Who benefits from the service vouchers (dienstcheques, titres-services)

PHBs, stay away. This is as complicated as the Type C work permit gamble, Type B vs. immigration legal loophole or the intrinsics of the payslip calculation.

Here is the idea of service vouchers in a 100 words. A few years ago, you could find someone to clean your house or iron your shirts by a word-of-mouth. After the job was done, you paid them in cash 8 € per hour and you were done. Nowadays, you first buy service vouchers from a multinational, state-assigned monopoly at the price of 6.70 €. You then call a service provider which is a company licensed by the state to accept service vouchers for house holding services. They make you sign a contract and they send their employee to you. Every visit, you give the cleaner as many service vouchers as the hours worked. The cleaner returns the service vouchers to his employer and the employer claims from the state 20 € per voucher. You, as a customer are not done yet as well, you can subtract the amount you paid for service vouchers in your personal yearly tax form, which decreases the real price of service vouchers down to 4,69 €.

At first sight, there's a clear gain from the customer's point of view. The service gets cheaper. However, the customer loses time in paperwork and is somewhat bound by the contract from now on. There's also an intuitive expectation of decreased service quality, as the service becomes less personal.

On the other hand, the state clearly loses 13,30 € per working hour, and some more money in personal taxes, which makes the service vouchers program look slightly unrealistic. Where's the catch?

Officially, the idea of service vouchers was defended on the following grounds:

  • Black market workers that had no right to health insurance and social services become permanent employees of service companies. This will let them benefit from all social support a worker gets, including the right to receive unemployment money in case they are fired.
  • Customers now deal with companies instead of individuals, which makes the dispute resolution easier, and the service - more reliable.
  • As for the fact that the state artificially supports an unrealistic business model by paying 13,00 € per working hour to private companies, the explanation was that all this money returns to the state in the form of various taxes that the employer and the worker are subject to.

Unofficial but more realistic reasons are less pleasant to hear.

  • Service vouchers plan is an instrument that was going to allow Guy Verhofstadt and his government to attain the goal of 200,000 increase in work places that they set back in 2003. The idea is simple. Make illegal workers work legally and count them as new work places.
  • The state takes control over what was a black market by dumping prices. This allows it to squeeze off tens if not hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants that did this job for a living. Combined with other measures, this enables the state to better control everyone who lives on its territory.
  • Service vouchers plan lets the government bind extra money it had without having to spend it on a more adventurous task like a state reform.
  • The creation of a new business model subject to licensing would also benefit many politicians and their pet businesses could use their privileged position to milk the state cash cow at will, by jumping early into the artificially created business niche.