Belgium, the home of NATO, diamonds, and waffles. Do not let this country’s comparatively small size fool you. With arguably more to do per square mile than most places on earth, Belgium is a budding young professional’s paradise. Home to an abundance of culture, historic sites, and distinctly beautiful towns, this self-proclaimed capital of Europe is a haven for both business and pleasure, which happens to be the perfect combination for anyone looking for jobs abroad.
While perhaps internationally and culturally known for only a few major cities, Belgium is actually home to a plethora of very hospitable cities that offer a number of job opportunities, each one with its own distinct flavor and appeal. As one might naturally assume, jobs in Belgium tend to segregate themselves across different fields between individual cities. Below are just a few of the top places to look for jobs in Belgium, however you can always expand your search for employment beyond the scope of these most popular cities.
Brussels. Known as “the capital of Europe,” expats working in Brussels will find themselves in a fast-paced and demanding business and political environment. Home to both the EU and NATO headquarters, many individuals relocate to Brussels to pursue jobs within these political giants, so much so that foreigners make up almost three quarters of the city.
Antwerp. Those who choose to work abroad in Antwerp will find themselves in yet another flourishing economic environment. Antwerp accounts for more than one sixth of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs more than one eighth of the population. While living and working in Antwerp it will feel like you are in a major city, despite the condensed city structure.
Ghent. The majority of Ghent’s economy is based around the Port of Ghent, the third largest in Belgium. Located on the Western coast, Ghent is a major transit port for all exports. It is also home to many large companies, such as Volvo, Honda, and Innogenetics, as well as Ghent University. Those who work abroad in Ghent will be blown away by the high quality of life in this beautiful port town.
Jobs In Belgium
Due to the demographic makeup of the country, jobs in Belgium circulate mostly around the locally-based political and international organizations, as well as some of the leading export industries.
International Relations. International organizations are some of the largest employers in Belgium. Any EU citizen has the right to work in Belgium, and there are a wide variety of job opportunities within the EU and NATO specifically. It is also common for qualified individuals to obtain jobs in Belgium with their home country as part of the Foreign Service consular.
Business. Thanks to its international prestige, Belgium has become a preferred location for international business. The large number of expats who choose to work in Belgium has even helped expand the nation’s modernized, private enterprise economy. Aside from the capital city of Brussels, those seeking business jobs in Belgium will be able to find lots of opportunities for work in Antwerp, the world’s foremost diamond trading center.
Education. One of the most popular job options for foreign workers in Europe, many expats opt to put their education degrees to use by finding a teaching job in Belgium. Along with the many advantages of teaching abroad in general, Belgium specifically offers educators an opportunity to gain experience teaching foreign language courses in a bilingual country (both Dutch and French and spoken in Belgium). As a result of the bilingual nature of the country, Belgian school administrators often intentionally seek out foreign teachers, which means the probability of landing a teaching job in Belgium is quite good.
Salary & Affordability
The Belgian government requires all workers 21 years of age and older to be paid a minimum wage of roughly $10 an hour. Of course, more professional and higher level jobs in Belgium will pay much more than this, however entry level jobs typically offer close to minimum wage. The average work week in Belgium is 38 hours, roughly eight hours of work a day, and public employees usually receive 20 vacations days, as well as 10 public holidays.
Something important to note is that Belgium has one of the highest tax rates in Europe. That being said, the cost of living is generally considered to be lower in Belgium than in the UK and the United States. Luckily, if you land a job in Belgium, you will be afforded with access to an extensive network of public transportation options throughout the country, so you will easily be able to get to and from work comfortably and efficiently.
Accommodation & Visas
Depending on where you work in Belgium, you will have a variety of housing options at your fingertips across a range of prices. Belgian cities that are home to major universities will often have cheaper housing solutions available (to accommodate students on tight budgets), but often times, employers will offer pre-arranged housing for foreign employees (just don’t forget to ask!).
Native EU citizens do not need a visa in order to work in Belgium, however anyone applying from outside the EU will need a visa before they can begin any type of paid job in Belgium. Applying for a work visa can be a bit confusing, so make sure to dedicate some time to researching and learning more about the visa process through your local Belgian consulate prior to leaving the country. Additionally, it is highly recommended that foreign employees apply for a European Health Insurance Card prior to leaving their home country to guarantee health care coverage for the duration of their job in Belgium.
Benefits & Challenges
Difficulty Finding Jobs. Belgium has a particularly high unemployment rate, and it is quite difficult for many natives to find employment, let alone expats. That being said, jobs in the political arena or business world, as well as those in the field of education, do tend to lend a handful of opportunities to foreigners, so foreign job applicants should not be entirely discouraged.
Polyglots Rejoice. Given its linguistic nature, special consideration is given to applicants with foreign language skills. Fluency in multiple languages will be a huge advantage when applying for jobs in Belgium, as it is very highly valued and sought after throughout the country.
Business Slam Dunk. Working in Belgium is beneficial for everyone, but especially for those in international relations and business. Belgium is a an absolute homerun when it comes to work abroad. Connections and contacts made in Belgium will continue to benefit you for life, and you will likely reap the rewards of good hard work in Belgium for your entire career.