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GOPIO/1/2003                                                                                                                    31 March 2003



His Excellency Mr. P. K. Singh

Ambassador of India


Your Excellency,

Re: Belgian Federal Pension System and Social Security Treaty for Indians

The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) Belgium wishes to draw the attention of the Government of India to the provisions of the Pension Fund of the Belgian Government which is discriminatory in nature, flawed in application and irrational in ethics.

Under the provisions of the compulsory federal pension system in Belgium, people from India who work in Belgium or have worked in Belgium canít have access to their Pension if they retire outside Belgium unless India has Bilateral Social Security Treaty with the Belgian Government. The following countries: Algeria, Canada, Chile, Israel, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Yugoslavia, the democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Poland, San Marino, Tunisia, Turkey, the US and Switzerland have bilateral treaty with Belgium. Lately, Australia signed a Social Security Treaty last year, which is due to come into affect on 1 July 2005.

In this connection I would like to point out that when a person from India comes to work in Belgium and even if the person has worked for two years and left the job, the personís social security fund is not returned and according to the Belgian law, the person would be eligible to get his/her social security benefits only when he/she has attained the age of 65. The nature of the temporary movement of professionals including changes in their own resident status in their working lives, make it difficult for them to keep pursuing their own paid contribution towards the Social Security and Pension refund with the result that millions of Euros have been left unpaid to the persons; and in most cases it is lost. The Indian Government does not have a reciprocal arrangement with the Belgian Government.

Most of the salaried Indians in Belgium when they retire or take pre retirement or leave the job, their pension is calculated at 60 per cent and 70 per cent (for single and for family breadwinner and for self employed it is 60 and 75 per cent respectively) of the accumulated wages they have earned over their entire working life. With the guidelines they would not be able to draw any pension outside Belgium which means that they have to live in Belgium to be able to draw the benefit. It must be noted here that those Indians who have not opted Belgium citizenship have to leave the country immediately after they retire or leave the job. Overstaying is punishable by law. This is a very peculiar situation without any justification whatsoever. Furthermore, employees of Belgian companies can not opt out of paying social security contributions irrespective of the fact that they are aware that they would not be able to access their pensions when they leave the country.

This absence of bilateral agreement deprives hundreds of Indians, both salaried and self-employed of their rights; those who have worked here, those who are working and those who will come to work, of the benefit of the Pension which they look upon as the source of their economic survival after their retirement. I would like to mention here that in coming years the Social Security System and the Pension Fund in Belgium is likely to face a financial crisis and there would be resistance against any more bilateral Social Security Treaty with other countries. It is therefore necessary that the Government of India takes up the matter with the Belgian Government at the earliest and has the bilateral Social Security Treaty signed.

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,

Sunil Prasad