therefore also strikes, increase sharply in 2023, but with 18 strike days per 1,000 employees, it remains far below Belgium or France. Germany does not have a system of automatic wage indexation, so the unions took regular action last year to enforce wage increases to compensate for high inflation. Social unrest is also expected before 2024, according to WSI.

What influenced Belgium’s high strike days in 2022?

In Belgium, 2022 was almost a record year, with 164 lost working days per 1,000 employees, the highest number since 2014 (221 strike days). The national strike of June 20, 2022, among other things, played a role. Definitive figures for 2023 are not yet available, but the WSI already sees many actions at Delhaize following the management’s franchise plans.

The Economic and Social Research Institute does point out that the methodology behind the figures may differ. For example, for France and Belgium, the figure also includes days due to general strikes against the government’s social policies. In Germany, the right to strike is legally restricted.

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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.