Labour migration from outside the EU peaks in Flanders

Labour migration from outside the EU has experienced a significant surge, with a 53 per cent increase in permits granted in 2023 compared to previous years. These findings, obtained by De Tijd from the office of Flemish Minister of Work Jo Brouns (CD&V), underscore the growing reliance of Flemish employers on non-EU citizens to address workforce shortages.

In 2023, Flanders authorised nearly 16,700 non-EU citizens to work in the region, surpassing the annual average of 10,890 permits issued during the period 2019-2022 by more than half. The primary cause behind this trend is the persistent tightness in the local labour market.

In 2022, the Flemish employment intermediary VDAB faced a critical shortage with only 1.7 jobseekers per vacancy, yet the number of non-EU citizens granted work permits that year was lower than the 16,000 recorded in 2023.

Notably, despite the increasing demand, a relatively high number of work permit applications face rejection. Last year alone, 2,000 files were turned down, a stark contrast to the previous annual maximum of 600 rejections. This upswing can be attributed to heightened scrutiny and more stringent controls on economic migration.



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