The Belgian textile, wood and furniture industry should see “a slight increase” in production and turnover in 2018 after a “relatively stable” 2017. The sectoral federation, Fedustria, indicated this during its Annual General Meeting. Taken together, these three sectors had a turnover of €10.2 billion in 2017, showing a slight decline (of 2%) in employment to around 38,250 jobs. The job rate is likely to remain stable in 2018.
Last year, the turnover in the textile industry declined by 4.6%, to €4.7 billion. With high exports, the sector in particularly suffered as a result of the euro’s strength. Employment has remained stable since 2014 within the textile industry, with around 19,600 workers. The confidence of entrepreneurs in the sector reached its highest level since the crisis in 2008 to 2009. Investments in the industry slightly declined in 2017 (down by 5.5%), after having shot up by 32.1% in 2016.
The furniture sector also saw its turnover reduced in 2017, to some €2.4 billion (down by 4%). The decrease has been observed across all product groups, and Fedustria attributes this to the growth in e-commerce within the sector, to the success of second-hand purchases and the review of family budget priorities. The rate of employment within the furniture industry slightly declined (by 1.9%), reaching a total of 10,784 direct jobs. Investments decreased by 9% in 2017, after an increase of 7.4% in 2016.
On the other hand, the turnover for the wood manufacturing industry increased by 7% in value in 2017, exceeding the cap of €3 billion. Employment increased in 2017 for the second consecutive year (up by 1.3%) for a total of 7,841 workers, whilst 2017 investments reached a record amount of €156 million (an increase of 3%).
Fedustria moreover observes that textile, wood and furniture companies “are still experiencing a lot of difficulties filling vacant posts”, in particular in West Flanders.
Lastly, although it is “pleased with the measures taken by the Michel government to strengthen competitiveness,” the sector is still confronted with an 11% “average” wage handicap, which prevents Belgian companies “from taking full advantage of the window of opportunity.” Fedustria is also critical of energy costs in Belgium and requests that the government completely removes the historical wage handicap, compared to neighbouring countries, and implements a new “tax shift”.