Belgium

  1. About BelgiumBelgium
  2. Working conditions
  3. Sectors and companies that are recruiting
  4. Applying for a job
  5. Major recruitment pointers
  6. Recruitment Resources and networks

1. About Belgium

This modern, open, and private-enterprise-based economy has capitalized on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. Industry is concentrated mainly in the more heavily-populated region of Flanders in the north. With few natural resources, Belgium imports substantial quantities of raw materials and exports a large volume of manufactures, making its economy vulnerable to volatility in world markets, yet also able to benefit from them. Roughly three-quarters of Belgium’s trade is with other EU countries, and Belgium has benefited most from its proximity to Germany. In 2010 Belgian GDP grew by 2.1%, the unemployment rate rose slightly, and the government reduced the budget deficit, which had worsened in 2008 and 2009 because of large-scale bail-outs in the financial sector. Belgium’s budget deficit decreased from 6% of GDP to 4.1% in 2010, while public debt was just under 100% of GDP. Belgian banks were severely affected by the international financial crisis with three major banks receiving capital injections from the government.

An ageing population and rising social expenditures are mid- to long-term challenges to public finances.

Population: 10.4 million

GDP per inhabitant (2010): USD 37.800,-

Unemployment rate (09/10): 8.3%

2. Working conditions

Belgium’s workforce is highly skilled, educated, and productive. Belgian workers are the most productive in the EU. The workforce is well paid and has both generous employer and government benefits. However, there are wide regional differences in wages, unemployment, and quality of life. Generally, conditions are better in Flanders and the German-speaking areas than in the French-speaking areas. The nation’s educational system is designed to prepare workers for entry into the workforce. From the age of 15 onward, children may work part-time while they attend school. In addition, industrial apprenticeship programs are available for students between the ages of 16 and 18. There is also vocational training available for both students and adults. The national government and regional governments offer a variety of incentives for retraining workers. These initiatives are designed to reduce the national social security burden.

There are laws against forced labor. The minimum age for a person to begin working is 15. Since education is mandatory until age 18, students may only work part-time during the school year. Youths may work full-time during school vacation periods. Both the national and regional governments aggressively enforce child labor laws. In 1999, the government revised its legislation on equal opportunity in the workplace. The new laws outlawed sexual harassment, and continued the ban on gender discrimination in hiring, working conditions, wages, and termination. Equal treatment of men and women is guaranteed by the constitution. In 1999, legislation was passed requiring that women make up one-third of all candidates running for office. Economic inequities between men and women continue. For instance, the female unemployment rate was 10.9 percent in 1998, while the male unemployment rate was 6.7 percent. In addition, women only earn 84 percent of the salary that men earn in the same professions.

The constitution guarantees the right of workers to organize and to collective bargaining. Union membership is high and 63 percent of workers belong to unions. In addition, 90 percent of workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements. National laws limit wage increases to 5.9 percent per year. Special labor courts oversee disputes between workers and businesses. Although Belgian unions often have links to political parties, they are independent of the government. While there have been several significant strikes in the past decade, including those by teachers, railway workers and air traffic controllers, these disputes were settled peacefully.

National law sets a 40-hour workweek and mandates overtime pay for work beyond 40 hours per week and for more than 8 hours a day. In addition, each workweek must include a 24-hour rest period. However, many agreements between unions and companies have separate agreements that lower the workweek to either 35 or 38 hours per week. The minimum wage for workers over the age of 21 is $1,228 per month. Workers under the age of 21 are paid on a graduated scale. Workers who are 18 years old must be paid 82 percent of the minimum wage, 19 year olds must be paid 88 percent, and 20 year olds must be paid 94 percent. There are strong safety laws and many of these regulations are supplemented by collective bargaining agreements. Although companies with more than 50 employees must have health and safety committees made up of both management and workers, the Ministry of Labor oversees workplace laws.
Read more: Information about working conditions in Belgium from nationsencyclopedia.com

Legal working hours: 37.5 hrs / week

Length of trial / notice period: 6 months to 1 year/ 3 months or negotiable.

Employment formalities: Work permits are no longer required for European Union nationals. As a member of the EU, this country subscribes to the free movement of citizens within the Union. Non-EU nationals must have a work permit, usually applied for by their potential employer. The employer applies the work permit application, and before a permit is granted, the employer must prove that no Belgian or European Union citizen is able to do the job.

3. Sectors that are recruiting

The crisis had hidden it a little, but Belgium, like most European countries actually, must face up to a chronic shortage of IT workers. According to a survey on the job market, conducted by the technical industry trade federation, there are 7,960 ICT positions that need to be filled in the country. Four of the most sought after career profiles are: ICT business analysts and consultants (2,080 vacancies), ICT sales and marketing representatives (1,350 vacancies), infrastructure analysts and architects (1,340 vacancies) and web designers or web developers (810 vacancies).

Despite modest growth of approximately 2%, the same applies to the supermarket sectors. Those companies active in this sector are looking for technical sales profiles, shop managers, sales managers and specialists in marketing and also transport and logistics.

Finally, in the insurance sector, the “Salary Survey 2011”, indicates the keen interest shown by companies for risk management professionals, actuaries, auditors and Solvency II/IFRS reform specialists. However, these career profiles are far more appealing if they are associated with management skills. Initially, it’s the candidates with experience who should benefit from the recovery in the sector, but only if the economic growth continues in 2012. “

Economic services, business, health, logistics. Need for highly qualified technicians in professional areas. Good prospects for professions at the interface between economics and technology, etc.

4. Applying for a job

Application documents: A CV detailing professional experience, personal information and work skills. A covering letter which is often read after the CV in order to gather additional information on the candidate’s motivation.

Advice regarding the CV: CVs must be well written and not too long (maximum 2 pages). Personal information should be included at the top of the CV. This can be followed by career objectives, then by completed activities demonstrating the required skills. Job title; name of the organisation; place of work; employment dates; description of responsibilities, including concrete responsibilities; possibly figures such as: “turnover increased by 100,000 Euros through the introduction of a new product.”

5. Major recruitment pointers

Business Etiquette/knowing how to behave during interviews: The first minutes are vital when meeting a candidate. Generally speaking, the candidate must ensure that his appearance and clothing are taken care of, and also that his non-verbal behaviour tallies with what he is saying.

Languages you must be able to speak: French, Dutch, English; German would be an advantage.

Flagship training: There are a lot of universities and higher education institutions in Belgium that are very valuable in our innovative economy. The main diplomas according to the Bologna’s decree are Bachelor (3 years), Master (4 or 5 years) and Doctorate’s (PhD) degree.

Compensation&Benefits / Taxes: Pay often consists of a fixed amount, but also indirect benefits, such as: group insurance – hospitalisation insurance – company car – petrol card – GSM – laptop – expenses – meal tickets- eco checks.

6. Recruitment resources and networks

Important business networking sites:

www.actiris.be
www.leforem.be
www.vdab.be
www.wbri.be
www.monster.be
www.vacature.be
www.references.be
www.linkedIn.com
www.viadeo.com
www.xing.com
www.facebook.com

Where to network:
Professional associations, federations, “on-line” networks, networking groups, recruitment/employment offices.