More than a fifth of vacancies in Flanders require multilingualism, but the demand for English is even higher than that for French, according to data provided by Employment Minister Jo Brouns at the request of Flemish MP Allessia Claes.
English is increasingly used as a bridge language for Belgium's multilingual outset. It is also boosted by the huge international community in Brussels, which largely uses English.
Belgium is ranked sixth in the world's most competent non-native English-speaking country, which offers an insight into why employers desire employees who can speak the language proficiently.
In fact, English is more asked for in job vacancies in Dutch-speaking companies than either of Belgium's other two national languages: French and German.
"Not only for companies but also for the employees themselves, knowledge of one or more foreign languages offers added value," Claes said. "To companies, it offers a clear competitive advantage on the international market and, for future employees, it is a big plus during the search for any new challenge."
In 2020, there was a decrease in demand for multilingualism, possibly due to the impact of the Covid-19 measures in sectors where such knowledge is required. In the years following, demand for multilingualism rose again.
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While a clear case is being made for the necessity of English for the workplace in Flanders, the Flemish Government is hesitant to allow the English language to have more reign, even if the market is pushing towards that route.
This reluctance was evidently seen on Friday, when the regional education minister for Flanders, Ben Weyts, announced that a total of 19 master's programmes that would have been offered in English were rejected.