Expats working in Belgium will find themselves in an open economy that punches far above its geographic weight. Despite taxes that are generally higher than many other countries, expats have continued looking for work in Belgium to enjoy the high quality of life it offers residents.
Job market in Belgium
Belgium has a strong manufacturing sector. However, the services sector accounts for the largest part of its economy. The country’s main exports include automobiles, metals, plastics, food products, finished diamonds and petroleum products.
While the job market is highly competitive in general, many English-speaking companies in Belgium are either connected with the European Union or with NATO. These institutions are in themselves extremely competitive and tend to offer attractive employee benefits.
Finding work in Belgium
Expats are most likely to find themselves employed in the services or manufacturing sectors, especially in the capital, Brussels. Those with the best chance of finding a job in Belgium work in specialised areas where there is a shortage of personnel such as engineers, technicians, mechanics, accountants, certain IT specialists and qualified teachers.
Foreign job applicants who can either speak French or Dutch will have an added advantage over those who cannot, especially when looking for work outside of Brussels. In fact, it might be difficult to find a job if one doesn't speak the predominant language of the region.
Expats moving to Belgium on a non-EU passport will require a work permit and will likely find that it is best to secure a job before moving to Belgium. This makes the visa process easier, as the hiring company is required to apply for the work permit on the employee’s behalf.
Generally speaking, expats from European Economic Area (EEA) countries will only need a valid passport and identity document to work in Belgium. Work permits for Belgium are usually valid for 12 months and are renewable annually.
It can, however, be difficult for non-EU nationals to find employment in Belgium as the hiring company would have to prove that the position could not be filled by a European national.
Work culture in Belgium
Belgium is in the heart of Europe. It offers expats a diverse, multicultural working environment. Belgian business culture is largely influenced by Dutch, German and French business structures and etiquette.
The business environment in Belgium is fast-paced, demanding and aggressive. The local workforce is known for being skilled, productive and multilingual. Appearances are important to Belgian businesspeople. Expat men and women alike will be expected to dress formally and conservatively for any professional situation.
Expats will do well to learn a few phrases in the local languages and keep an open mind towards any new business practices they may encounter.