Labour market information

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Belgium - Région De Bruxelles-Capitale / Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest

Short overview of the labour market


In 2016, the Brussels-Capital region accounted for 716 554 positions across its territory, making the capital the main area of employment in the country. Brussels is very attractive to jobseekers. A large proportion of these jobs are not held by people from Brussels: in 2016, the Brussels region had a total of 716 554 jobs of which 347 450 (48.5%) were held by commuters (221 959 from Flanders and 125 591 from Wallonia). Conversely, 16.0% of people from Brussels work outside the area (71 239 in all, with 49 211 (69.1%) working in Flanders and 22 029 (30.9%) in Wallonia). 

Moreover, the presence of international institutions (European Union, NATO, etc.) and Brussels’ status as capital city (and thus first port of call for international migration) have attracted workers from all corners of Europe and also from outside the European Union. This has further boosted the cosmopolitan character of Brussels and it now has a large concentration of foreign nationals. According to Federal Government figures on origin published in 2014, 72.7% of the Brussels population described themselves as foreign nationals[1] (compared with 40.4% in Wallonia and 28.7% in Flanders). 

Jobs in the services sector are predominant in the employment structure of the economy of Brussels (90.5% of the total in 2016). By comparison, tertiary activities account for fewer jobs in Flanders and Wallonia, for which the 2016 figures are 73.8% and 78.2% respectively. In the Brussels-Capital region, employment structure based on sector of activity shows that 14.5% of posts are in public administration, followed by healthcare and the social sector with 10.4%, commerce (9.3%), teaching (8.2%) and administrative and support services (7.5%). These five sectors together account for 49.9% of paid employment in Brussels[2]. In addition, the presence of international institutions, and more particularly the European Union, brings with it a large number of enterprises that support these institutions. The presence of international institutions is estimated to account for 121 000 jobs in Brussels (81 000 direct jobs and 40 000 indirect jobs), that is to say 16.7% of total employment in the region[3].

In Brussels, the level of qualifications required is high. In 2016, almost 60% of jobs in Brussels were held by highly qualified personnel (higher (non-)university level), as against approximately 43.6% for Belgium as a whole.

Paradoxically, like many large urban centres, the Brussels region is one of the wealthiest in Europe (in terms of GDP) but it continues to suffer from a high poverty and unemployment levels. The unemployment rate in the Brussels-Capital Region is higher than in the other two regions and above the European average. In 2017, the registered unemployment rate in the region was 16.8%, whereas it was 9.9% for Belgium as a whole. In late December 2017, Brussels recorded 91 091 jobseekers, equating to an unemployment level of 16.4%. This 38th successive drop in unemployment corresponds to a reduction of 5 645 people as compared with 2016 (-5.8%), 9 627 as compared with 2015 (-9.6%) and 16 826 as compared with 2014 (-15.6%). Unemployment among young people has been falling continuously for 55 months, standing at 24.3%. Brussels has 9 612 young jobseekers, that is to say 1 076 fewer than last year (-10.1%), 1 993 fewer than in December 2015 (17.2%) and 3 237 fewer than in December 2014 (-25.2%). 


[1] ‘Foreign nationals’ are defined as people with a foreign nationality, people who were born with a foreign nationality and/or people with a parent who was born with a foreign nationality.

[2] Source: Enquête sur les Forces de Travail, 2016 data.

[3] The figures on international employment are taken from the 2016 edition of the brochure ‘Brussels-Europe in figures’.

Text last edited on: 12/2018

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