In Flanders, the number of young individuals holding down a second job has reached unprecedented levels, marking a significant shift in the labor landscape.

According to De Tijd's report on Friday, the percentage of individuals aged between 14 and 25 who engage in employment during the school year has surged from 18 to 36 percent between 2006 and 2023.

Among Flemish students, the trend of balancing work alongside studies is particularly pronounced, with over three-quarters of them actively pursuing employment. Notably, approximately half of these students maintain jobs throughout the academic year, shedding light on their growing involvement in the workforce, as indicated by data from the Youth Research Platform.

Analysis of young workers' backgrounds reveals certain trends. Those from families with lower levels of educational attainment are more inclined to take up part-time employment outside of school holidays. Conversely, individuals from migrant backgrounds are less likely to participate in such roles.

Financial considerations also exert a significant influence on young people's employment decisions. Those facing financial challenges are more likely to seek employment, contrasting with their peers who experience fewer financial constraints. Additionally, it's observed that students from families with medium to high levels of skill, and thus, typically higher incomes, are more inclined to limit their work to holiday periods.

The impact of secondary employment on academic performance remains a topic of debate. While a study from UGent suggests that working students tend to take longer to complete their studies, a separate 2020 study by Vrije Universiteit Brussel found no conclusive link between holding a second job and poorer academic outcomes. However, both studies concur on one point: working extensive hours per week can have a detrimental effect on academic performance.

The allure of student employment in Belgium is further accentuated by its tax-free status. Since 2023, young workers have been able to clock up to 600 hours annually without facing taxation on their earnings. This tax exemption trend is mirrored in the rise of 'flexi-jobs,' offering individuals with at least 80 percent employment the opportunity to engage in part-time work without taxation on their additional income. Photo by Phil Whitehouse, Wikimedia commons.