Achille Van Acker

Achille Van Acker
Prime Minister of Belgium
In office
23 April 1954  26 June 1958
Monarch Baudouin
Preceded by Jean Van Houtte
Succeeded by Gaston Eyskens
In office
31 March 1946  3 August 1946
Monarch Charles (Regent)
Preceded by Paul-Henri Spaak
Succeeded by Camille Huysmans
In office
12 February 1945  13 March 1946
Monarch Charles (Regent)
Preceded by Hubert Pierlot
Succeeded by Paul-Henri Spaak
President of the Chamber of Representatives
In office
27 April 1961  30 April 1974
Preceded by Paul Kronacker
Succeeded by André Dequae
Personal details
Born (1898-04-08)8 April 1898
Bruges, Belgium
Died 10 July 1975(1975-07-10) (aged 77)
Bruges, Belgium
Political party Socialist Party

Achille Honoré Van Acker (8 April 1898 – 10 July 1975) was the 33rd Prime Minister of Belgium in four different cabinets from 1945 to 1958, for a total period of seven years. He was a member of the BSP-PSB – the then still national Belgian Socialist Party. He was nicknamed Achille Charbon.


Van Acker was born in Bruges on 8 April 1898 in a family with 12 children. Van Acker only went to school until his 10th year. Van Acker became a member of the city council of Bruges in 1926. The following year the 29-year-old Van Acker was elected to the Belgian Chamber of People's Representatives. During the Second World War, Van Acker organised the Vlaamse Centrale der Illegale Partij. In December 1944, while serving as a government minister, Van Acker implemented Belgium's social security system.[1]

Prime minister

After the Second World War, Van Acker became Prime Minister of Belgium in four different cabinets and served as Minister of Labour and Social Services, Minister of Public Health, Minister of Mobility and Minister of Mining (which led to his nickname). From 1961 until 1974 he served as President of the Chamber of Representatives. He was named Minister of State in 1958. During Van Acker's first premiership, compulsory disability insurance[2] and compulsory health insurance for manual and non-manual workers was introduced in March 1945, and from January 1946 onwards health insurance funds earmarked a special contribution that covered the costs of preventive open-air cures.[3] To improve health and safety in mines, a Decree was introduced in December 1945 provididing for the compulsory use in dusty places of devices “capable of allaying or suppressing coal and stone dust.”[4] A number of laws were also passed from April 1945 onwards that liberalized entitlement to allowances for deportees of foreign nationality.[5]

An Order of October 1945 issued general regulations for the medical control of workers in industrial and commercial undertakings, public services and public utilities. Another Order introduced that same month issued general regulations concerning personal equipment for health protection.[6] Following a 1940 law that enabled homeowners wishing to begin reconstruction of their properties to apply for a “repair loan at a low rate of interest, an Act was passed in December 1945 that enabled them to acquire an interest-free advance on their compensation.[7] That same month, a Supreme Council for Hygiene in Mines was established with the aim of furthering the progress of industrial hygiene.[8] In February 1946, the formation of safety and hygiene committees was made compulsory.[9] In September 1945, workers’ compensation was extended to household maids, and for accidents to and from work in December 1945.[10] A Legislative Order of January 1946 regulating annual holidays covered all persons “bound by contracts for the hiring of services or by contracts of apprenticeship,” and laid down the essential principles for the grant of paid holidays, “leaving scope for their adaptation to the special needs of the various branches of industrial activity.”[11]

The first three cabinets led by Van Acker were short-lived because of the crisis pertaining to Leopold III which held Belgium in its grip from 1944–1951.

Initiatives were taken by Van Acker's fourth cabinet to expand social spending on pensions, housing, employment, and education. Steps were also taken to reduce the workweek and to reduce the term of compulsory military service from 21 to 18 months.[12] A 45-hour workweek was introduced in 1955, and in 1956 a law was passed that doubled holiday leave entitlement from 6 to 12 days.[13] Earnings-related pension schemes were introduced for manual workers (1955), seamen (1956), and white-collar workers (1957).[14] Allowances were introduced in 1955[15] to cover demolition and rehousing while pension contributions were made obligatory in 1956.[16] An Act of June 1954 increased the minimum pension and introduced index-lining of for pension benefits, while an Act of July 1957 introduced a wage-related pension formula for white-collar workers.[17] Under the 1955 Collard Act, municipalities could only admit private schools “after they had created public-sector ones and only where there a need for them was felt.”[18] New schools were also built, while in the 1956 budget, provision was made (for the first time) the purchase by the State of school supplies for “the benefit of pupils in primary and nursery-infant sections attached to State secondary education establishments."[19] In addition, a law of March 1958 made public authorities responsible for the cost of transporting (where necessary) abnormal and similarly handicapped children to special schools.[20]

Altogether, the various social reforms realised under Van Acker's fourth cabinet led him to be known as the father of Belgian social security.



  3. SAFETY IN COAL MINES VOLUME I: Organisation on the National and International Levels, International Labour Office, Geneva, 1953
  11. Democratic Socialism: A Global Survey Donald F. Busky
  13. Growth to Limits. The Western European Welfare States Since World War II by Peter Flora
  14. Growth to Limits. The Western European Welfare States Since World War II by Peter Flora
  16. Growth to Limits: The Western European Welfare States Since World War II, Volume 4 edited by Peter Flora
Political offices
Preceded by
Hubert Pierlot
Prime Minister of Belgium
Succeeded by
Paul-Henri Spaak
Preceded by
Paul-Henri Spaak
Prime Minister of Belgium
Succeeded by
Camille Huysmans
Preceded by
Jean Van Houtte
Prime Minister of Belgium
Succeeded by
Gaston Eyskens
Preceded by
Paul Kronacker
President of the Chamber of Representatives
Succeeded by
André Dequae
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