In the meantime, many people who still have jobs are in temporary unemployment, an instrument intended to help individual companies deal with cases of force majeure, such as a fire on the premises, but which no-one ever envisaged would apply to the entire economy.
Some sectors, however, still need staff, and many are facing a shortage, in some cases because of illness, in some cases social distancing, in others travel restrictions. The employment magazine Jobat compiled a list of sectors where whatever happens, workers will still be required.
Health care: Applause from the balconies every evening reminds us of the tremendous work in difficult circumstances being carried out by health care workers – not only doctors and nurses but everyone else who keeps the system running, from administrative staff to cleaners, cooks and maintenance workers.
Retail: Paper shops are mainly small-scale affairs run by their owners, while pharmacies are for specialists only. But food shops of all sorts remain open, including major supermarkets and Proxy/Express type mini-market franchises.
Staff there, too, are under severe pressure, dealing with thousands of customers a day, not all of whom are mindful of the rules on social distancing. In addition, the shelves are no sooner filled than they are emptied again, so workers in the logistics and transport section of the supply chain are in great demand.
Transport: Not only retail outlets are a source of demand for transport and logistics, every other sector that remains in operation is too. Think of courier services brining packages from online retailers, warehouse workers, lorry drivers and even pizza delivery messengers.
Manufacturing: Some sectors like car manufacturing and construction are on downtime, so supplies of parts and materials is depressed. But other producers are facing peak demand, including for personal care goods like shampoo and hand gel, as well as household products like kitchen roll and toilet paper.
Agriculture: Plants have no respect for the rules on lockdown, and fruit and vegetables continue to grow regardless. But farmers and growers have the problem that they depend largely on seasonal migrant labour for their harvest, and the usual workers they rely on are barred from coming here by travel bans.
Information on these and any other jobs from your region’s employment service: VDAB for Flanders; Actiris for Brussels and Forem for Wallonia.