Excerpted from the Belgium Career Guide
Economic and Employment Outlook
Belgium is a technologically sophisticated, private-industry driven economy that has taken advantage of its central location in Europe to develop a superior transportation network and well-diversified economic base. European capitals such as Paris, Frankfurt, London, Rome and Stockholm are only a half-day's train journey away. Due to its central location, it is a hub for international organizations.
While Belgium is recovering from the recent global recession, it is not quite out of economic hot water. On the positive side, gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.04 percent last year, unemployment dropped by more than a percentage point to 7.2 percent and the budget deficit declined to 4.2 percent down from peak of 6 percent of GDP. Inflation has dropped to 3.37 percent, the lowest rate all year. However, Belgium is a member of the troubled Eurozone, and is increasingly at risk of contagion from the sovereign debt crisis plaguing economically weak partners such as Greece, Portugal and Spain. In response, Belgium’s government is taking steps to shore up its fiscal house.
While Belgium is heavily service-oriented, thanks to its prominence in world governance, many industries also form a backbone of the county’s economy. Belgium is a small country, with limited natural resources, yet it exports more than it imports. It retains its positive trade balance by importing needed commodities and exporting finished manufactured goods. Currently, three-quarters of its trade is with other EU countries, but is expanding into emerging markets.
Areas of Job Promise
Confidence is growing among Belgium’s business leaders, according to the National Bank of Belgium’s (NBB) Business Barometer, which has risen for the third month in a row. However, while the manufacturing sector has shown considerable optimism, business services are far less enthusiastic about growth prospects.
Belgium’s jobs picture is also mixed, with unemployment down over the past few years, but employers are still cautious about creating new jobs in any significant numbers. According to global recruiter Manpower, the vast majority of employers (85 percent) expect to keep their staffing levels unchanged for the near term, taking a wait-and-see attitude about the strength of Belgium’s economic recovery. Those employers hiring often seek candidates with multinational experience, as well as management skills, to help cut costs and increase profits.
Belgium’s government and labor unions negotiate the maximum wage standard, covering salary increases, every two years based on an index. The current rate called for no increase last year and 0.3 percent for the current year.
This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the Belgium Guide.