Belgium's regions join forces to fill job vacancies across language border

Flemish and Walloon public employment agencies VDAB and Forem have reached an agreement to get 12,500 Walloon jobseekers into work in Flanders next year, they announced in a joint press release on Friday. Earlier this year, increasing staff shortages in Flanders already prompted companies to start recruiting employees across the globe.

Both Flanders and Wallonia have experienced staff shortages in recent years, but Wallonia has struggled with higher unemployment for several decades. According to the latest figures for 2022, 45,000 Walloons are working in Flanders. "Both governments want to increase that number substantially," Flemish public employment service VDAB and its Walloon counterpart Forem said on Friday.

Therefore, they agreed to direct 12,500 Walloon jobseekers to Flanders, which has a lower unemployment rate but more vacancies than Wallonia. From next year onwards, the target of the number of Walloons finding their way to Flemish jobs should increase by 3 per cent annually.

Language training

The employment agencies want to achieve this "by making candidates and vacancies better known to each other," explains VDAB chief executive Wim Adriaens. "For example, VDAB will more quickly introduce Walloon candidates to Flemish employers and provide services to recruit someone who speaks another language." In addition, on-the-job training opportunities will be expanded, and at least 1,000 Walloons will be able to take Dutch-language training.

The employment agencies want to achieve their goal "by making candidates and vacancies better known to each other"

The move to increase recruitment across Belgium's language border is emblematic of evolutions in the Flemish labour market in recent years. Staff shortages have already led companies in Belgium's Dutch-speaking north to go looking for employees across the globe. In August of this year, the Flemish employers' organisation Voka announced that it wanted to tackle widespread labour shortages by recruiting workers from Mexico and India. The province of West Flanders alone, for instance, will need more than 50,000 migrant workers by 2030, Voka said.

In 2022, Flanders issued over 6,800 temporary work permits to newcomers from outside the EU, more than double the number (+140%) in 2021.




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