The Flemish region has announced a plan to attract highly-trained work-seekers from outside the European Union, employment minister Philippe Muyters said. The plan would allow highly-trained workers to gain a work permit for up to three years in the first instance, Muyters said. Any worker who had worked uninterrupted for the the same employer for four years would receive a permit of unlimited duration.
Muyters admitted the aim was to attract overseas talent to Flanders. Workers within the EU already have the right to work in Belgium without restriction.
Flanders aims to place itself as a knowledge economy. The region also suffers the problem of being unable to fill vacancies for a growing number of skilled jobs. For a number of particular jobs, trained workers from outside the EU can already be given a fast-track work permit.
“Take for example trained informaticians,” Muyters explained. People who are working on digitalisation or robots. We can find them in Flanders as well as the EU. But they’re also in big demand in other countries, so you start looking outside of Europe to attract people. Companies are able to do that at present, but the administration is a problem. I aim to make that easier.”
The measure introduced by Muyters has one proviso: foreign workers may not be used to replace Belgian or EU workers. New employees must also be paid according to local market rates.
The plan is intended to come into force in January 2019, but first has to be passed by the Council of State for its opinion.