The world is big, and, thanks to technology, it is truly without borders today, which means that companies are no longer just looking for new talent locally. Even in Europe, globalisation has switched back into 6th gear after the Corona break. But Belgium is starting to lag behind more and more in the battle for international talent, and the Scandinavian countries are emerging as the real winners. Find out why Belgium still remains attractive, and what we can do to attract international mobility back to our country.
Competitors on the horizon
The European battle for talent is raging and, whereas the Netherlands, Germany and to a lesser extent Belgium used to be high on ‘the most wanted list’, we now notice that other players are leading the way. The wage gap in Europe has been decreasing for years anyway, making it more challenging to attract candidates at wages that are more interesting than at home. Some countries are responding well to this, and are adapting. The Netherlands, for example, is fully committed to free housing and a sign-on fee, all being perks to lure candidates to their companies. The opportunity to work many hours of overtime, and thereby earn a lot in the short term, also strikes a chord with international talent. These are things that the Belgian entrepreneur is still very reluctant to do today.
A study by Boston Consulting Group on the willingness to move to and work abroad, even puts Amsterdam in 2nd place in the ranking when it comes to purely moving to another city. Brussels is only in the 16th place. Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, France and Sweden remain the top answers when asking Europeans about attractive countries for migration.
The Scandinavian countries are on the rise after the Covid pandemic. This is due to the possibility of building a strong résumé there, thanks to the many multinationals located there. Quality of life issues, such as the environment and gender equality, often tip the scales. The Scandinavian countries are also known for the possibility of combining a career and parenthood. In addition, they are more likely to offer very nice pay packages, which increases their appeal. Ultimately, better pay is still the biggest driver of labour migration, especially within the worker population. Which country they then have to live in to achieve this is often a secondary issue.
What Belgium has to offer
That does not alter the fact that we have a lot to be proud of in Belgium. But it’s not in the Belgian nature to brag about this. And that’s unfortunate, because international talent not only seeks economic incentives such as better pay and career opportunities, but also a higher-quality research infrastructure, the chance to work with star scientists and more freedom to debate. And we can certainly be proud of that in Belgium. This makes us attractive to workers and employees.
For example, Belgium is among the best-performing countries in the European Union in terms of innovation, according to a study by the European Commission. According to the European Innovation Scoreboard, Belgium’s performance in 2021 has increased by 20.7% compared to 2014, and by more than 9% since last year, putting us on a par with Denmark, Finland and Sweden. If we keep up this trend, we may soon be able to leave our biggest competitors for international talent behind.
Central location of Belgium
Being centrally located within Europe, we are a draw for large and small companies and, as a country, we have an entrepreneurial mentality. This means we can offer a lot of great jobs and a bright future to all that international talent. Now we just need to convince them. Both workers and employees are welcome here.
Moreover, as the capital of Europe, Belgium is the ideal base from which to travel around. Many unique destinations are easily accessible and doable over the weekend. So we have a lot to offer in terms of relaxation as well.
Employees in Belgium work an average of 38 hours per week. Employees receive 10 public holidays each year, and generous vacation bonuses are often calculated based on the number of days an individual employee worked in the previous year. Add to that our strong social security and we then have a nice package for attracting candidates. Most employees thereby enjoy an excellent work-life balance.
We can therefore certainly play our trump cards to the outside world, in order to attract more talented employees than our neighbouring countries. Investing in the future of Belgium remains a necessity, however, if we want to be a frontrunner in the European battle for talent.