Genk's future as job market area hinges on reconversion
Following the closure of the Ford plant, Genk has become the most vulnerable local job market zone in Flanders, with only 50.2% of its local residents employed within the region and the remainder in jobs in regions such as Hasselt. The reconversion policy introduced after the closure of the car factory will determine whether Genk maintains its status as job market zone. Most Flemings live in the surroundings of the city where they work, according to a report released by the Centre for Employment and Social Economy WSE. The institute has divided Flanders in fourteen local job market zones, identifying them as areas surrounding cities where most workers are employed. The region around Brussels and Antwerp are identified as the biggest job zones, with 83.5% and 75.7% of those working in the city living in its surroundings. The region around Genk, which is at the bottom of the list, is now even more threatened as regional employment hub. After the closure of the Ford plant and its suppliers the number of job seekers 8 800 is supposed to double. According to the researchers, “much will depend on the reconversion policy and the success at creating new jobs in the region”. As it is, jobs in the region are scarce, with only 62 jobs for 100 residents of a working age. And at 60%, the region struggles with the lowest employment and highest unemployement rate 10.2% in Flanders. It seems inevitable then that most of the job seekers will have to venture outside the region to find employment. This could lead to the employment hub of Genk becoming part of the hub of Hasselt.