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Labour market in Belgium continues to fall behind

Belgian market gives limited attention to investments in automation and robotisation

Brussels, Belgium – 9 May 2019

Amid rapid technological, economic and social change, it is important for organisations to move beyond mission statements and social impact programmes to put humans at the centre of their business strategies.

Completed by nearly 10,000 respondents in 119 countries, including 455 Belgian business and HR leaders from different sectors, Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, “Leading the social enterprise: Reinvent with a human focus,” is the largest longitudinal survey of its kind. It reveals that companies in Belgium remain hungry both in terms of internal and external flexibility, and are in acute need of employee learning and reinventing the ‘social enterprise’ where the focus is on the individual. In Belgium 65 percent of respondents rate the social enterprise important compared to 84 percent globally, and only 33 percent of the Belgian respondents consider themselves ready to meet this challenge versus 43 percent globally.

“The labour market in Belgium continues to fall behind. The challenges faced worldwide are identical to the challenges in Belgium. However, we score worse in terms of employee experience and employee commitment than globally, said Yves Van Durme, Deloitte Belgium Human Capital Lead. “Technology is helping organisations gain competitive advantage, but if not managed appropriately, it can simultaneously mean that workers lose their identity in the workplace. Organisations need to reinvent their approach to human capital with the individual in mind, and create opportunities for continuous learning, accelerated development, and professional and personal growth.”

Alternative workforce deserves more attention

The first tricky point in the Belgian market is the limited attention "the alternative workforce", such as freelancers, can count on. Worldwide 42 percent of respondents consider it important, while only 30 percent in Belgium. This contradicts the position of Belgian organisations who believe that they are completely ready to deal with the alternative workforce.

Van Durme continues: “This is remarkable given that the Belgian labour market offers little flexibility, for example when it comes to e-commerce. As a result, foreign organisations such as and Post NL have hijacked the Belgian market share. Belgium has missed the boat and still continues to miss it.”

Pay packages lack flexibility

While the global economy has not done badly in the last five years, pay remains a challenge. Belgian organisations confirm in the survey that they are "on track" in terms of pay. However, this is refuted by the current discussions between employees and trade unions.

“This mismatch emphasises once again that pay is a story of global competitiveness. If Belgium wants to be and remain competitive in a global market, steps must be taken to make organisations and pay packages more flexible, added Van Durme.”

Lack of interest and investment in automation & robotisation

Worldwide there is a strong emphasis on automation and robotisation within organisations, but in Belgium this focus is rather limited. For example, only 28 percent of Belgian respondents versus 64 percent globally indicate that they expect substantial or more than substantial changes in the area of work/job design in the coming three years as a result of automation.

“This is very strange given that Belgium has high labour costs,” said Van Durme. “It would be logical to invest in automation and robotisation to reduce wage costs. Unfortunately, Belgium is not taking any steps in this regard and is therefore not catching up.”

Declining quality of education impacts job creation

The statement that highly educated people account for the high labour costs in Belgium is no longer valid in view of the declining quality of education. There’s a significant gap between the organisations that need technology trained people and the slowly reforming education system. This creates a field of tension within companies that need to train employees internally, thereby delaying the development of new activities, and, consequently, new jobs.

Insufficient support for internal mobility

Belgian respondents pay less attention than the global average to internal mobility, which does not benefit flexibility on the Belgian labour market. In Belgium, 63 percent of respondents consider this important compared to 76 percent worldwide, and only 34 percent of respondents in Belgium consider themselves ready to meet this challenge versus 40 percent of their global peers.

Individual interests hold back management committees

As a final trend, we can state that management committees still do not operate as one team compared to last year. In Belgium, 39 percent of respondents indicate that they do so only rarely or sometimes. “Unsurprisingly, the organisations that have tackled this difficult point have noticed a remarkable improvement in the performance and innovation of their organisation,” concluded Van Durme.

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