Flemish industry gets a boost
Two years after the Minister-president of the government of Flanders Kris Peeters CD&V agreed with the Flemish industrial sector during a States General for Industry to strengthen the Industry with increased coaching and continued consultation, the Flemish Industrial Council has become operational. The government of Flanders also drafted a White Paper for New Industrial Policy, which has meanwhile come into effect. The paper comprises 50 concrete actions, and focuses on “the factory of the future” and topics such as innovation, skills development, labour organisation as well as productivity and competition policy. The actions will be organised in a series of technology clusters. Chaired by Wouter De Geest, CEO of the Antwerp chemical giant BASF, the Industrial Council consists of industry experts, academics and social partner representatives. This is a welcome boost for the industry which, after barely recovering from the 2008-2010 financial and economic crisis, has once again been hit by market uncertainty and bleak future prospects in the short term. Direct job opportunities with industrial companies in Flanders have dropped from 470,000 to 370,000 during the past fifteen years 1995-2011. At present this industry represents only 15% of the total employment in Flanders. On the other hand there has been a spectacular increase in productivity from 52,000 to 77,000 euro per worker, representing a 50% hike in comparison with only 13% for other economic sectors. Moreover the industry is responsible for 85% of all exports and for 80% of all investment in research and development.