Why is, or isn’t, Belgium Europe’s epicentre?
Galileo Galilei once turned our worlds upside down – not literally upside down as you might have seen on Stranger Things – but he introduced the people to the idea of a heliocentric solar system. A truth so controversial compared to the then accepted fact that everything revolved around planet earth. Full of disbelief and with plenty of resistance the Catholic Church warned the Italian astronomer to abandon this idea. But as we have learnt in the four following centuries: facts and figures always have a way to prevail.
With summer (and sun) around the corner and companies, IM’ers and independent professionals preparing to possibly go in slumber mode, we would like to research how Belgium has been doing post pandemic.
Furthermore, we would like to know how Belgium has been doing the past year.
Or to put it in Galileo’s terms: is Belgium be Europe’s sun?
Let’s fact check and let facts and figures answer that question.
1. The job vacancy rate in Belgium is the highest in the EU. Fact – False? *
False: Among the EU Member States, the highest job vacancy rates in the fourth quarter of 2021 were recorded in Czechia (4.9 %) then Belgium (4.7 %) and as third the Netherlands (4.2 %). (Eurostat, 2022)
* An interesting fact here is that the job vacancy rate is significantly higher for temporary positions (20.70%) than for permanent positions (4.15%). (2022, Statbel)
=> opportunity for independent professionals and interim managers.
2. The level of international presence in Brussels is second only to New York. Fact – False?
Fact: With around 120 international governmental organizations, 1,400 non-governmental organizations and 181 embassies employing 3,000 diplomats. Brussels is also home to the European headquarters of more than 2,000 multi-national organizations, plus the headquarters of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). (2022, expectica)
3. Belgium didn’t hold on to its position in 2022 in the top 5 of European countries that attract the most foreign investment. Fact – False?
False: Belgium did. It is no surprise that the COVID-19 crisis had an impact on the number of investment projects in Belgium. All in all, Belgium recorded 227 projects, which generated 5,098 jobs in 2020. That means COVID-19 pushed the number of projects down by 15% compared to 2019, which is slightly more than the European average of a 13% drop. With this result, Belgium holds on to fifth place in European ranking for foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2020. (EY, 2022)
4. Belgium’s unemployment rate is higher than Europe’s average unemployment rate. Fact – False?
False: Belgium’s unemployment rate is 1,3 % lower than EU’s. Belgium's unemployment rate stands at 5.4%, lower than the EU average of 6.7%. However, youth unemployment (those under 25) is over double this in percentage terms at 13%. Most Belgians work in the service sector – legal, banking, media and tourism. (Expatica, 2022)
5. European Commission’s predictions for 2022 show Belgium will be the country with the lowest economic growth in the European Union. Fact – Fiction?
Fact: Economists forecast Belgium’s gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by about 2.7% in 2022, down from 6.1% in 2021 (when it bounced back from -5.7%) and lower than the average across the continent (4%), according to the European Commission Winter 2022 Economic Forecast. Meanwhile, the inflation rate in Belgium this year will be higher than the European average: 4.3% in Belgium, compared to an average of 3.5% for the eurozone. (The Brussels Times, 2022)
Bases on these 5 facts we cannot conclude that Belgium is Europe’s sun. But we can state we’re not far from it either. There are certain hesitations that could – at first glance - make us worry. More than ever have we learned over the past years that realistic positivism is key. Definitely when figures and facts can affirm this. So, our advice, before going in slumber mode is: be realistic, be positive and stay alert for all opportunities in your circles. Because before you know, your professional world could be turned upside down.