With its growing economy and range of major international organizations it’s no wonder Belgium is an appealing place to work for those looking to broaden their horizons.
Belgium as a country is relatively small but densely populated with an estimated population of more than 10million. It’s well connected to other European cities such as Amsterdam, London and Paris, which are only a train ride away.
To stand up against competition for jobs in this bilingual country it may be useful to learn a second language. Don’t worry if you have no prior knowledge of French, Dutch or German before you arrive, the Belgian people, fluent in English, will be able to help you once you arrive.
The cosmopolitan city of Brussels, the Belgian capital, houses the headquarters to the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), both of which are big employers of foreign workers.
Job Market In Belgium
The majority of Belgians work in the tertiary sector – the part of the economy that provides services, rather than the production of tangible goods. Examples of such industries include media, legal services, tourism and banking.
In Belgium, about a quarter of the population works in industries such as textiles, glass, engineering, automobile production and chemicals.
13.92 Months of Salary
Did you know there are 13.92 months in a year? In Belgium, employees’ salaries are divided into 13.92 months, to provide extra income, at the times of year when expenses are highest.
In the spring, usually May, you will get an extra 92% of a month’s salary, as vacation pay (pécule de vacances) and at the end of the year, you will get an extra month’s bonus (the 13th month). It’s not free money; companies simply divide your gross yearly salary by 13.92 to get your monthly salary.
Salaries are paid monthly, which is less of an issue for other Europeans, but likely a surprise for North Americans. This means you will need to budget your spending across the entire month.
Salaries are also indexed, meaning they are automatically increased each year, based on the health index (consumer price index minus tobacco, fuel, diesel and alcohol). Practically, this means each year, the government measures the cost of a particular “basket” of necessities (bread, fruit, vegetables, etc). The change in the cost of this basket from year to year is the basis for your salary adjustment.
Indexation keeps salaries in line with the cost of living. However, it is a topic of some debate, as it forces company costs up, even while their business may be in decline. Belgium is one of the remaining few countries with such a law.
Paid Time Off
Compared to North America, Belgians enjoy more vacation time during a year. This provides a better work/life balance.
- An employee working 5 days a week for a year is entitled to 20 days of annual leave, plus 10 public holidays.
- If any of the public holidays fall on a weekend, that day becomes a floating holiday, which the employee is entitled to use like any vacation day.
- Your annual leave is provided all at once at the start of the year, based on the number of months worked in the previous year. Therefore if you join a company on January 1st, you will need to work for a whole year, before you get your vacation days.
- Annual leave does not carry over if you don’t use it.
- Employees are also entitled to sick leave. There is no maximum number of days, but each incidence must be accompanied by a doctor’s sick note.