As the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union approaches, Belgium is facing mixed news on the jobs front.
One effect of Brexit will be the arrival on the European job market of up to 36,000 qualified nurses, according to a study carried out by the University of Nottingham. Dr Georgia Spiliopoulos of the School of International Studies and Professor Stephen Timmons of the university’s business school spoke to migrant nurses working in the UK – from the EU and outside the EU – and found that the level of discrimination and hate has risen in the country since the referendum of June 2016 which determined that the UK would leave the EU.
Nurses said they had experienced an increase in racist incidents both from colleagues in the health service and members of the local community, although senior hospital staff was supportive overall.
“The referendum result has been interpreted, by the EU and non-EU NHS nurses interviewed, as a signal that migrants are not welcome in the UK and they are considering migrating elsewhere,” Dr. Spiliopoulos said in a statement. “Our findings have serious implications for patient care. There is already a shortage of nurses with an estimated 36,000 nursing vacancies.”
However, the team found, the nurses concerned do not necessarily intend to return to their home countries. Asked where they might move on to next, the nurses interviewed listed Germany, France, and Belgium as possible destinations. Belgium, too, is facing a shortfall of nurses, with many places left unfilled. The result could, according to Joëlle Durbecq, of the Saint-Luc university clinic, be “the first piece of good news to come out of Brexit”.
As British prime minister Boris Johnson makes a tour of European capitals looking for a new deal while carrying the stick of the threat of leaving the EU on 31 October with no deal at all, the Flemish chamber of commerce Voka has warned that such an outcome could lead to a Belgian recession, at a cost of up to 28,000 jobs.
“If the German economy is not able to recover in the short term, and in ten weeks a hard Brexit comes along, the chance of a recession in Flanders is reasonably high,” said chief economist Bart Van Craeynest. A no-deal Brexit could put 28,000 jobs in the region, he said.
Last week Edward Roosens, chief economist for the Federation of Belgian Enterprise, warned that the federal and Flemish governments must be in place as soon as possible to be able to handle the shock waves that a hard Brexit, as well as a possible recession, would be likely to bring. Parties are still in negotiation in Flanders and Wallonia, as well as at the federal level.