Many foreigners are able to get jobs easily in Belgium. And, the odds of getting employment in the country’s main cities are higher because of international businesses and the EU. An expat can apply for jobs in any of the EU institutions, major international organisations or multi-national corporations. However, Belgium has three official languages with many more being spoken in the cosmopolitan capital of Brussels. Therefore, an expat with good language skills has the best chance of finding work. Since, locals are usually bilingual or multilingual, the competitions for Belgium jobs for English speakers is higher.
What is the average salary in Belgium? The average wage in Belgium is €50,003 per year, €4,167 per month, or €24 per hour. Some of the cities with the highest salaries include Antwerp (€57,892), Gent (€56,809), and Charleroi (€54,949). Moreover, Chief Executive Officers, Dentists, Chief Financial Officers, and Attorneys are among the professionals who earn the highest wages in Belgium.
Belgium’s unemployment rate stood at 5.5% in August 2019, which is slightly lower than the EU rate of 6.2%. In spite of the country’s unemployment rate, it reports some skill shortages, especially in IT and engineering. So, with the appropriate academic degree, foreigners can easily find employment in those areas. For any expat seeking to know what is the minimum wage in Belgium? What is the cost of living in Belgium? What’s the average salary in Belgium for software engineer? Why are taxes so high in Belgium? The article below aims to answer those questions and more.
Average Salary in Belgium
Here are the average yearly salaries of some of the popular occupations in Belgium amongst foreign workers.
- Chief Executive Officer: €118,463
- Chief Financial Officer: €107,233
- Human Resources Manager: €71,142
- Project Manager: €56,780
- Mechanical Engineer: €51,680
- Nurse Midwife: €49,217
- Electrical Engineer: €48,864
- Engineer: €47,020
- Civil Engineer: €46,792
- Developer/Programmer: €44,027
- Automotive Vehicle Mechanic: €43,926
- Architect: €43,600
- Electrician: €42,401
- Teacher: €39,911
- Support Technician, IT: €39,500
- Computer Technician: €37,825
- Accountant: €34,479
- Sales Representative: €33,759
- Plumber: €27,849
- Administrative Assistant: €27,216
The gender pay gap in Belgium is among the lowest in Europe at only 3.7%. That compares very well to the European Union average of 19.1%. In fact, in Belgium’s the public sector, women earn more on an hourly basis that their male counterparts.
Furthermore, the country has set in place labour laws to guard the rights of employees at a national level. One of the laws states that employers must pay their workers at least once per month or bimonthly for manual labourers. Additionally, employers should provide a payslip to each employee for every payment made.
Belgium upholds a 40-hour working week maximum, but working hours are typically 38 hours per week. Additionally, workers have a right to 24 days of vacation every year. However, some collective agreement labour agreements provide a higher allowance in addition to the ten yearly Belgian national holidays.
What is the Minimum Wage in Belgium?
For job seekers or those looking to negotiate their salary, knowing Belgium’s minimum wage levels for certain industries is essential. Many European nations either use a state minimum wage or set salaries on industry levels through collective agreements. However, Belgium’s minimum wages use both levels. The country’s minimum wage undergoes a review biannually and is among the highest in the European Union.
Since, Belgium’s minimum wage is set by committees in different sectors the wage legislation varies from one industry to another. Industries that do not have a minimum wage defined by their committees follow the countrywide minimum wage regulations.
The minimum wage in Belgium for 2019 is €1,593.80/month, or €19,126/year, which is a 2% increase from 2018.
Belgium’s minimum wage is set on a monthly basis instead of an hourly one. Therefore, employees who are paid weekly or hourly need to define a salary pro-rata according to a 38-hour working week.
Interns aged over 21 in Belgium are eligible for an allowance of €751 per month or more. Additionally, the interns are supposed to have a contract specifying the role and training they’re undertaking.
However, some companies have been accused of exploiting trainees by working them full-time, without paying them the standard minimum wage. Some companies even have completely unpaid internships.
Nevertheless, Belgium has one of the best minimum wages in the EU. The only EU countries which pay higher minimum wages are Luxembourg (at €2,071), Ireland (at €1,656) and Netherlands (at €1,616).
In order to ensure minimum wages are paid out, employers provide an annual account of the total they’ve paid to employees. The labour inspectorate checks such records to confirm if employers are adhering to the rules.
Average Salary in Belgium for Software Engineer
The average salary for a software engineer in Belgium is €49,069 per annum, €4,089 per month or €24 per hour. According to the education level, software engineers with a Bachelor’s Degree earn €45,217/annum, while Master’s Degree holders earn €57,030/year. A software engineer with a Certificate or Diploma earns €34,979/annum.
Moreover, male software engineers earn more than females in Belgium. The average yearly salary is €52,258 for men and €45,143 for women, which is a 16% difference.
Software engineers working in the public sector have higher salaries than those in the private sector by about 28%. Public sector engineers take home an average of €54,712 per year, whereas those in the private sector earn €42,690.
Software engineering is a computer science branch that involves the development and construction of computer systems and applications software. Software engineering is experiencing many investments with part of the credit going to the dependency on mobile technology and emerging industries.
Software engineers are in high demand, and that’s strengthened by an ever-changing economic landscape and the need for technological solutions. Such engineers are highly knowledgeable of programming languages, computer operating systems, software development and application of engineering concepts to software creation.
Software engineers develop many different types of software including operating systems, network control systems, video games, business applications and middleware. Technological changes and new fields of specialization keep the occupation of software engineering in rapid evolution. Software engineering is a big thing these days. Belgium hosts a lot of software engineers, some of them are just digital nomads who find working from Belgium comfortable.
Cost of Living in Belgium
While Belgium’s cost of living is relatively high, it’s not as expensive as some other countries in Western Europe. The country’s strategic location in the EU makes it important both economically and politically. A significant portion of the Belgian economy relies on the export of manufactured products to the rest of the European Union. Also, shipments of the raw materials come into Belgium from neighbouring nations. That has allowed the country to offer a high standard of living to its citizens.
At the national level, it’s possible to buy and own a home, but most expats prefer to rent instead. Comparing the average rent with the average Belgian salary, renting a three-bed house with two bathrooms is feasible. Many foreigners alternatively choose to rent serviced apartments through property portals.
Rental prices in Brussels are higher. The city centre has an average rent of €1,500 per month for three-bed apartments. While Antwerp has a higher overall cost of living, rent for the same apartment is €1,200 monthly. Bruges is the most inexpensive among the four main Belgian cities for renting a 3-bed apartment. It is just €1,000 per month on average.
For those who want to buy property, prices in Brussels’ city centre are about €3,200 per square meter. The price is €2,660 per square meter in Antwerp’s city centre. Ghent has the highest prices at about €3,730 per square meter. It’s possible to acquire a home loan from any of the numerous mortgage lending firms and credit companies in Belgium. The yearly mortgage interest rate is approximately 1.89% for a 20-year fixed rate plan.
For utilities, which include electricity, air conditioning, water and garbage removal, residents pay €1,291 per month.
Most cities in Belgium have an excellent public transport network. A transport pass usually costs €49 per month, and it can be used on any public transportation mode. The taxi rates begin at about €4, and are roughly €2 per kilometre after that. Many Belgium’s choose to drive, with gasoline prices being €1.43 per litre.
Everybody in Belgium is required to have health insurance, either via the state, private or a combination of both systems. Health care in the country is paid through social security and medical insurance funds. That allows patients to pick their own doctors and hospitals.
For those who are employed by a company in Belgium, around 13% of their salary goes toward medical insurance every year. The employer contributes another 25% in order to round out the expense.
Why Are Taxes So High in Belgium?
Belgium is well-known for having the highest taxation rates in the whole of Europe. People with earn the highest salaries incur a whopping 50% tax on their income. That is higher than the typical 45% in other European nations.
Belgian tax rates start at 25% on salaries up to €12,990 yearly. The highest is 50% on wages of at least €39,660 per annum.
The government puts the taxes into financing robust medical care, education and social security programs. Many students in Belgium go to university without needing to make any significant payments.
The social security system is extensive and open to all citizens. It includes unemployment benefits and allowances, to help cover citizens in case of sickness or accidents at the workplace. Other than the education and social security services, healthcare is also funded publicly without much extra costs.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.