The Kingdom of Belgium, in Northwestern Europe, is home to 11.6 million people with 98% of the country’s population living in urban areas and only 2% of people living in rural areas. Roughly 1.2 million people live in Belgium’s capital of Brussels, with 2.1 million in the Brussels metro area. While Brussels has the highest GDP per capita, it also sees the lowest available income per household. Poverty is a persistent problem in Belgium with people and families facing multigenerational challenges.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Belgium since 1963.
Around 20% of Belgian households aren’t in work, affecting 10% of the nation’s children: 230,000 under 18s. On average, roughly 6% of the labour force are unemployed, exceeding 10% in urban areas and less than 5% of people in rural areas. Experiencing parental unemployment as a child can have long-term effects of social disadvantage that has significant consequences later in life, including a child’s health, well-being, and education, with an increased likelihood of multigenerational poverty.
More than 20% of Belgium’s children are at risk of poverty and social exclusion and around 5% experience severe material deprivation. As a result, more than 100,000 children live in households that may not be able to afford enough food, adequate heating, or unexpected expenses. Children in poor families live precariously on the margins of society, where their basic needs can no longer be met, and at a greater risk of both physical and mental health challenges, now and in the future.
Children living in cold homes: More than 1 in 5 households lack decent housing, experiencing damp or inadequate lighting, or lacking their own shower or toilet. Further, 5% of Belgians cannot afford to heat their homes properly. Low-income households are at greater risk, with 10% unable to afford adequate heating. Growing up in a cold home puts children at risk. Not only does a cold home affect a child’s physical health, but children may be unable to find an appropriate place to do homework or a comfortable space for themselves.