Social Security is a competence of the Federal State (see 1.2.2). At the beginning of the new millennium, older social security measures aimed at artists were reformed. This resulted in legislation (see chapter 11 of the “Programmawet” of 24 December 2002) that enabled artists that receive unemployment benefits to practise their art more freely. Some specific regulations to this legal framework were added in later years (especially 2014).
This framework (also referred to as ‘social status of the artist’ or “sociaal statuut van de kunstenaar”) consists of a number of exceptions and adjustments to general regulations on social security that take into account the reality of an artist’s career. It includes the following provisions:
- Artists are treated either as employees or as self-employed from the perspective of social security. To stimulate salaried work for artists — which entitles them to a better social protection than is the case with working self-employed — employers are given a discount on their share of social security contributions to compensate for these additional costs. If artists cannot sign an employment contract with a client, they can still work as an employee if they possess an ‘artist visa’ (“kunstenaarsvisum”).
- Because working in short contracts for different employers would cause a lot of delay in the administration, payment of child and holiday allowances for artists (which are covered by the regulations for employees), have been simplified
- Clients who hire artists on an infrequent basis (e.g. for an occasional show in a bar or for a single commission) can call on the so-called ‘social bureaus for artists’ (“sociale bureaus voor kunstenaars” or SBKs) to take care of the employer’s share of administrative procedures. These SBKs are specialist interim offices that are officially recognised by the Regional authorities.
- There is also a ‘small expense compensation system’ (“kleine vergoedingsregeling” or KVR), in which, under certain conditions, artists can receive a fixed expense reimbursement that is exempt from social security contributions. As of 2007, this reimbursement is also tax free.
This system of measures has been the subject of recurrent criticism in the wake of debates on the socio-economic position of artists (see 2.3; the administrative complexity being one of the issues) or on alleged abuse. The repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis reinvigorated the debate, also among politicians. The current Federal government mentioned a possible reform of the system in its coalition agreement.
 There are only three social statuses in Belgium: employee, self-employed, and civil servant. The ‘social status of the artist’ is therefore not a separate social security status.
 See, for example: Vanheusden, Els. 2016. ‘Het sociaal statuut van de kunstenaar: van algemeen vangnet naar een visum voor “the happy few”?’ Auteurs & Media, nr. 2: 200–212; or the articles cultural magazine Rekto:Verso published on the topic in 2014.