Workers shortage in Flemish labour market leads to a drop in potential growth
New figures from the 'Steunpunt Werk', the specialized research center of KU Leuven, show that the Flemish labour market has never been tighter than it is today. There are fewer than two unemployed job seekers available per vacancy. "The search for personnel is so difficult for Flemish companies that it stands in the way of production and stunts growth," writes the Belgian newspaper De Tijd.
According to the research center, there are more than 9,000 job openings for maintenance personnel and more than 6,700 construction workers and technicians are wanted. In retail and healthcare, about 5,000 jobs are open. The shortage of workers is noticeable in West Flanders. The tension ratio drops below 1.5 job seekers per vacancy.
In almost one in four companies in the manufacturing industry, the labor shortage is an obstacle to production.
"Some companies are even in danger of completely shutting down due to the large staff shortage", says Vickie Decocker of the industry umbrella organization Agoria to De Tijd.
Surveys made by the employers' organization Voka indicate that the tight labor market is the main concern of company managers. According to Voka, the shortage of personnel is already leading to a drop in turnover and a significant loss of potential growth.
The Voka CEO in West Flanders, Bert Mons, says to the Belgian newspaper that their companies have been trying to find people in Northern France and Wallonia for years. "The working language in some workplaces is now French," reveals Mons. Nevertheless, language or mobility is not the problem. Since the Walloon companies are also doing well, those with potential will continue to work there.
For Mons, the government must work quickly on targeted labour migration.
“Just like Germany and the Netherlands, Flanders needs to promote itself as the ideal environment to work in. In doing so, we should not only focus on EU countries, but also beyond," he says.
“We have to tackle this problem because we are in a vicious circle. Due to the large shortages, employees have to take on extra tasks. The workload is increasing, which means that more and more people are losing their jobs due to illness, whether or not long-term," concludes Mons.
On the other hand, CD&V minister of Work and Economy Jo Brouns is not in favor of economic migration and the public employment service of Flanders (VDAB) has work to do.
"Foreign top talents have a place in our labor market, but today we have a huge group of inactive people. Let us do our utmost to get them to work," he states.
"Flanders cannot do this alone. The labour deal and federal measures to increase the employment rate should help us make faster progress,” Brouns adds.
© BELGA PHOTO (ROBBE VANDEGEHUCHTE)