Work in Belgium: Finding a job
Find work in Belgium with this guide on where to look for jobs in Belgium, plus information on Belgium's current job market and Belgian work permits.
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.