David rozing

Belgian employers plan to sack more staff than they hire for the first time in 17 years

For the first time in nearly two decades Belgian companies are planning to dismiss more staff than they hire.  However, in a survey conducted by HR business Manpower Belgian entrepreneurs show themselves to be more optimistic than their peers in many other European countries. Belgium’s furlough system that allows businesses to get staff to sign on for unemployment benefit for a temporary period is one of the reasons why more Belgian businessmen and women believe they can hold onto staff in the long run.

Manpower quizzed 461 Belgian employers at the end of April, the bleakest period during the lockdown, about employment expectations in August/September/October.  11% reported they intended to hire more staff, 16% that they expected to let more staff go.  It’s the first time in seventeen years that the poll showed negative expectations.

22% of businesses in the hospitality industry expected to have to sack staff by September.  Pessimism was also rife in SMEs, far more than in larger companies.

Manpower quizzed 34,600 employers across 43 countries.  A comparison identifies the attitude of Belgian employers as “moderate pessimism”.  Results from 5 out of the 22 European countries considered were more upbeat than those from Belgium.

Manpower’s Johan Vanhuyse links Belgians’ relatively “good” performance to the temporary unemployment system: “The flexibility in the system allows employers to get staff to sign on for benefit temporarily.  It’s a quick and efficient process and gives employers time to consider the economic picture.  That’s the positive aspect of our system.”

Belgian employers are even more optimistic when they look at the longer term.  A large majority anticipate a recovery to normal levels within the year. Manpower says the speed at which activities resume and the nature of the government’s support measures will be crucial.

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