Jobs: Belgium's immigrants 'most discriminated'

Figures from the European Union published earlier in the week by the daily De Standaard show that discrimination of people with foreign roots on the labour market is worst in Belgium.

In Belgium 61.5% of the people born abroad have a job. The Belgian figure is the lowest in the entire EU when it comes to looking at the share of people with foreign roots who have a job. For the population as a whole the employment figure is 73% in Belgium.

Hasselt University's Koen Van Laer, who is an expert on discrimination on the labour market: "The poor figures are partly due to the profile of our immigrants: many travelled to Belgium to work in industry, a sector that is disappearing. The figures do point to permanent discrimination too."

Koen Van Laer also identifies a specifically Belgian barrier: "Store is set on language skills even for jobs that do not require any communication."

The Belgian Employers’ Organistion, the VBO, says that responsibility for the situation should be shared by the individual, society and business. The VBO notes that Belgium decided to press ahead with family reunifications and failed to consider the skills of relatives joining family already here.

The NSZ that represents small businesses says employers have an easy choice to make when one applicant understands the language used for regulations governing the shop floor and another does not.

Employers’ organisations stress that individual businesses also have a role to play. Sometimes there is pressure from staff or clients not to recruit immigrants. Still, a lot of good work is being done to tackle this, they claim.