Income inequality: Gini index

In 2020 (income year 2019), the Gini index of the equivalent disposable income in Belgium was 25.4 on a zero to one hundred scale. To achieve the sustainable development goal by 2030, this figure should not increase. Between 2004 and 2019 the trend is favourable (assessment of November 2021; without taking into account 2020, because the Covid-19 pandemic impacted data collection).

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Gini index of equivalised disposable income - Belgium and international comparison

scale 0-100

//: Average Growth Rates

break in series: BE 2019; BE 2020 data collection impacted by Covid-19 pandemic

Statbel; Eurostat (2020), European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), ilc_di12, (consulted on 1/10/20210).

Gini index of equivalised disposable income by region- Belgium

scale 0-100

Brussels-Capital Region35.935.735.732.431.233.2-2.0
Flemish Region24.823.824.023.823.323.7-0.9
Walloon Region25.625.325.825.625.124.6-0.3
//: Average Growth Rates

The margin of uncertainty for this indicator is indicated in the text for the latest year. Break in series: 2019; data collection 2020 impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic

Statbel (2012), SILC Quality Reports 2011, (consulted on 14/10/2019) and Statbel (2021), direct communication, 21/06/2021.

Definition: the Gini index measure the degree of income inequality and can take a value from 0 to 100. The Gini index equals 0 if everyone has the same income, so with a completely equal distribution. A value of 100 corresponds to a completely unequal distribution, where one person has all the income and the rest has no income. The net equivalent disposable income is used to calculate this indicator. Net disposable income is equal to the sum of gross incomes of all household members minus taxes, social contributions and inter-household transfers (EC, 2016). To obtain the net equivalent disposable income, the net disposable income is divided by an equivalence factor (the so-called modified equivalence scale of the OECD). An adult has a factor of 1, each additional person above 14 years old a factor of 0.5 and each additional person under the age of 14 a factor of 0.3. The net equivalent disposable income allows the standard of living of persons to be compared, taking into account the economies of scale resulting from a joint household and the composition of the family.

The income data used here are based on the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) survey. The income data relate always to the year preceding the survey year. This means, for example, for the survey year 2020 that in the calculation of this indicator the incomes of 2019 were used, which were not affected by the Covid-19 crisis (Statbel, 2021a).

Statbel organises this EU-harmonised survey in Belgium and makes the results available, in particular to Eurostat. 2004 is the first year for which European harmonised data have been collected in order to calculate the indicator. The data used here come from Eurostat, which publishes detailed and comparable results between EU Member States. Since these data are based on a survey, a margin of uncertainty has to be taken into account. This margin of uncertainty increases as the indicator is calculated on smaller sub-populations. The confidence intervals are available on request from Statbel.

From 2019 onwards, the survey methodology has been thoroughly reviewed for better accuracy. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic impacted data collection. This makes it difficult to compare the results of SILC 2020 with those of previous years. (Statbel, 2021). Therefore, they are not used to calculate and evaluate the long-term trend.

Goal: the Gini index must not rise.

The Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs adopted by the UN in 2015 include target 10.4: “Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality”.

The Federal Long-Term Strategic Vision for Sustainable Development mentions: “Since an inclusive society wants to promote the well-being of every individual, it will be essential to combat poverty and social inequalities” (introduction of the challenge "A society promoting social cohesion" Belgian Official Gazette, 08/10/2013).

As income inequality in Belgium is low compared to other EU Member States and has remained stable since 2004, it can be assumed that, in order to contribute to the challenge of the Federal policy vision and the SDG target, the Gini index, as a measure of income inequality, should not increase.

International comparison: the Gini index for the EU27 fluctuates around 30.5 between 2010 and 2019. In 2019 it was 30.2. Belgium systematically scores lower than the EU27 average: the income inequality in Belgium is thus lower. When Member States are divided into three groups, Belgium is part of the group with the best performance in 2019. In that year, Slovakia ranked first with 23.9% and Bulgaria last with 40.8%.

UN indicator: the selected indicator does not correspond to any monitoring indicator for the SDGs but is related to target 10.4. The Gini index reflects the degree of income inequality, which is determined in particular by fiscal, wage and social protection policies.


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