Work in Belgium: Finding a job
2nd July 2014, 18 comments
There are many expats who find work in Belgium, and chances of finding jobs in Belgium's main cities, particularly jobs in Brussels, are increased by the extensive international business scene.
With many EU institutions, NATO and lots of other major international organisations and multi-national companies based in Brussels, there are a great many job opportunities for foreigners in Belgium. In a country with three official languages and many more used in its cosmopolitan capital of Brussels, you’ll give yourself the best chance of finding a job in Belgium if you have good language skills.
Work in Belgium
The job market in Belgium
As at 2014, Belgium has an unemployment rate of just over 8 percent which is lower than the average EU of 10.5. However, youth unemployment (those under 25) stands at around 22 percent with the largest increase, perhaps surprisingly, being among those with higher education level qualifications.
Most Belgians work in the service sector – legal, banking, media and tourism – with around a quarter working in industry including textiles, glass, engineering, car assembly and chemicals. There are lots of big companies including Banque Nationale de Belgique, Belgacome (telecoms), Ageas (insurance), Anheuser-Busch InBev (brewing), Colruyt (food retail), Delhaize (food retail), KBC (banking/insurance), Solvay (chemicals) and Umicore (materials technology) – as well as many international companies with their base in Brussels.
Available jobs in Belgium
Most available jobs in Brussels are for highly skilled workers within the services sectors, such as finance, international institutions and businesses, estate agencies and education, and public health and social services. Shortage jobs include:
- nurses and midwives;
- IT staff like computer system designers and analysts;
- technical and commercial sales representatives,
- admin staff,
- mechanics, and
- building trades.
The EU and NATO also employ a large number of foreign workers.
Belgian management culture
The duality between the French- and Dutch-speaking regions is reflected in the Belgian workplace, which has traditionally followed the French strictly hierarchical style where top managers make all the decisions. This, however, has been increasingly moving towards the more egalitarian Dutch approach of flatter and more open organisations, with more information flow and delegation. So while companies may still be fairly hierarchical, management authority rests more on competence and the aim is usually to reach a consensus or compromise – which can often be a protracted process. Belgians appreciate logic and reasoning and expect arguments to be backed up by clear facts and figures. They also value personal contact so not all business takes place by email or over the phone.
You may be offered a temporary contract at first as a trial period. You’ll most likely be working a 38 hour week with eight hour days, around 20 days a year holidays plus 10 days public holidays. Employers divide yearly salaries into 13.92 months in order to provide extra income at different times of the year, giving an extra 92 percent in Spring as ‘holiday pay’ and an extra month at the end of the year.
Belgian work visas
EU/EEA and Swiss nationals can work freely in Belgium without the need for a work permit, although if you’re planning to stay longer than three months you’ll need a registration certificate. Croatian citizens will need a work permit probably up until June 30, 2020.
Citizens from elsewhere will generally need a work permit, and certain nationalities will also need a visa to enter the country, although exemptions apply.
Read Expatica's guide to Work in Belgium: Guide to Belgian work permits.
To find out if you need an entry visa or any other permit, read Moving to Belgium: Guide to visas and permits.
There are three official languages in Belgium: Dutch is spoken in the Flemish community in the Flanders region to the north of Belgium; French is spoken in Wallonia to the south of Brussels; and German is spoken in the south east. Between 10 – 20 per cent of the country, especially those in the Brussels-Capital region, are bilingual and speak both French and Dutch. You would most likely be expected to speak the language of the particular region in which you’d be working. In some cases, mainly in international companies, English may be sufficient.
If you come from a country signed up to the Bologna Process you will have your educational qualifications recognised in Belgium. Everyone else should contact NARIC (Flanders) or the Education section of the Ministère de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (Wallonia) to get foreign educational certificates of all levels recognised in Belgium. If you want to work in certain professions, you may have to have your professional qualifications, both your training and experience, officially recognised or regulated before you can work in Belgium. Check here to find out if you need to have your profession regulated and how to go about it.
Where to find a job in Belgium
On Expatica's jobs in Belgium pages, you'll find a constantly updated list of jobs in different sectors across the country.
If you’re from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you can search for a job in Belgium through EURES, the European Job Mobility Portal. This is maintained by the European Commission and designed to aid freedom of movement within the European Economic Area (EEA). As well as looking for work, you can upload your CV and get advice on the legal and administrative issues involved in working in Belgium. EURES also holds job fairs in Spring and Autumn.
Public employment services
Each region of Belgium has its own public employment office where you can browse job vacancies, upload your CV, search for training courses, or get advice on your job search from a consultant online or at a local office:
- Actiris covers the Brussels-Capital region,
- VDAB covers Flanders,
- Le Forem covers the Walloon region, and
- ADG is for the German community in Belgium.
The EU and NATO
The European Union employs over 40,000 people in various institutions, many of which are in Brussels. You do have to be a member of an EU country and usually also fluent in at least two or more languages. For information about working for the EU, current job vacancies both permanent and temporary, and to make online applications, see the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO). Also have a look at EuroBrussels for jobs in EU organisations based in Brussels.
NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) also employs a lot of foreigners but you must come from a NATO country to apply.
Check out vacancies at other international agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) based in Belgium in the press in your home country or on the agency websites. You can find the names of all the NGOs in Belgium in the WANGO directory.
- BrusselsJobs – business, finance, admin and IT jobs for multi-lingual workers in Brussels and beyond.
- English Language Jobs in Brussels.
- Heidrick & Struggles – executive search company.
- Jobs in Brussels – and the rest of Belgium, aimed at English speakers, with jobs in business, legal, IT, finance, accounting, HR and international consultancy.
- LinkedIn Belgium
- Michael Page Belgium
- Randstad – specialising in project-based or freelance temporary positions.
Sign on at as many recruitment agencies as possible. They tend to specialise in different sectors. Look them up in the Belgian Golden Pages (in English). They should be recognised by the trade federation Federgon. You’ll also find most of the usual European and international employment agencies – like Manpower Belgium – in Brussels and other major cities.
You can apply to become an English language assistant in a state school or college through the British Council if you have an AS or equivalent in French. If you have a TEFL/TESOL qualification you can look for a job with a private language school or business here.
Buy the weekend editions of the main nationals newspapers for job ads:
- in Dutch – De Morgen, De Standaard, Het Nieuwsblad, De Tijd, Het Laatste Nieuws.
- in French – La Dernière Heure, Le Soir, La Libre Belgique, La Meuse, L’Echo.
- in German – Grenzecho.
Belgium, and especially Brussels, is a fantastic place to network with so many international companies and expats already working there. As a result, many positions get filled through word-of-mouth without the need for advertising. There are trade associations, business groups and professional bodies, and networking organisations. Here are a few of them:
- American Chamber of Commerce in Belgium
- Belgian Business Association for gay professionals.
- British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium
- European Professionals Network based in Brussels.
- Professional Women International (PWI) is a Brussels-based multi-national forum for women in business.
Get in touch with other expats working in similar fields through Expatica’s expat forums, the Bulletin (for expats in Brussels – for jobs and contacts) and meet-up groups.
Make the first move – speculative job applications
Speculative job applications are a good way of finding work in Belgium. Find companies by searching online at:
- the Belgian Golden Pages (in English),
- business directories like Kompass and Europages,
- the Federation of the Belgian Chambers of Commerce which has links to registers of all Belgian companies,
- and Voka, Flander’s Chamber of Commerce representing 18,000 companies in Flanders.
You can also look up international companies with offices in Belgium. When you submit speculative applications, make sure you find out which language to use and to whom you should address it.
Applying for a job in Belgium
When you have found a job, you’ll need to know how to put together a Belgian-style CV and cover letter to make sure your application gets the consideration it deserves. To find out how to prepare your CV and covering letter, and well as what to expect in a Belgian job interview, see Work in Belgium: Applying for a job in Belgium.
- Work in Belgium: Guide to Belgian work permits
- Work in Belgium: Applying for a job in Belgium
- Moving to Belgium: Guide to visas and permits
Find a job in Belgium using Expatica's jobs search.
Updated from 2011.
Bupa Global offers a variety of health insurance packages to expats in more than 190 countries around the world.
18 comments on this article Add a comment
14th December 2011, 00:41:44 Ceca posted:This is a very usual situation for so many non-EU nationals who emigrate to EU countries to study, masters or a doctorate level. The main point of imperialistic forces is to use the youth, energy and intellectual power of people from less developed and former colony countries. And what happens after wards? Those students (I am talking about PhDes mostly) are forced to go back home where their chances to get a job, after loosing connections and being overqualified, are often even less than they were before going abroad. But everyone must realize that the capitalism and rules of the West are seriously bad, I dare say, one of the worst social arrangements ever. So when deciding going abroad, be aware of these facts. EU countries do not need emigrants, apart of using them to strengthen their economy and science and then buy, buy.
14th December 2011, 00:58:17 Ceca posted:So people...be smart. What this means - in many cases to find a native partner - I am aware of how this sounds, but in the end, if the main goal of imperialistic forces is to exploit poorer countries minds, then why those minds would not be allowed to exploit imperialistic forces. In short, your position in the foreign country will not be improved only by your educational skills... Sad, but true, I know many women from my country (East Europe) who are great in science, but successful only because of their native/EU and powerful husbands and their connections - without that - well maybe if they were next Einsteins, but even then... Sad, very sad, but TRUE.
4th January 2012, 10:59:11 Y posted:Dear ALL, I was so disappointed that i finally google if there is a problem with me , my master, my skill or something else and happen to read the whole article and comment above. I will confirm that these people discussing above have 100% reason. [Edited by moderator] Fortunately i have some freelancing projects to be able to sustain. I am in brussel nearly 6 months and still looking for a job in php here. Some friends who have contacts have already secured a job. [Edited] Lets hope to see some changes...
9th January 2012, 16:03:00 Wouter posted:Yeah...
OFICIALLY, being native cannot be a job requirement in Belgium, but if a foreigner is rejected for a job, it's impossible to proof that being a foreigner was the reason to be rejected, even though it's often obvious. I used to know a guy, born here in Flanders from Arab parents. He also had an Arab name. He spoke Dutch perfectly, was entirely familiar with Belgian habits and stuff, he felt Belgian. He had a very hard time finding a job. For years kept sending application letters, until he was sick and tired of it and changed his name to Bart (a typically Flemmish name). After that, he found a job in less than a month.
27th April 2012, 22:23:58 Milyv posted:I am also non-EU Citizen and have two masters from two recognized univeristies in the Netherlands. I have been applying to several jobs in Brussels for months and eventhough I have the perfect profile for those positions, I have never received any reply. When I finished my first master I though I could get a job, but again the same story.
I feel giving up, but I am married with a EU citizen, so I guess I will have to change my name in order to get a job
27th May 2012, 23:46:34 Ana Barroso posted:Hello I was just searching in the internet for information about British Expats in Belgium as my family is there and I am thinking of moving there. I am Portuguese and I live in UK for 8 years. But after reading all the coments for the editor about his comments I was preplexed and decided, No I have to speak. What most people [edited] are saying IS NOT TRUE AT ALL. If there is one thing Europe, Belgium more treasures and gives total priority IS SKILLS AND EDUCATION. I am European and I know that the highest Education score,grade, the more prestigious Education school/University you have had the better, that is how it works in Europe. The best ones with the best highest grades and only the best and knonw University are picked for the best companies, THIS IS A FACT. IT HAPPENED TO MY BROTHER. Is has been like this circle for centuries and part of the Educational system and that is why so many kids and adutls fight for grades and Universities like dogs and study until they drop dead, really applying themselves, something that doesn`t happen here or outside of Europe and that is why other people do not understand this way of being and do not understand either why they are more mature, go getters, self motivated, with a can attitude, with a real picture of goals anf life in their heads and ready to assume real life [edited], more independent, freedom of voice and choice, smart, ready to take on life challenges, konwing what they want , who they are and where to go, what road, with hardship and work to pay colleges we became stronger, knowledgeable, self suficient and learn from one little breadcrump to make one big meal. AND THAT MY FRIENDS AND READERS IS THE DIFFERENCE, LIKE OR NOT OF SUCCESS AND WORKING TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS NO MATTER, TO FIGHT FOR THEIR CORNER AND IN TOTAL CONFIDENCE. My brother is in Belgium, Ghent for 7 years and went from a excellent independent University - Biotechnology in Portugal as a sandwich course degree as a program and he did work his butt off for the best grades and worked in bad conditions for his projects until one day after he finished his degree his efforts and hard work was noticed by a known company and man that offered him a job after his work placement, he took it immediately knowing that the job was less and not even for the degree specialist that he wanted but he said yes, was Money and Experience, a chance TO LEARN THE LANGUAGE, FLEMISH, IMPORTANT PEOPLE AND NEW WORLDS AND DOORS. He worked his ass off, under terrible weather conditions, working outside with 10 degrees below zero with deadlines and motivating himself and all the other man, just like the army and he did the Belgium Royal Marina compound , managed it, worked on it and helped to design it for a couple of Euros but the reward was excellent references, for the first job, paid him Flemish lessons and controls the language totally like Dutch, opened doors to the most pretigious companies and after a couple of years ans specializations he is now managing, liaisoning with the best Eco Energy Companies in the world, Nuclear Technologies, Oil Companies Consultations Advice and back then he many times walked home on foot, many days could afford to much food and lived with his school mates to save on rent. Today he lives in one of the biggest apartments across the Ghent river luxurious part that he ownes and flying intenationally and people pay him for advise. SO PEOPLE AS YOU CAN SEE [edited by moderator] IF YOU WANT SOMETHING SO BAD YOU APPLY YOURSELF ? FIRST BE POSITIVE MIND AND VISUALIZE YOUR GOALS, WHAT YOU WANT AND WHAT YOU WANT YOUR LIFE TO BE THEN YOU BE 100% CREATIVE TO CREATE THOSE CHANCES AND DOORS EVEN PICKING UP BAD JOBS, IS NOT I TELL YOU BY SITTING ON YOUR BACKSIDES DAY AND NIGHT AND PROCRASTINATION. JUST LIKE THE AMERICANS, YOU WANT IT , GO GET IT, WORK FOR IT, DREAM IT, YOU DO NOT HAVE IT, YOU CREATE IT, USE INOVATIVE WAYS AND IDEAS TO FUND YOUR DREAM EVEN PUT YOURSELF SLEEPING ACROSS YOUR TARGET COMPANY, BUSNESS IF YOU HAVE TOO, CREATING FRESH APPROACHES; Me I survive in UK for a long time by creating the chance given by the Government to create my own job, Be a BusinessWoman and happily and by doing what I love.
22nd June 2012, 00:54:30 Yve posted:dear Ana, I am married with a third country national. Let me explain to you how things work in Brussels. I work everyday in the government field, I know people in the business world. [Edited by moderator] it is not about the marks since my wife has been sending applications for even internships and marks are not a requirement within the application; It is not about the university you have studied ; it is not what u know it is WHO you know. [Edited.] I prefer to leave to her home country at least there people appreciate their effort to improve their educational level.
18th July 2012, 12:39:34 Alfia posted:Dear Ana Barroso,
Thank you for your inspiring words! Sounded like a speech in some training course, but that is what I need now. If you want, you can!
I am not looking for a job in Belgium yet, me and my husband plan to move there a bit later, but I have similar situation now as many other people who complain now here in this blog. I am looking for a job in Spain, it is quite difficult, and i feel sometimes like giving up.
But you are right, in spite of all the discrimination and feelings that you never will get a job, you just need to struggle and have clear goals.
Also my admiration to you as a woman who is managing her own business! It is also in one of my plans!
Good luck to everyone!
25th August 2012, 19:45:48 BelgianGirl posted:I am 19 born and raised in Belgium, my mom has a uni diploma aswell and no job either... Been searching for 20years atleast aswell... In Belgium there's just a shortage of jobs; you either know some important people (that my mom doesn't know) or you choose a very very needed job, otherwise there are no jobs out there, no matter what race you are... Althought gender has got an effect: more females than males are unemployed and a lot of employers will choose a young male over an older female. Reason I'm studying medecine (always needed) ... Belgium just has too many people for such a small area... I wish it wasn't like that, I really want my bf to find a job here but it won't be easy... It's not easy for natives and it's not easy for others either but belgians are not racist, [Edited by moderator]. If you dont know anyone you really just cant expect to get any kind of job... belgium is too small to need many people
13th September 2012, 12:49:33 a smart non-EU resident posted:Dear Readers, Author, Fellow Residents ...
It is very interesting to read all the above opinions, experiences and opportunities. i have been living in Europe for 3 years now as a student. I have studied and research on EU politics in various areas of food, security, employment, foreign policy, immigration ...etc.
What i have observed that EU is open for various kinds of immigration but ... 1) a person cannot get a working visa from a non EU country unless you are an exceptional Scientist or Technologist 2) EU is wide open to non EU students in the recent years ... but the job market is very conservative both social and legal reasons play a role. 3) Officially any kind of discrimination for any citizen is intolerable ... and unofficially companies or organizations only want EU citizens due to various burdens imposed on them (in case of non EU) such as employment laws (lengthy process of proving non availability of EU national for particular job), Tax (too many conditions), social pressure from certain groups ... etc.
Practically from an Non EU resident view its like this "do your research and help develop us. we pay you for that and then you move on ...." Thats the deal.
I have seen non EU citizen get a job here especially in Germany ... and i have also seen Non EU citizens or Easter EU Nationals or EU nationals with foreign origins face problem in securing a job... especially in the areas where politics is active.
On of my research subjects an expert in regional and political integration in EU made a specific comment indicating some thing like this ... EU is very advanced in education, economics, technology and living conditions ... but there are a few groups or secs of population where the social and ideological views of a society are most conservative than many other underdeveloped countries.
My point is its changing phase in EU and all of Europe .... It has its gains and consequences.
23rd October 2012, 00:01:28 Arianne Pollet-Brannen posted:All of you... come to Canada! If you have the right educational background
you will get a job no matter what colour your skin is or what religion you have. If anyone dares to deny you a job because of the aforementioned they would be in big doodoo! There is lots of room here for people with a good education as well as tradespeople.
6th November 2012, 15:47:21 wynesam posted:Just want to share my story..I'm an Asian married to a Belgian. Left my warm family, good job, great collegues,good social life...In my country I used to work as graphic designer for mor than 10 years. Since I moved here, life has not been simple,even finding a job. I first learned Flemmish for 1.5 years, then learned how to drive since public transport is not very accessible. Learned to cope up with homesickness.. We live in Limburg which makes it more difficult for me to find a job as a graphic designer. Here they offer more technical/mechanical jobs. I moved here in 2006, and in 2009 I was able to find a job as a graphic designer! My boss by the way is not Belgian, but a Dutch :-) He told me before that he knows the good reputation of Asians as workers and he also wanted to give me a chance to prove myself. And he said that he made the right decision. But sad to say the company went bankrupt early this year.. And now it's again a struggle to find the job I desire. That's why I'm thinking of taking a course from VDAB to broaden my chance in finding a job, even if it's not really my ideal job, which is sad. Or maybe search for a job in Holland coz there they are more open to English-speaking workers..Compared to life backhome,there I have more chance to work rightaway. But in life we have to make choices,and me
12th November 2012, 01:14:38 greenfish posted:After all these posts I get the idea that the chances to find a job in Belgium are grim. Don't even what to think of moving anymore. Is it really that bad and depressing? Anyone has anything positive to say?
28th December 2012, 23:57:04 chris posted:i really want a job in belgium im so in to cycling thats why i want to move there i have applied in south africa and after 6 years in oz im just desparate to live in belgium im so in love with the way it is there so relaxed not anal like oz or uk
6th February 2013, 01:53:58 Non-Eu resident posted:I've been working in belgium for english speaking companies to start with. With extensive experience in top notch companies, i have been only able to get 1 interview in 7 months. The jobs that advertise dutch/french as asset too find that is the min requirement during screening. Well in this hope, my french language increased to level where i can use it in work, but now i need to be trilingual to secure an interview. Hmmm. Hope to continue the efforts to reach there.
18th February 2013, 01:06:33 AH posted:These people that complains about everything..... they say that are very professional and they lost a lot of opportunities.....why they do not do a new business in a good way? or they are waiting for daddy to do that for them!
Lazy people always complains about everything and they are unable to do nothing all their life.
This world new good people!
7th March 2014, 19:34:14 Cristy posted:After reading all the comments stated above, i feel a bit nervous and sad. I am married with a belgian guy, we are living in lommel for 5 mos. but sad to say, as the rules for expats or anybody who happened to marry a citizen here has to undergo a 3 mos program, where u will be teach to learn some basic in their language, which is good and beneficial. But, the sad thing was, u are not allowed to go out of the country for six months and work. U have to follow the course on language for 3 mos also. My mom died, and becoz of the rules i can't go home. I feel really hopeless. But, i have no choice. I have to mourn here not seeing my dead mom back home. Everything seem hard to get here, follow the rules, learn the language, work, work and work. But, i am still positive that after my class here, and learning the language, good things will follow since my visa application inspired me with it's fast approval. Goodluck to all.
27th April 2014, 19:23:43 Madz posted:Hi Cristy, I find your comment interesting..I happen to be in love with a Belgian guy too and we are starting to think about me moving to Belgium, which means I need to give up my comfortable life here to be with him. Just curious, did you marry in Belgium or in your country of origin? and did you get a marriage visa or fiancee visa? thanks a lot!
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