IDEA study fuels debate on reintegration of the long-term sick

IDEA study fuels debate on reintegration of the long-term sick

More and more Belgians are on long-term invalids, i.e. they are inactive for more than one year due to illness. This number keeps rising year after year. Since 2016, there are even more long-term incapacitated people than unemployed people in Belgium. This evolution has important consequences. On the one hand, it is a brake on the labour supply, while the labour market is becoming increasingly tight. On the other hand, incapacity for work entails various costs for the government. This makes the activation of the long-term disabled an important point on the policy agenda.

Commissioned by Federgon, IDEA Consult mapped the characteristics of this growing group, together with the main factors that can explain this evolution. This study also examines the current activation measures at federal and regional level, with a focus on Flanders. In this way, it becomes clear which pathways are currently provided for different target groups and who is currently being effectively reached. Relevant practices from the Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain were also analysed for inspiration for the Belgian policy.

Finally, we also calculated the size of the total cost of the group of disabled people for the government, taking into account both the direct and indirect non-medical costs and possible recovery effects. This shows that long-term incapacity for work in 2019 cost the government a total of 21.2 billion for the quantifiable non-medical costs. When individuals make the step from disability to employment, the saved resources could be used to support the activation process, for example by investing in counselling, mediation, training, etc.

Some key figures can be found in the following article from De Tijd Langdurig zieken wegen almeer meer op overheidsbudget | De Tijd and this podcast from HR Magazine Uitvallen, opstaan en opnieuw aan de slag gaan.

The results were also summarised in the Over.Werk article 'Uitvallen, opstaan en opnieuw aan de slag te gaan. Activation of the long-term disabled in figures', published by Steunpunt Werk. This article is available via

The Dutch report can be found here.

arrow team members
foto Daphné Valsamis
Daphné Valsamis
Senior Expert Labour Market & Socio-Economic Policy


  • Intermediate and private organisations

IDEA Consult respects your data privacy.
Why cookies? Simply because they are used to help the website function, to improve your browser experience. 
Click 'I understand' to accept cookies or click more information.

I understand