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Measuring the impact of social clauses in public works contracts in Wallonia


Wallonia is a French-speaking region with legislative and executive powers within the Belgian federal state, with a population of 3.658 million (01/01/2022). Since 1996 the region has had a long history in the use of social clauses in public works contracts and is one of the first regions in Europe that developed a system to monitor their use.

In 2012, the Network of Social Clause Facilitators in construction works contracts was set up (hereinafter, the Network). It is composed of representatives from:

  • The Walloon Public Service General Secretariat - Directorate of Public Procurement - Mobility and Infrastructure, which supervises the Walloon Public Services and the regional public interest organisations.
  • The Walloon Public Service Interior and Social Action, Directorate of Heritage and Public Procurement, which supervises the local and provincial authorities.
  • The Walloon Social Housing Society which supervises the 64 social housing companies that manage 103,000 social housing units on behalf of Wallonia.
  • The Walloon Union of Cities and Municipalities.
  • The Walloon Union of Architects.
  • M-Build, the Federation of Walloon Construction Companies.
  • SAW-B, the Federation of Social Economy Enterprises, which advises social enterprises in the construction sector.  

Furthermore, the Walloon Government imposed, within the framework of the ‘first Alliance Employment-Environment’, the obligation to integrate social clauses in construction works contracts with a value above €1.5 million. A circular dated 21 July 2016 lowered this ceiling to €1 million, below which any contracting authority remains free to voluntarily insert social clauses in its works contracts.

5 hands
Photo by Clay Banks


In September 2017, a new Walloon circular required the insertion of social clauses in public works contracts for roads and equipment of sewerage, electricity, etc. of industrial areas  with a value of €750,000 or more.

Procurement objectives

The social clauses foreseen for works contracts aim at achieving different social objectives:

  • Promoting the socio-professional integration of job seekers, apprentices or persons with disabilities.
  • Fostering the contracting authority’s social responsibility, by contributing to the fight against unemployment, the socio-professional integration of young people, disadvantaged/fragile groups.
  • Allowing construction companies to find an answer to the recruitment difficulties they sometimes face.
  • Reinforcing traditional companies’ social responsibility, through the collaboration with social economy enterprises and/or by training job seekers or apprentices on the job.

Wallonia region defined two types of social clauses to be included in contract performance conditions:

  • The training clause: obligation for the contractor to train job seekers or apprentices during the execution of the contract, for a number of hours defined in the tender documents.
  • The flexible clause: obligation for the contractor either to train job seekers or apprentices for a number of hours or to subcontract to a work integration social enterprise (WISE) a percentage of the contract value awarded.

An innovative feature introduced in Wallonia to counteract the injection of the cost of training into the price offer, and consequently an effect on competition, is the integration of a reimbursement item entitled ‘social clause training service’. At the end of the contract, the contracting authority calculates an amount to be reimbursed to the contractor based on the hours of training carried out and according to a pre-established hourly cost indicated in the specifications.

The Walloon Government's ambition in its Recovery and Resilience Plan is to extend the insertion of social clauses in a systemic strategy to service contracts, in the coming years.


At the core of the process for the collection of data to monitor the impact of the use of social clauses in construction works contracts are the social clause facilitators representing the public and the private sectors, as well as the social economy, who work in network. They collect the information related to the contracts they monitor and transfer it to the Network coordinator. Data are integrated in a template, contract by contract (see below).



Contracting authority

Subject of the contract

Name of contractor

Contract value awarded

Type of social clause

Volume of social clause

Sub-contracting to a WISE


Monitoring and follow-up
























The data collection process works in the following way. The facilitator of the Walloon Union of Cities and Municipalities reports on a works contract being prepared by a contracting authority. When the tender documents are finalized, a file is opened for this contract. A few weeks or months later the facilitator of the Walloon Construction Works Federation is informed of the successful tenderer and fills in the contractor's column. A few weeks later, the social economy facilitator learns that social economy enterprise X is a subcontractor in the contract in question for a specified amount and fills in the WISE subcontractor’s column.

The Network of Social Clause Facilitators meets once a month. It is led by a staff member delegated by the Sustainable Development Directorate within the Walloon Public Service. Every quarter, the Network consults on technical matters with representatives from Forem (Employment Agency), the Walloon Institute for Work-linked Training, the Self-employed and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (IFAPME), and the Centres for Work-linked Education and Training (CEFA). For each contract, the monitoring file is regularly updated and, when needed, corrected, during the monthly meetings, and it is closed at the end of the contract.

Furthermore, the Network reports once a year to a Steering Committee in which representatives of the regional Ministries responsible for public procurement and employment participate. The Steering Committee takes both political and technical decisions on the multiple adjustments presented by the Network in order to improve the implementation of social clauses and presents an annual implementation report. The monitoring system is in the process of being digitalized.


As illustrated in table 1, since 2015 in Wallonia there has been a constant increase in the number and value of work contracts that include a social clause.

Table 1

Social clauses indicators







Number of contracts awarded which include a social clause







Value of contracts awarded which include a social clause


312.170.547,27 €

398.660.418,44 €

551.421.448,54 €

602.412.164,20 €

740.482.472,00 €

Number of interns/apprentices trained in the execution of work contracts







Number of contracts concluded with WISEs







Source: Wallonie Service Public (Décembre 2021),  Clauses sociales dans les marchés publics de travaux. Rapport de mise en œuvre données au 31/12/2021, p. 3


In 2021, 988 public procurement procedures for works included a social clause, out of which 491 were awarded, while the remaining are still being evaluated or have been awarded, but the collection of data is in process and not available yet. Of the 329 contracts finalised, 76% of the social clauses were fully implemented, 9% were not executed, and 15% were partially executed. Often the lack of execution of a social clause is due to difficult circumstances, such as when the contractor goes bankrupted and another contractor takes over the contract but finds it difficult to execute the social clause. These figures have remained stable since 2018. The choice of contracting authorities continues to evolve towards the flexible social clause, which has the highest degree of flexibility and execution potential (75%), while the training clause is less used (20%). Contract/lot reservation remains marginal (2%), plus a remaining 3% (which refers to ‘other’).

The biggest number of trainees/apprentices hosted on public sites follow the training courses of heating and sanitary fitters (16%), electricians (15%), bricklayers (16%), roofers (10%), and carpenters (12%). More details are provided in table 2.

Table 2



Stone cutter


Manufacturing worker


Construction labourer


Green space worker


Hydraulic shovel operator


Construction draughtsman


Manager of very small companies


Administrative clerk


Technical maintenance worker


Maintenance worker


Heavy construction worker


Facade builder


Small Business Manager






Site technician


Building restoration worker




Multi-skilled building/road worker




Road installer/seeing worker


Assistant driver/site manager




Roofer, Carpenter, Waterproofing


Carpenter, window dresser


Electrician, electrical technician


Heating and sanitary







Social impacts

In Wallonia, in recent years, the unemployment rate has decreased. In the construction sector, there are shortages of some specialized professional profiles. The traditional training courses in the sector are operational, but often lack participants. Many jobs in the construction sector are not attractive because working conditions are hard and construction workers are more exposed to workplace accidents and occupational diseases than workforce in other sectors.

The process developed for the inclusion of social clauses in public works contracts has brought the following benefits:

  • Tackling shortages in the construction sector: the use of social clauses in the performance of works contracts allows recruiting trainees and workforce from a disadvantaged background. According to Forem (Employment Agency) figures for 2021, 97% of the trainees involved in the execution of such works’ contracts have been trained in workstations where there is staff shortage or critical availability.
  • Consolidating collaborations between traditional companies and social economy enterprises, both in the framework of public contracts and in bilateral relations: the number of contracts concluded with WISEs increased from 20 in 2016 to 147 in 2021.

Distribution by gender of beneficiaries of social clauses in public works contracts confirms that construction is a heavily male dominated sector. In 2021, 91% of trainees were men, while 2% were women and the remaining 7% is unknown.

Lessons learned

The following success factors can be identified:

  • From the start, Wallonia has set up a dynamic partnership between the various public and private stakeholders and has been committed to it. All the administrations that are responsible for public works contracts are represented in the Network.
  • The region has decided to run the Network itself and not to outsource it.
  • The use of social clauses has become simpler and more accepted by public purchasers, traditional companies and social economy enterprises, thanks to the facilitation work.
  • The private sector participates in the Network and brings up the questions, difficulties and complaints of the professional sectors involved, which have been systematically listened to and analysed.


  1. Design a policy strategy and a standardised legal framework for the use of social clauses in public procurement.
  2. Set up a network of social clause facilitators in charge of developing the integration of social clauses in public contracts.
  3. Make the network operate within a broad partnership involving operators from the public sector (public purchasers) and the private sector (traditional companies and social enterprises). 
  4. Ensure representatives from strategic stakeholders participate in the network, such as  public sector departments and experts representing private stakeholders in the field of public procurement, training and technology (e.g. construction federation, social economy enterprises, and architects).
  5. Ensure that the network operates as the sounding board for all questions and remarks, in which difficulties are shared and suggestions are provided, to ensure continuous improvement of the model.
  6. As people who are far from employment require specific support for successful social and professional inclusion, facilitators recommend focusing first of all on increasing their motivation and social skills, and then on technical skills.


More information

Contact person: Louise Dessart, Lawyer at the Sustainable Development Department of the General Secretariat of the Public Service of Wallonia, and coordinator of the Social Clause Facilitators Network.

Email address: