The Belgian economy is one of the most advanced in Europe. Its strategic location and its well-developed network of sea, river and land connections allow for a lively trade exchange with neighboring countries. Trade was and still is a strong vocation of the country. Just think of the port of Antwerp, which is the second largest port in Europe after Rotterdam. Working in Belgium can be more or less easy, depending on the chosen region.
Working in Belgium: regional differences
Despite an overall good economic system, there are significant regional differences.
- Wallonia, a mining region that drove the Belgian economy until the 1970s, now has a lower growth rate than other regions of the country and a high unemployment rate
- In the Brussels region, the tertiary sector is the most important sector. It is home to the European Parliament, banks, insurance and financial companies, international organizations and universities
- Flandres is currently the most economically developed region in the country
Belgium’s GDP is on par with Austria and Canada and ranks 20th in the world. The unemployment rate is 6.5%, but with significant differences between the three regions.
Although most of the population speaks English, to work in Belgium it is advisable to know the language of the region to which you want to move: basically French or Flemish. The job market is highly competitive and language skills are in high demand. Multilingual foreign workers have a better chance of finding a job. Most foreigners choose to move to Brussels both because of the opportunities it offers and the fact that English is widely spoken here.
Working in Belgium
To work in Belgium, EU citizens do not need a work visa, while non-EU citizens need a work visa and permit.
Depending on the length of your stay and your professional status, you can apply for: Single Permit, Blue Card or work permit type B
The regions issue this work permit and all information can be found on their websites
If you want to start a self-employed activity, you can apply for the professional card, all information here:
Flanders currently offers the best chances of finding work, although knowledge of the Flemish language is often essential. In many cases, however, it is possible to find a job with English-only skills. It depends on your qualifications and what you are willing to do. Truth be told, the requirements are getting higher lately, and many require knowledge of at least one language between French and Flemish. But if you do not give up and try different agencies, you are bound to find work.
ONEM is the national employment office that provides job search assistance and help with employment issues. There are offices in many cities in Belgium that can help you find a job.
For those interested in working in ho.re.ca (hospitality industry), I would like to point out Jobkitchen,with offers from all over the country. It is possible to find work, in some cases, even if you only know English.
Those who do not know the language can contact one of the many cleaning companies in the country they hire with a regular employment contract.
In the hospitality and cleaning industries, it is often possible to find work even if you only know English. If you take advantage of the free courses offered by the municipality and, above all, work among people, you will quickly learn the language (French or Dutch) and can then look for a job that suits you.
You can find out about the recognition / equivalence of qualifications on the Enic-Naric website:
To those who want to start their own business, I would like to say that the country ranks 45th in the world ranking for ease of doing business. In addition, I would like to point out the following Business Belgium website, you can find all the information for starting a business in Belgium.
Most in demand jobs in Belgium
The sectors with the greatest demand for labour in Belgium are currently the following:
- Engineering: Civil, electrical, etc.
- Construction: Architects, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, masons, etc.
- Healthcare: Nurses, Doctors, etc.
- IT: big data engineer, DevOps engineer, information systems security manager, etc
- Finance: Analysts, accountants, etc.
- Commerce: marketing, sales reps, etc.
Here are the links to the labour shortage in the different regions of Belgium:
Looking for job in Belgium
To find work in Belgium, you can use:
1 Linkedin, in addition to searching for jobs, it is advisable to build a network of contacts.
2 Eures, website of European mobility
3 BakeaGo, job postings in various foreign countries.
4 Search for companies, you can search for companies and apply online. Attach your resume and cover letter.
- Europages, you can search for companies by sector
- Kompass, you can search by sector or check if a company is in the country
- Yellow Pages, contact information of companies in Belgium, divided by categories
5 Public employment offices, there are four employment offices (one for each region). If you want to work in Belgium, you must first register here. They will help you prepare your resume, assist you in applying for jobs, suggest jobs that best match your skills, and advise you where to apply if you do not speak the language. They also offer career guidance services, courses for reintegration into working life and free language courses
- VDAB, Employment office of Flanders
- Actiris, Employment office of the Brussels Region
- Le Forem, Employment Office of Wallonia
- ADG, employment office for German Region
6 Job Search websites
- Alterjob, job vacancies mainly for Brussels and Wallonia
- Brusselsjobs, job offers for expats, especially in Brussel
- Jobat, one of the most used websites
- Jobsinbrussels, job offers in Brussels
- Streek Personee, job vacancies in Flanders
- Lesoir, work section, of the famous newspaper
- Vacature, job vacancies in Flanders
- Le Soir, job vacancies of the renowned newspaper
7 Employment agenzie
- Adecco, international employment agency
- Randstad, another international employment agency
- Startpeople, recruitment agency with many offers
- Tempo-team, agency with several officies
- Unique, international agency
- Jpgray, recruitment agency specialized in financial sector
- Walterspeople, recruitment agency specialized, mainly ,in financial and banking sector
- Robert Half, recruitment agency quite popular
- Search & Selection, online recruiting agency
- Cross International, agency with offices in Belgium and Poland
- USG, job offers in legal and scientific sectors
- Excel, agency based in Brussels
- Hudson, agency operating in Flanders and Brussels
- Service-a, job offers for architects and designers
- Aviato, job offers for Brussels airport
- Manpower, international agency
Working in Belgium, conclusion
In summary, the following steps should be followed when seeking employment in Belgium:
- Once you have found an apartment, the municipality will issue a registration number that is valid for three months. This number is needed to sign an employment contract
- Register in Le Forums – VDAB – Actiris (public employment offices)
- Look for a job by sending your CV by e-mail or by submitting your CV directly to restaurants or companies
- Register for the free language courses for foreigners offered by Le Foren – VDAB – Actiris
Job opportunities and wages in Belgium are good, and your professionalism and skills are recognized. My personal advice, if you have no local support and therefore can choose any Belgian city, is to avoid Brussels, because it is an expensive and chaotic city.
I would also avoid Wallonia where job opportunities are fewer and focus on Flanders without going to the big cities where there are jobs for heaven’s sake. But I would choose some cities in West or East Flanders. There, life is more relaxed, less chaotic, safer, and there is no shortage of work, in any field.
Remember that also in Belgium, as in most countries in the world, it is easier to find low-skill jobs if you are already in Belgium and have a Belgian registration number.
Of course, this is not a wonderland, but with will, sacrifice and even without knowing Flemish (Dutch), but knowing English, you can try to build a new life.
Belgium has a national minimum wage, which is €1,658 per month in 2022. You cannot earn less than this amount.
Finally, to all those who are wondering: is there work in Belgium? The answer is yes, there is work in Belgium, but it is not sure if you will find it the next day, sometimes you have to wait a bit. It depends on the region you are in. It depends on the kind of specialisation you have. It depends on how well you know French or Flemish. Almost all jobs require knowledge of one of the two languages or a good command of English.
If you are a professional with good skills, you will certainly have more chances, but even in this case it is not certain that you will find a job immediately if you do not know the language of the region.
It will take time and patience. You must have the humility to start as a waiter or cleaner, learn French or Flemish and then you will be able to do your job and when you have found your way, Belgium will offer you:
- good salaries
- paid holiday
- union protection
- health insurance
- respect in the workplace