February 3, 2024
With a renewed focus on young people, better screening of skills and more jobs in Flanders, Actiris, the Brussels counterpart of the VDAB, hopes to get more Brussels residents to work this year.
Do not simply compare the labor market in Brussels with Flanders. Compare us with other major cities, such as Antwerp and Charleroi. There too, a poorly educated population lives in a place where there are mainly service jobs.
Christina Amboldi makes the point several times when she explains her ambitions for 2024. Since the end of 2021, she has been leading Actiris, the Brussels counterpart of the Flemish Employment Service VDAB. Previously, she worked in the cabinets of Défi ministers Bernard Clerfayt and Didier Gosuin.
The numbers don’t prove her wrong. In the Brussels Region, the unemployment rate rose to 14.7 percent last year. That is the same figure that can be found on the VDAB website for the city of Antwerp. In both cases it is almost three times higher than the average for the whole of Flanders.
About 56,000 Brussels residents were working in Flanders at the end of 2021. Actiris wants to increase that figure by 2,000 annually. One of the ways to do this is through more training. In September, Actiris started mapping the language skills and digital knowledge of a thousand young people. This year there should be five thousand, ten thousand in 2025.
Brussels is a labor reserve for Flanders, which has bottlenecks in professions where language requirements are not always very high.
It should help to break down the language barrier. “Many young people in Brussels are afraid to apply for a job in Flemish Brabant because they do not speak Dutch,” says Amboldi. ‘But conversely, companies are also sometimes reluctant. Brussels is a labor reserve for Flanders, which has bottlenecks in professions where the language requirements are not always very high,” she says.
According to her, the same applies to the capital itself. ‘One vacancy in two in Brussels requires an employee to be perfectly bilingual, while the job does not always require this. ‘If you can say ‘hello’ in Dutch in a clothing store, ask for clothing size and color preferences and immediately start language lessons, then you can already start working, right?’
It fits in with a policy in which the focus should be more on young people, a group where the unemployment rate in Brussels is 22 percent. A second priority is the long-term unemployed, who make up 46 percent of job seekers in the capital.
Amboldi puts objectives on it. Of the 86,000 Brussels job seekers, 61,000 received guidance into a job last year. That number should increase by 10 percent this year. Last year, 11,000 companies called on Actiris to fill vacancies. That figure must be increased by 5 percent.
Our message to companies? Contact us. Challenge us. If you are not satisfied, explain what the problem is.
“Our message to companies is simple,” she says. ‘Contact us. Challenge us. And if you tried it and you’re not satisfied, let us know what the problem was.’