Belgium limps behind in European battle for talent

The world is big and, thanks to technology, it is truly borderless today, which means that companies are no longer just looking under the steeple for new talent. Even in Europe, after the Corona break, globalization has jumped back into 6th gear. Yet Belgium is starting to lag behind more and more in the battle for international talent and the Scandinavian countries are emerging as real slug-heads. Find out why Belgium still remains attractive and what we can do to pull international mobility our way again.

Hijackers on the coast

The European battle for talent is raging in full force and where the Netherlands, Germany and to a smaller extent Belgium used to be high on "the most wanted list," we now find 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 for more interesting pay than at home. Some countries are responding well to this and adapting. For example, the Netherlands is fully committed to free housing and a sign-on fee, perks to attract candidates to their companies. The opportunity to put in a lot of overtime and thus earn a lot in the short term also really catches on with international talent. Things that Belgian entrepreneurs are still very reluctant to do today.

A study by Boston Consulting Group, on willingness to move to and work abroad, even puts Amsterdam in 2nd place in the rankings when it comes purely to moving to another city. Brussels ranks only 16th. Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, France and Sweden remain the top answers when asking Europeans about attractive migration countries.

Scandinavian countries are on the rise after the Covid pandemic. This is due to the possibility of building a strong resume there thanks to the many multinational companies based there. Quality of life, such as environment and gender equality, also often tip the scales. Scandinavian countries are also known for their ability to combine a career and parenthood. In addition, they more often offer very nice pay packages, adding to their appeal. Ultimately, better pay is still the biggest driver of labor migration, especially within the population of workers. Which country they then have to live in for this is often secondary.

What Belgium has to offer

That does not alter the fact that we in Belgium have a lot to be proud of. But it is not in Belgium's nature to brag about it. And that is unfortunate because international talent, in addition to economic incentives such as better pay and career opportunities, is also looking for a research infrastructure of higher quality, 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 white-collar workers.

Innovative Belgium

For example, Belgium is among the best performing countries in the European Union in terms of innovation, from a European Commission study. 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 par with Denmark, Finland and Sweden. If we keep up this trend, we may soon leave our biggest competitors for international talent behind.

Central Belgium

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 have to convince them. Both workers and employees are welcome here.

As the capital of Europe, Belgium is also the ideal base from which to travel. Many unique destinations are easily accessible and easy to do over the weekend. So in terms of relaxation, we also have a lot to offer.

Balanced Belgium

Employees in Belgium work an average of 38 hours per week. Employees get 10 holidays off each year and the often generous vacation bonuses are calculated based on the number of days an individual employee worked in the previous year. Add to that our strong social security and then we have a nice package to attract candidates. Most employees therefore enjoy an excellent work-life balance.

So we can certainly play our trump cards to the outside world in order to attract more talented employees than our neighboring countries. However, investing in Belgium's future remains necessary if we want to be a frontrunner in the European battle for talent.

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