Belgium heads into 2017 with positive momentum on the back of strong economic data.
All in all, job growth in 2016 exceeded that of 2015. The government’s mantra of “Jobs, jobs, jobs” is paying off, as figures reveal employment growth throughout the country. Unemployment rates dropped by 5% in Wallonia and 5.9% in Flanders, and youth unemployment has also decreased, particularly in Brussels. Of the 42,000 new jobs created last year, many can be attributed to the competitive measures taken by the Michel Government, including the ‘tax shift’ and ‘index jump’. Job creation is clearly linked to decreasing – albeit still too high – labor costs. The wage handicap between Belgium and its neighboring countries shrank to 10% in 2016, and this gap will continue to narrow as the recently approved reform of the 1996 Law on Competitiveness is implemented.
These wage moderation policies benefit exporting companies in particular, which tend to be larger companies. In fact, three out of four jobs created in the private sector since the Michel Government took office in the third quarter of 2014 have been generated by companies with more than 200 employees., i.e. large companies.
Company creation is another sign of a healthy economy. 88,419 new companies were set up in 2016, representing 7% more startups than in 2015. Entrepreneurs’ confidence, coupled with the lowest number of bankruptcies in six years, are tangible and positive indicators of the country’s improved economic climate. AmCham Belgium looks forward to working with all levels of government to strengthen these encouraging trends in 2017.