Home to numerous major international organisations including the European Union (EU), Belgium is a fantastic place to work for those looking to broaden their horizons...
Despite its small size, Belgium has a population of 11million people - including around 750,000 expats. The country is also home to rich culture, evidenced by beautiful architecture and artwork, and indulgent cuisine, such as chocolate, waffles and beer. What's more, other major European cities, including Amsterdam, London and Paris, are just a short train ride away.
Jobs in Belgium
Most Belgians - and international workers - are employed within the services sector, in industries such as:
- accountancy, banking and finance;
- leisure, sport and tourism;
- media and internet;
- public services and administration;
- teaching and education.
Brussels, the Belgian capital, houses the headquarters of the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Both are big employers of international workers, though applicants to the former must speak at least two languages.
Other large Belgian employers include:
- Anheuser-Busch InBev;
- Banque Nationale de Belgique;
- Colruyt Group;
- KBC Bank;
Many international workers also capitalise on labour shortages. Belgium is in need of:
- administrative staff and secretaries;
- electricians, plumbers, joiners and plasterers;
- engineers, technicians and mechanics;
- IT staff;
- nurses and midwives;
- project managers;
- technical and commercial sales representatives.
You can search for jobs in Belgium at:
- Jobs in Brussels;
In addition, jobs are advertised in newspapers of all three communities (Flemish, French and German). These include: De Morgen, De Standaard, Het Nieuwsblad, De Tijd and HLN (Flemish); La Dernière Heure, Le Soir, La Libre Belgique, La Meuse and L'Echo (French); and GrenzEcho (German).
How to get a job in Belgium
The application process in Belgium is similar to that in the UK: an application form, or the submission of a two-page CV and cover letter (in the relevant language), plus references. This is followed by an interview.
It's advisable to apply for jobs from your home country, especially if you're a non-EU student. However, if you're currently living in Belgium, you can sign up to recruitment agencies such as Adecco, Randstad and Michael Page; there are also sector-specialist agencies, a list of which can be found at Golden Pages Belgium.
Each of Belgium's four regions has its own public employment office. You can receive professional careers advice, and search for jobs and training courses at Actiris (Brussels), VDAB (Flanders), Le Forem (Walloon) and ADG (German community).
If you want to improve your CV and language skills, as well as demonstrate your ability to work in a multilingual environment, volunteering in Belgium may be perfect for you.
The European Commission (EC) funds a scheme called the European Voluntary Service (EVS), which offers young people aged 17 to 30 the chance to volunteer for up to 12 months in a number of countries, including Belgium.
Opportunities vary from placements concerned with sport and culture to those focused on social care and the environment. Accommodation, travel, food and insurance are all covered by a European grant, and you even receive a personal allowance each month.
You can also find summer jobs, seasonal work and gap year opportunities at recruitment agencies, government employment agencies, and:
Belgium is a popular destination for qualified teachers of 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. However, you must be a native English speaker who completed your secondary education in the UK, holds an A-level in French, and has passed at least two years of university education.
Internships are widely available, but competitive, in Belgium.
Graduates can apply for an internship at the EC. The EC's scheme runs twice a year for five months, and each trainee is awarded a generous monthly living allowance. For more details, visit the EC.
AIESEC UK offers a traineeship exchange programmes lasting six weeks to 18 months for students and recent graduates, while IAESTE UK offers summer course-related placements for science, engineering, technology and applied arts students.
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.
EU nationals may also have health and social security coverage transferred to their host country, and can apply for permanent residency after living in Belgium for three years. For more information and to check what conditions and restrictions apply, see Europa.
Citizens of non-EU countries require a visa and/or work permit. Short-term visas are for those staying less than 90 days, while long-term visas are for those staying for more than 90 days. The latter of these requires you to have a work permit, which your prospective employer must usually apply for - often one year in advance. Contact your Belgian embassy for further information.
All visitors must inform their local authority of their presence in Belgium within eight days of arrival. If you're staying for longer than three months, you must apply for a registration certificate.
There are three official languages in Belgium: Dutch (Flemish), French and German.
- Dutch is spoken in the Flanders region, to the north, by the Flemish Community. Almost 60% of the country speaks Dutch.
- French is the first language for the majority of citizens in Wallonia, which covers most of Belgium south of Brussels. French-speaking citizens are known as the French Community. Around 40% 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.
Between 10% and 20% of the country speak both French and Dutch - Brussels, where most of these speakers reside, is officially recognised as bilingual.
How to explain your qualifications to employers
The Bologna Process means that your UK qualifications will be recognised by employers. Those from countries outside of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) should contact NARIC (Flemish Community) or the Ministere de la Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles (French Community) to get your certificates recognised.
For certain professions, you may need your qualifications to be officially recognised before you begin work. To find out whether your professional qualifications will be recognised in Belgium, visit Europa or Enic-Naric.
What it's like to work in Belgium
The average working week is 38 hours in length - approximately eight hours every day. Employers usually grant 20 days of paid annual leave, alongside ten public holidays.
The average monthly salary is €2,091, slightly lower than the UK's €2,117. However, employers often pay a 13th-month bonus at the end of the financial year. What's more, Belgium has one of the highest minimum wages in Europe.
Despite this, living costs are fairly high - albeit lower than in the UK - and the country has one of the continent's highest income tax rates. The tax is progressive, rising with your income from 25% to 50%. Most goods and services have a standard VAT rate of 21%.
Management culture is traditionally similar to the French-style top-down approach, but more organisations are moving towards a Dutch-like open workplace, with increased delegation and greater democracy in decision-making. Belgians appreciate personal contact, and logic and reasoning, with arguments backed up by facts and figures.