Working in Belgium



Home of the international headquarters of the European Union, Belgium is a cultural melting pot primarily influenced by its surrounding countries of France, Germany and the Netherlands.

There are two official languages are spoken in the country----Dutch and French, although there is also a portion of the population located near the eastern border that speaks German. As the city of Brussels is bilingual by law, expats are advised to learn French or Dutch to get by in the workplace.

Prominent industries

Presently, Belgium holds an employment rate of 67%, and major job industries in Belgium involve engineering, metal products, textiles, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, motor vehicle assembly, glass and petroleum. Expats may want to note that the average monthly salary earned in Belgium is 3685 EUR. In Belgium, salaries are based on age and with a premium income, you are likely to pay high taxes.

Belgium is one of the countries that has greatly experienced the IT boom; in work distribution, systems integration accounts for about 20% of the IT market. At present, there are 3,000 Belgium-based computer companies, in which 431 operate in consulting work and a further 1,759 focus on software development.

Aside from the exponential growth in IT, Belgium also has large construction and mechanical engineering industries. The construction industry comprises a workforce of about 7% of the working population (Source: Belgian Finance Department report), and accounts for 10% of the country's GDP.

Another sector that is flourishing is the financial sector, despite the global gloom. Belgium broke new ground on electronic payment systems that are used around the world today. With more than 120 banks, Belgium remains the center for international banking and finance in Europe.

Finding a job

Employers in Belgium welcome applicants with strong sales or marketing experience, but exceptional language skills is the key to securing a job in this particular field. Job candidates who can speak two or more languages are in for a promising career. Job seekers in Belgium should note that a cover letter must be handwritten.

Foreigners make up 9% of the general population. This has resulted in a tightening of immigration laws. However, employment prospects in Belgium still attract foreign residents to work and live in Belgium, especially as the working conditions can be rewarding; labour laws give employees extensive rights after 12 months of continuous employment. 

Work culture

Uniforms are rarely worn in Belgium, except for certain professions such as chefs or hygiene workers. Most Belgians wear suits or jackets in the workplace, but companies, where employees are younger and more high-tech can, tolerates casual wear such as jeans and t-shirts. Shoes, however, need to be well-polished and shiny. When attending meetings or business events, it is best to put some effort into dressing well as it is better to be over-dressed rather than under-dressed.

Belgians hold punctuality in high regard, although, for social occasions, the exact time to arrive can vary depending on the community involved. In Belgium, giving gifts is not commonly associated with business relations, but if it must be done, it is best to avoid presents with company logos. When visiting a Belgian home, it is acceptable to bring a present for the hostess that can range from chocolates to flowers. When giving flowers, avoid giving chrysanthemums, carnations or yellow-colored flowers as it can imply that the hostess’ husband is seeing a mistress. 


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