Work in Belgium: How to find jobs in Belgium

jobs in belgiumFind work in Belgium with this complete guide to jobs in Belgium, including Belgian job websites, recruitment agencies, Belgian jobs in demand, the Belgian job market and permits required to work in Belgium. Many foreigners easily find work in Belgium and the chances of finding jobs in Belgium‘s main cities, particularly jobs in Brussels, are increased by the extensive international business scene and European Union (EU) presence.

With many EU institutions, NATO and lots of other major international organizations and multi-national companies based in Brussels, there are a great many jobs in Belgium for foreigners. However, in a country with three official languages and many more used in its cosmopolitan capital of Brussels, you’ll give yourself the best chance of finding a job in Belgium if you have good language skills; you’ll be competing with locals who are typically bilingual or multilingual, including a decent level of English proficiency, meaning there can be more competition for jobs in Belgium for English speakers. This guide, however, aims to help foreigners find work in Belgium by listing where to find the best jobs in Belgium.

Jobs in Belgium – jobs Belgium

This guide to jobs in Belgium includes:

Work in Belgium

The Belgian job market

In the second half of 2016, Belgium’s unemployment rate stood at 7.6 percent, slightly lower than the EU average of 8.3 percent. However, youth unemployment (those under 25) was higher than 20 percent; in previous years, the largest increase in unemployment has been among those with higher education level qualifications.

Most Belgians work in the service sector – legal, banking, media and tourism – with around a quarter working in industry including textiles, glass, engineering, car assembly and chemicals. The Belgian government maintains a list of key sectors in Belgium.

There are numerous large companies located in Belgium, including Banque Nationale de BelgiqueProximus (telecoms, previously Belgacom), Ageas (insurance), Anheuser-Busch InBev (brewing), Bakaert (manufacturing, chemicals), Colruyt (food retail), Delhaize (food retail), D’Ieteren(automotive), Elia (energy), KBC (banking/insurance), Solvay (chemicals), UBC (pharmaceutical) and Umicore (materials technology).

Belgium has one of the highest minimum wages in Europe – in 2017, Belgium’s minimum wage started at around EUR 1,532 (for 18+ years olds) to EUR 1,591 (20+ years, with at least one year of experience). Belgium, however, also has one of the highest tax rates in Europe, ranging on a sliding scale between 25 percent up to 50 percent depending on how much you earn. Read more in our guides to Belgian minimum wage and average salary in Belgiumtaxes in Belgium and Belgian social security.

Job vacancies in Belgium

Most available jobs in Brussels are for highly skilled workers within the services sectors, such as finance, international institutions and businesses, estate agencies, education, and public health and social services. Despite Belgium’s unemployment rate, the country reports an ongoing issue with skill shortages, particularly in IT and engineering.

Some shortage jobs include:

  • engineers
  • project managers
  • technicians
  • architects
  • accountants
  • nurses and midwives
  • IT staff like computer system designers and analysts
  • technical and commercial sales representatives
  • teachers
  • admin staff
  • mechanics
  • building trades, including electricians, plumbers, joiners and plasterers.

There are also more flexible procedures for shortages occupations; you can see lists of shortage occupations on the regional work websites – Forem in Wallonia, Actiris in Brussels, VDAB in Flanders – plus other government websites such as werk-economie-emploi.brussels and metiers.siep.be. Unemployed workers may also qualify for study programmes (in French) in a shortage occupation.

The EU and NATO also employ a large number of foreign workers.

Belgian management culture and labor law

The duality between the French- and Dutch-speaking regions is reflected in the Belgian workplace, which has traditionally followed the French hierarchical style where top managers make all the decisions. This, however, has been increasingly moving towards the more egalitarian Dutch approach of flatter and more open organizations, with more information flow and delegation. So while companies may still be fairly hierarchical, management authority rests more on competence and the aim is usually to reach a consensus or compromise – which can often be a protracted process. Belgians appreciate logic and reasoning and expect arguments to be backed up by clear facts and figures. They also value personal contact so not all business takes place by email or over the phone.

You may be offered a temporary contract at first as a trial period. You’ll most likely be working a 38-hour week with eight-hour days, around 20 days a year holidays plus 10 Belgian national holidays. Employers divide yearly salaries into 13.92 months in order to provide extra income at different times of the year, giving an extra 92 percent in spring as ‘holiday pay’ and an extra month at the end of the year. You can read more in our guide to Belgian business culture and employment contracts in Belgium.

Belgian work visas

All EU/EEA (European Economic Area – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) and Swiss nationals can work freely in Belgium without the need for a work permit, although if you’re planning to stay longer than three months you’ll need a registration certificate. Read more in the guide for EU citizens moving to Belgium.

Citizens from elsewhere will generally need a work permit, and certain nationalities will also need a visa to enter the country, although exemptions apply. Read more in Expatica’s guide to Belgian work permits, or find out if you need an entry visa or any other permit in our guide to Belgian visas and permits.

Languages required for jobs in Belgium

There are three official languages in Belgium: Dutch is spoken in the Flemish community in the Flanders region to the north of Belgium; French is spoken in Wallonia to the south of Brussels, and German is spoken in the southeast. Between 10–20 percent of the country, especially those in the Brussels-Capital region, are bilingual and speak both French and Dutch. You would most likely be expected to speak the language of the particular region in which you’d be working. In some cases, mainly in international companies, English may be sufficient. You can find many language schools in Belgium if you need to improve your language skills.

Qualifications

If you come from a country signed up to the Bologna Process you will have your educational qualifications recognized in Belgium. Everyone else should contact NARIC (Flanders) or the Education section of the Ministère de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (Wallonia) to get foreign educational certificates of all levels recognized in Belgium. If you want to work in certain professions, you may have to have your professional qualifications, both your training and experience officially recognized or regulated before you can work in Belgium. Check here to find out if you need to have your profession regulated and how to go about it. Learning experts Springest, can also help you decide on suitable courses to follow to help you find your dream job.

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