With it's growing economy and range of major international organisations it's no wonder Belgium is an appealing place to work for those looking to broaden their horizons...
Belgium as a country is relatively small but densely populated with an estimated population of more than 10million. It's well connected to other European cities such as Amsterdam, London and Paris, which are only a train ride away.
To stand up against competition for jobs in this bilingual country it may be useful to learn a second language. Don't worry if you have no prior knowledge of French, Dutch or German before you arrive, the Belgian people, fluent in English, will be able to help you once you arrive.
The cosmopolitan city of Brussels, the Belgian capital, houses the headquarters to the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), both of which are big employers of foreign workers.
Job market in Belgium
The majority of Belgians work in the tertiary sector - the part of the economy that provides services, rather than the production of tangible goods. Examples of such industries include media, legal services, tourism and banking.
Around a quarter of the population work in industry, in sectors such as textiles, glass, engineering, automobile assembly and chemicals.
A number of major companies are based in Brussels such as:
- Anheuser-Busch InBev (brewing);
- Belgacom (telecommunications);
- Colruyt (food retail);
- Dexia (banking);
- Umicore (materials technology).
Many foreigners end up in very specific roles due to labour shortages in the country. The majority of the professions required are the same across the Flemish, French and German-speaking communities. These include:
- engineers, technicians and mechanics;
- IT staff;
- administrative staff and secretaries;
- electricians, plumbers, joiners and plasterers.
Search for jobs in Belgium at:
Work experience and internships in Belgium
The EU offers traineeships for university graduates at the European Commission (EC). The scheme runs twice a year for five months and each trainee is awarded a generous monthly living allowance. There are two types of traineeship: an administrative traineeship; and a translation traineeship with the Directorate General for Translation (DGT). For more details and to find out how to apply, visit the European Commission Traineeships Office (Bureau de Stages).
Belgium is also a popular destination for those who want to teach English as a foreign language.
You can apply to work as an English language assistant in a school or higher education institute through the British Council - Teaching English. You need to be a native English speaker, have passed two years of university education and completed your secondary education in the UK. To specifically work as an English language assistant in Belgium you need at least an AS-level or equivalent in French to apply.
Alternatively, if you have a TEFL/TESOL qualification, you may want to find a teaching role within a language school or business. For more information and to search for jobs in Belgium, visit TEFL.com.
Internships and summer work placements for students can also be arranged by:
- AIESEC UK - for students and recent graduates;
- IAESTE UK - for science, engineering and applied arts students.
Volunteering in Belgium
If you want to improve your CV and language skills, as well as demonstrate your ability to work in a multilingual environment, you may be interested in volunteering in the country.
The EC funds a scheme called The European Voluntary Service (EVS), which is aimed at 17 to 30-year olds who want to volunteer abroad. Opportunities can last for up to 12 months.
Accommodation, travel, food and insurance are all covered by a European grant and you even receive a personal allowance each month.
There are three official languages in Belgium: Dutch, French and German.
- Dutch is spoken in the Flanders region, to the North, by the Flemish Community of Belgium. Almost 60% of the country speak Dutch.
- French is the first language for the majority of citizens in Wallonia, one of the three federal regions, which covers most of Belgium south of Brussels. French-speaking citizens are known officially as the French Community of Belgium. Nearly a third of all Belgian nationals speak French.
- German is spoken in the South East, where the German-speaking Community of Belgium resides. Less than 1% of the population speak German.
- Bilingual - 10% of the country, based in the Brussels-Capital Region, are bilingual - speaking French and Dutch.
Consequently, language requirements will change depending on your location. However, in some roles English alone may be sufficient.
It is important you find out the language requirements of roles before you apply, so you know what to expect throughout the application process and when you get to Belgium.
Belgian visas and immigration
According to the European Commission, EU citizens have the right to:
- move to another EU country to work without a work permit;
- enjoy equal treatment with nationals in access to employment, working conditions and all other social and tax advantages;
- stay in the country even after employment has finished.
For more information, see:
- European Commission - Free Movement EU Nationals
- Europa - Work-Related Rights
- Europa - Workers and Pensioners
EU nationals may also have health and social security coverage transferred to their host country. For country-specific information on social security entitlements, see European Commission - Your Rights Country by Country.
To find out whether your professional qualifications will be recognised in Belgium, visit Europa - Qualifications for Employment.