Why are the Walloons working less and less in Flanders?

The federal government unveiled its labor market reform this week. Among other things, it establishes the 4-day week, the right to training and even more flexible rules on night work. The goal of these measures: to reach an employment rate of 80% by 2030. Alongside this quantified goal, another surprising statistic: the Walloons are working less and less in Flanders. This question was at the center of a debate on Sunday’s C’est pas tous les jours.

It all starts with a promise. Today is October 1, 2020. Statement by the new Prime Minister Alexander De Croo: “The government intends to reward work and thus support the groups most vulnerable to employment and fight for an employment rate by 2030“.

Confirmation in the text. In the government agreement, page 6, chapter titled “A prosperous country”: it is said that the government will aim for a minimum employment rate of 80% by 2030.

This week, the federal government presented its major employment reform. In particular, this is a 4-day weekly or nightly job in e-commerce.

This means 685,000 people to be put back to work. There are 300,000 unemployed …

On the set of the show It doesn’t happen every day on Sunday a big criticism is launched. It comes from Thierry Bodson, president of the FGTB union. For him, the 80% occupancy rate is simply unreal.

The worst is yet to come. We talked about the 80% employment rate, which means 685,000 people to be put back to work. There are 300,000 unemployed“explains Thierry Bodson. The program presenter points out that there are also 500,000 long-term patients.”Yes, and I give you the note that in a month or two the government will work out measures to put the sick and disabled back to work“, Reacts the boss of the socialist union.

Employment and unemployment rates in Belgium

Currently, the employment rate in Belgium is 71.4%. There are, however, major disparities.

  • Brussels region: 62.6%.
  • Wallonia: 65.8%.
  • Flanders: 76.2%.

These percentages correspond to people aged between 20 and 64 who are currently employed.

As for the unemployment rate, here are the data for each region.

  • Flanders: 4%.
  • Wallonia: 9%.
  • Brussels: 13%.

A Flemish boss: “40 workers from France, 40 from abroad and only two from Wallonia”

These figures indicate the need for workers in Flanders … nevertheless, fewer and fewer French speakers will work in Flanders. In 2008, 68,644 Walloons worked in Flanders, compared to 56,092 in 2019, or a decrease of 18%.

How to explain it? We asked the head of a successful Flemish company, Paul Renson. “I studied in Brussels being the only Dutch speaker with 12 French speakers. I can tell you we had a great understanding, so I don’t see why we couldn’t work together“, He explains from personal experience.

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The Renson company is located in Waregem, a few kilometers from Mouscron and Tournai, but also from France. “We have worked hard but are still looking for 100 people. There are 40 workers from France, 40 from abroad and only two from Wallonia, even though we are 20 kilometers from the language border“says Paul Renson.

A problem of language and mentality?

During a sequence shot before the broadcast, our presenter Christophe Deborsu randomly interviewed Msgr. The question: if you no longer had a job, would you go to work in Flanders? Many of them highlight the language barrier and a Flemish mentality that would be more “strict“.

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I don’t speak Flemish. If I can speak French, yes, but I’m afraid I’ll have to speak Dutch“, a young woman confides.”No, I don’t speak Dutch. It’s more the language … The mentality, perhaps. They are a little colder“says a young man.

Another young woman, on the other hand, spoke of her positive experience in Flanders. “I have already been to Flanders several times with my parents during the holidays. While there is a stereotype that Flemings are not very nice, I personally have no problem with them“, She reacts.

A form of declared denigration of Wallonia

According to a witness who contacted us, the situation of Walloon workers in Flanders is not idyllic. He tells us about his experience of him in writing. “I gradually discovered the practices used internally to enable what I call ‘a transfer of added value’ from Wallonia to Flanders“, He wrote to us.

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This witness specifies that the management committee of the company where he worked was composed exclusively of Dutch-speaking people, despite dozens of employees in Wallonia. “All key positions are occupied by Flemings who are unfamiliar with the Walloon market and the economic potential of Wallonia is underestimated“, he confides. It describes an unequal wage policy between Walloons and Flemings for equivalent functions, or even internal communication”not always respectful between the two languages“.”And above all a form of declared denigration of Wallonia: poor region, low economic potential, staff difficult to manage …“, Concludes the witness.

My experience in Flanders is very positive

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The Not Every Sunday program gave the floor to another Walloon worker who left to live and work in Flanders. Notice this kind of excess or cliché about the Walloons? “It is true that we sometimes hear that the Walloon is unemployed“Indicates Tommy. According to him, however, it is not generalized.My experience in Flanders is very positive. I have colleagues who want to learn and communicate with me in French. I did what was necessary. I took Dutch lessons and tried to integrate as much as possible into the Flemish culture“, he says.

What is striking is that Poles find a way to work much more easily in Flanders

We made N-VA Federal MP Björn Anseeuw react to the testimony of the Walloon worker who encountered difficulties in Flanders. Doesn’t the Flemish Nationalist Party foment this kind of situation by regularly repeating that Wallonia is on the heels of Flanders? “I don’t think so, because we think that everyone’s well-being and the country’s prosperity are very important. What is striking is that Poles find a way to work in Flanders much more easily than their Walloons neighbors“, Replies the parliamentarian.

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I believe that the only solution, or the only statement, is that the incentive to work is apparently much stronger in Poland than in Belgium. We need to do something, start limiting unemployment over time“, He adds.

An inter-federal platform is born

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Host of the show, the Federal Minister of Employment, Pierre-Yves Dermagne, announces that he has launched an inter-federal platform with the Flemish and Walloon ministers to promote inter-regional mobility. “I think we also have to deconstruct some clichés that it is difficult to work in Flanders. Beyond that, there are a number of elements to put in place in terms of mobility. Make sure you have bus and train lines. These are practical questions, but they are important“, Specifies the socialist minister.

We know that at Forem level we no longer activate job seekers

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For his part, the Minister of Independents states that “Activation by the Regions and the incentive to find work on the other side are not enough“.”Since the covid emergency, we know that at Forem level we no longer activate job seekers. So it is also time for the Regions to be a little more proactive in this regard. The regions must take responsibility“Notes David Clarinval.

We recall that the minister’s party, the Reform Movement, with the PS and the Ecolo also participate in the Walloon government.

Other studies have shown that Walloon workers are particularly mobile

The president of the FGTB intervened in the debate. “Other studies have shown that Walloon workers were particularly mobile. When you see the percentage of workers who go to France, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, even Germany, in fact there are many Walloons that cross the borders“, He reacts.

The head of the socialist union admits that he does not understand why the Walloons seem to be moving away from the Flemish labor market. “It’s a real question. There are answers to be found. I do not know the answer. But in any case we must stop saying that the Walloon worker is not mobile“.

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