Find work in Belgium with this complete guide to jobs in Belgium, including Belgian job websites, recruitment agencies, the jobs in demand, the local job market, and the permits required to work in the country.
Many foreigners easily 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 and European Union (EU) presence.
This guide to jobs in Belgium includes topics such as:
- Work in Belgium
- How to find jobs in Belgium
- Self-employment and freelancing in Belgium
- Traineeships, internships and volunteering in Belgium
- Applying for a job in Belgium
- Support while looking for a job in Belgium
- Requirements to work in Belgium
- Starting a job in Belgium
- Useful resources
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Work in Belgium
With many EU institutions, NATO and lots of other major international organizations and multi-national companies based in Brussels, there are a great many jobs in Belgium for foreigners.
However, 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; you’ll also be competing with locals who are typically bilingual or multilingual, including a decent level of English proficiency, meaning there can be more competition for jobs in Belgium for English speakers.
Job market in Belgium
Most Belgians work in the service sector – legal, banking, media and tourism. Additionally, around a quarter work in industry, including textiles, glass, engineering, car assembly, and chemicals. The Belgian government maintains a list of key sectors in Belgium.
There are numerous large companies located in Belgium, including:
- Anheuser-Busch InBev (brewing)
- Proximus (telecoms, previously Belgacom)
- Ageas (insurance)
- Bekaert (chemicals manufacturing)
- Colruyt (food retail)
- Ahold Delhaize (food retail)
- D-Ieteren (automotive)
- Elia (energy)
- KBC (banking/insurance)
- UCB (pharmaceutical)
- Umicore (materials technology)
Job vacancies in Belgium
Most available jobs in Brussels are for highly skilled workers within the services sectors. These include finance, international institutions and businesses, estate agencies, education, and public health and social services. Despite Belgium’s unemployment rate, the country reports an ongoing issue with skill shortages, particularly in IT and engineering.
There are also more flexible procedures for shortages occupations; you can see lists of shortage occupations on the regional work websites – Le Forem in Wallonia, VDAB in Flanders and Brussels Economy and Employment, plus other government websites such as Metiers. Unemployed workers may also qualify for study programs (in French) in a shortage occupation.
Job salaries in Belgium
Belgium has among the highest salaries and minimum wages in Europe. In 2017, the average gross full-time salary was €3,558 per month. This rises to an average of €5,330 a month for skilled workers with a master’s degree.
The Belgian minimum wage as of mid-2020 is €1,625.72. However, Belgium also has one of the highest tax rates in Europe. This is on a sliding scale between 25-50% depending on earnings.
Work culture in Belgium
The duality between the French- and Dutch-speaking regions is reflected in the Belgian workplace, which has traditionally followed the French 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. Belgians also appreciate logic and reasoning and expect you to back up arguments with clear facts and figures.
Your employer may offer you a temporary contract at first as a trial period. In general, you’ll most likely work a 38-hour week with eight-hour days, around 20 days a year holidays plus 10 Belgian national holidays. For more details, check out our guide to annual leave in Belgium.
Labor laws and labor rights in Belgium
All workers in Belgium, whether full-time or part-time, will receive an employment contract. Those working on contracts lasting at least 12 months are entitled to a minimum of 20 days a year paid holiday.
Contracts will lay out the terms and conditions of employment and state the notice period that needs to be given by either party. This varies according to job sector, but the minimum is usually two weeks’ notice for the employee and four weeks for the employer.
Read more in our guide to employment contracts in Belgium.
How to find jobs in Belgium
Expatica jobs in Belgium
On Expatica’s Belgian job search, 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 jobs in Belgium through EURES, the European Job Mobility Portal. This is part of the European Commission and its purpose is 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.
Belgian employment services
Each region of Belgium has its own public employment office where you can browse job vacancies in Belgium, 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
- ADG is for the German community in Belgium
- ONEM is the national office of employment.
EU and NATO Belgian jobs
The European Union employs more than 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). You can also check EuroBrussels for jobs in EU organizations based in Brussels.
NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) 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.
Job websites in Belgium
- Academic Jobs EU – academic and research jobs
- BrusselsJobs – business, finance, admin and IT jobs for multilingual workers in Brussels and beyond
- Eurograduate – for graduates in the EU
- 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.
Jobs in Belgium for English speakers
Recruitment agencies in Belgium
Sign on with as many recruitment agencies as possible because they tend to specialise in different sectors. Look them up in the Belgian Golden Pages (in English). However, make sure they are recognized by the trade federation Federgon.
Teaching jobs in Belgium for English speakers
You can apply to become an English-language assistant in a state school or college through the British Council, however you need to have an A-level, B1 or equivalent in French. If you have a TEFL/TESOL qualification you can look for a job with a private language school or business at TEFL, ESL Base or i-to-i.
Belgian jobs in newspapers
Belgium, and especially Brussels, is a fantastic place to network with so many international companies and expats already working there. As a result, word of mouth fills many positions 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
- British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium
- European Professionals Network – based in Brussels
- Professional Women International (PWI) – a Brussels-based multi-national forum for women in business.
You can also get in touch with other expats working in similar fields through meet-up groups.
Make the first move – speculative job applications
Speculative job applications are an acceptable way to find 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
Self-employment and freelancing in Belgium
Belgium has around a million self-employed workers and freelancers, which is close to 20% of the working population. Anyone of working age can set up their own business in Belgium, including foreigners, as long as they have an entitlement to work and follow the correct procedures.
You can set up as a sole trader or as a limited company in Belgium. The difference being that there is no distinction between personal and business finances as a sole trader, whereas limited companies are distinct legal entities that have separate accounts.
Traineeships, internships and volunteering in Belgium
The EU offers traineeships for university graduates via the European Commission Traineeships Office (Bureau de Stages), otherwise internships or summer placements can be arranged by AIESEC (for students and recent graduates) or IAESTE (for students in science, engineering and applied arts). You can also find internships at Europlacement and Intern Abroad.
For those aged between 17 and 30, the European Voluntary Service (EVS) runs voluntary programs where you work abroad for up to 12 months in exchange for board, food, insurance and a small allowance. Concordia is another organization for volunteer opportunities.
Applying for a job in Belgium
Once you have found suitable Belgian jobs, 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. Some jobs may go the alternative route of application and personal statement, but the general requirements in terms of content remain the same.
The process for applying for jobs in Belgium is broadly similar to elsewhere in western Europe. You make your application and will then be invited to an interview if selected. The interview process may involve testing and possibly a follow-up interview. Candidates who reach the interview stage will be formally notified whether or not they’ve been successful.
Preparation for Belgian job interviews is not that different from how it is in countries such as the UK or US. Dress smartly, research the company in advance so that you are prepared and have some good questions, and keep your behavior formal without becoming too stiff or characterless.
You will typically be asked to provide 2-3 professional references, but these won’t be contacted unless you are offered a job.
To find out how to prepare your CV and cover letter, in addition to what to expect in a Belgian job interview, see our guide to Belgian CVs and interview tips.
Support while looking for a job in Belgium
Belgian residents can claim unemployment benefits while they are looking for work. However, there are conditions attached to this including having worked for a minimum number of days (between 312 and 624) within a specific period (between 21-42 months) depending on your age.
This means that you won’t be eligible for unemployment support when you first move to Belgium if you don’t have a job.
Employment training opportunities are available by region, although eligibility varies according to circumstances. You can find out more information on the VDAB website for Flanders, the Le Forem website for Wallonia and the Bruxelles-Formation website for the Brussels-Capital region.
Requirements to work in Belgium
Work visas in Belgium
All EU/EEA (European Economic Area – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) 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. Read more in our guide for EU citizens moving to Belgium.
Citizens from elsewhere will generally need a work permit, and certain nationalities will also need a visa to enter the country, although exemptions apply.
Language requirements to work in Belgium
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 southeast.
Between 10–20% 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’ll be working. In some cases, mainly in international companies, English may be sufficient.
You can find many language schools in Belgium if you need to improve your language skills.
Qualifications to work in Belgium
If you come from a country signed up to the Bologna Process you will have your educational qualifications recognized 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 recognized in Belgium.
If you want to work in certain professions, you may have to have your professional qualifications, both your training and experience, officially recognized or regulated before you can work in Belgium. Check here to find out if you will be working in a regulated profession in Belgium.
Tax and social security numbers in Belgium
You will need a tax identification number, also known as the National Register Number or National Number, before you can legally start working or set up your own business in Belgium.
This is a citizenship number that is usually issued when you move to Belgium.
Find out more information and how to apply in this Expatica guide to the Belgian tax identification number.
Starting work in Belgium
Once you have found and started a job in Belgium, you will probably initially be on a probation period. This could last anywhere between 2-6 months, depending on your job.
Depending on your employer, you may also be offered the chance to opt in on a company pension to top up your state pension benefit.
- VDAB – employment website for the Flanders region
- Le Forem – employment website for the Wallonia region
- Brussels Economy and Employment – employment website for the Brussels-Capital region
- ADG – employment website for the German-speaking region
- ONEM – Belgian national office for employment
- EURES – EU job search portal