What Is It Like To Work In Belgium? (With Tips To Find A Job)

Updated 23 March 2023

Belgium is a thriving economy located in the centre of Europe. With a competitive job market, extensive social security benefits, historical cities and tasty cuisine, Belgium remains one of the popular overseas destinations for international employees. Knowing more about the job opportunities available to foreigners can help you decide whether to relocate to Belgium. In this article, we discuss what it is like to work in Belgium, provide an overview of the job market, skill shortages and language requirements, and share tips to help you find a job there.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

What Is It Like To Work In Belgium?

If you are looking for work in Belgium, knowing more about the cultural and regional differences can help you decide whether it is the right career choice. Here are a few points to learn about Belgian work culture:

Organisational structures and hierarchy

Belgium has three separate administrative regions with unique cultural and language differences. In the Flemish region of Flanders, organisations generally have a flat hierarchy. Managers permit junior employees to participate in decision-making and collaborate on critical business matters. In contrast, the relationship between senior and junior employees tends to be more formal in the Walloon region. Knowing more about the area you are relocating to can help you understand specific organisational cultures and build positive workplace relationships.

Related: Types Of Organisational Structure For The Workplace

Working hours

A typical working day starts at 8.30 or 9.00 a.m. and ends at 5.30 or 6.00 p.m. Employees usually work four or five days per week, depending on their role, seniority, company and industry. Many Belgian employers have shifted to the four-day work week, with employees working slightly longer hours Monday to Thursday to enjoy a three-day weekend. Generally, employees at all levels have a healthy work-life balance and respect the traditional working hours. Overtime is rare, except during emergencies when employees work longer hours to resolve a crisis.

Related: How To Practise Self-Discipline In The Workplace

Leave and vacation

In general, most employees receive around 20 days of holidays per year, in addition to 10 national holidays. All employees, whether working part-time or full-time, receive an employment contract. The contract provides the terms and conditions of employment and specifies the notice period required for termination. While the actual notice period varies based on the job, the minimum is four weeks' notice for employers and two weeks for employees.

Related: All You Need To Know About Notice Period For Resignation

Social security

Belgium's comprehensive social security system provides specific allowances and social services to foreign employees living in Belgium. The benefits you enjoy are dependent on your residence and work permits. All employees in Belgium contribute a proportion of their gross salary to the social security fund. Employers also pay a considerable amount on top of the employee's contributions to social security. These funds are then used to pay the following:

  • Unemployment benefits

  • Allowances for sickness, workplace accidents, invalidity, incapacity for work

  • Family allowances

  • Pensions

Overview Of The Job Market In Belgium

The service sector provides the majority of employment in Belgium. Many Belgian nationals work in service roles in banking, communications, finance, law, media, transport, tourism, distribution and retail. The top employers in these sectors include ING Belgium, BNP Paribas Fortis, KBC bank, Delhaize Group, Randstad and Carrefour. The other large employers belong to education and public administration. Besides service companies, Belgium also has a few major industries, such as:

  • Arcelor-Mittal steel company in Wallonia

  • Volvo cars factory in Ghent, Flanders

  • Audi factory in Brussels

The most common occupations in Belgium are office jobs in the public and private sectors. Other popular roles include hospitality staff, shop assistants, teachers and maintenance staff in hotels and offices. Most Belgian nationals commute to work in a different region from where they live. Often employees reside in Wallonia or Flanders and commute to the capital region, as Brussels has more job opportunities.

Related: What Are Services? (A Comprehensive Guide With Examples)

Skills Shortage In Belgium

Belgium faces labour shortages in critical sectors such as information technology (IT), construction, personal care and education. As a result, employers in these sectors find it challenging to recruit eligible candidates with proper training, language skills and work experience. The skills shortage varies between the three regions and each regional employment bureau publishes an updated list of high-demand occupations once every two years. Some of the roles in the skills shortage list include:

  • Accountant

  • Air conditioning technician

  • Architect

  • Architectural drafter

  • Computer network manager

  • Chef

  • Electrician

  • Executive advisor

  • Financial analyst

  • Mason and tile layer

  • Mechanic

  • Nurse

  • Patient care assistant

  • Preschool and primary school teacher

  • Programming analyst

  • Project manager

  • Rigger and assembly technician

  • Sanitary installer

  • Scaffolding builder

  • Software engineer

  • Trading firm manager

  • Translator

  • Typesetter

  • Vehicle and machine driver

  • Web designer and developer

Related: What Is Upskilling? (With Benefits And How To Upskill)

Language Requirements In Belgium

Belgium has three official languages, which include:

  • Dutch: The Flemish community speaks Dutch and lives in the capital city of Brussels and the Flanders region to the north.

  • French: It is the primary language of the Walloon region, which lies south of Brussels.

  • German: Most German speakers in Belgium reside in the southeast region.

Several Belgian citizens speak one or more of these languages, along with English. While English is used in multinational companies and international organisations, having a basic understanding of the language used in the region you plan to relocate to can help you engage with your colleagues and other community members. You can also sign up for language lessons once you move to Belgium.

Related: Language Skills: Definition, Examples And How To Improve

Work Permits For Foreigners Relocating To Belgium

All Indians require prior authorisation to work in Belgium. You can commence employment only after you have received the Belgian work permit and visa. The Belgian government introduced a single permit for foreign employees in 2019. As of February 2023, this permit authorises non-European citizens to work and reside in Belgium for over 90 days. Only a Belgian employer or a Belgian representative of an international employer can apply for this permit. Employees cannot apply for it on their own. For more information about work permits and visa requirements, you can consult the following websites:

  • Brussels capital region

  • Flemish region

  • German-speaking community

  • Walloon region

Related: What Are Intercultural Skills? (Plus How To Improve Them)

Degree Certificate Apostille

The degree certificate apostille process is critical for employees relocating to Belgium. Any degree certificate from a recognised Indian university needs an Apostille stamp to be accepted in Belgium. This stamp verifies the certificate's authenticity and accredits the legitimacy of the qualification. You can receive it by applying to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) along with the original degree certificate, ID proof, passport copy and other required documents. The process takes approximately ten days from the time you apply.

Tips For Finding A Job In Belgium

Here are a few ways to improve your chances of securing a job in Belgium:

Improve your language skills

The Belgium job market is highly competitive and multilingual employees are in high demand. Speaking one or more of the country's three official languages can improve your chances of employment. Enroll in online courses or use language-speaking apps to improve Dutch, French and German fluency.

Join a multinational company

The European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) are in Brussels. International organisations like these and multinational companies are more likely to employ international employees with English fluency. Searching for suitable jobs in English-speaking organisations can help you find relevant roles without being fluent in the official languages.

Related: How To Improve Speaking Skills In English (With Tips)

Search for jobs via public employment offices

Each of Belgium's four administrative regions has a separate public employment office such as:

  • Actiris for Brussels

  • Le Forem for Walloon

  • VDAB for Flanders

  • ADG for the German community

You can visit these sites to search for jobs in your preferred region and industry. Besides listing available vacancies, these sites offer eligible candidates professional career guidance and training courses. Alternatively, you can check with your current employer if they have any transfer programmes for existing employees to relocate temporarily to a branch office in Belgium.

Update your resume

When applying for jobs, the resume is your first opportunity to communicate your skills, professional experiences, educational background and work achievements to a future employer. Here are a few tips to help you create an impressive resume:

  • Present your experience concisely. Highlight skills and previous experiences that match the position. Review the job description and vacancy notice to identify the skills required for the role and demonstrate them on your resume.

  • Customise the resume. Rewrite or rephrase your resume to highlight why you are the best person for the role. Focus on numbers, data and other facts to demonstrate your suitability.

  • Make it easy to read. Use strong verbs and clear, simple language to make your resume easy to read and impactful.

  • Use reverse chronological order. List your most recent experiences or educational qualifications followed by previous ones. Provide a valid explanation for any long gaps in the experience section.

  • Edit and proofread. Check for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and typos. You can also request a trusted colleague or friend from Belgium or other EU nations for their feedback and insights on your resume.

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