The Belgian regions of Flanders and Wallonia report skill shortages and challenges in effectively using international recruitment to fill these shortages. Since 1 July 2015, the regions hold the competence to develop their own economic migration policy, however, neither Flanders nor Wallonia have developed an overall talent attraction structure focusing on qualified migrants.
In Flanders, the number of vacancies in the labour market is at a historic high while the remaining stock of qualified jobseekers who could fill these vacancies has been all but depleted. For professions with the biggest hiring bottlenecks such as industrial and construction skilled trades, the health sector, and transport workers, the current demand-driven regime does not appear to provide an adequate solution to labour shortages. In addition, labour migrants under the current Flemish immigration regime are vulnerable due to dependency on their employer (Weatherburn et al., 2022). A structured targeted economic migration structure could contribute to solving this issue.
In Wallonia, despite low employment rates and persistent unemployment, there are also record levels of labour shortages. Efforts to up-skill and re-skill the pool of unemployed workers has not contributed to reducing the shortage gap because of mismatch in the skills base and long training periods. While shortage lists expanded in 2022 to 141 professions, up from 126 in 2021, the current regime does not appear to provide an effective solution to labour shortages. A targeted economic migration structure, making international recruitment of qualified personnel in shortage occupations more attractive, is a possible response to the mismatch between supply and demand.
The Department of Work and Social Economy (DWSE) - Government of Flanders and the Walloon Public Service “Economy-Employment-Research” (WSP EER) have requested the support of the European Commission through the TSI 2023 Flagship technical Support project: Migrant integration and talent attraction. The economic migration policy reform will be designed for both regions, separately, according to their relative priorities, institutional frameworks, and capacities.
The general objective of this project is to support Flanders and Wallonia in their efforts to implement reforms, which could encourage investment, increase competitiveness, and assist in achieving sustainable economic and social convergence, resilience and recovery. This should also strengthen the institutional and administrative capacity, to facilitate socially inclusive, green and digital transitions, to effectively address the challenges identified in the country-specific recommendations and to implement Union law.
The technical support will be provided for talent attraction, migration, and employment, with the purpose of adjusting the respective migration regimes to facilitate attraction of sought-after profiles and support their retention and productive participation in the labour force.
In the long term, the project aims at increasing the attractiveness of the two regions for skilled migrants and the retention of international talent. In short and medium term, the objective is to strengthen the regions’ capacity to attract and retain third-country nationals and to govern economic migration based on regional interests.
The achievement of the objectives will require follow-up actions undertaken by regional administrations in terms of effectively implementing the outputs of this project and subsequent enforcement of complementary policies.
Methodology and Outputs
The project will be developed throughout seven main steps and is scheduled to run for 18 months.
The project will include international as well as regional consultations and stakeholder engagement throughout its whole duration. The project will officially start with the Advisory Group meeting to discuss its operational aspects complemented by a subsequent meeting with the Beneficiary Authorities of Flanders and Wallonia and relevant stakeholders in each region setting up a detailed operational timeline.
Further stakeholder conferences including the participation of the government and non-government informants will be organized in the regions to identify challenges and possible use of recruitment of third-country nationals and to discuss strengths and weaknesses of the existing regional economic migration frameworks. The final policy recommendations report for each region will be discussed with relevant stakeholders in two stages.
In addition, an International Workshop on Good-Practices with representatives from OECD member countries will allow an identification of different policy measures linked to attraction and retention of skilled migrants and migration governance of relevance to Flanders and Wallonia.
The project will collect and analyze information for the regional as well as the federal level. The research will cover labour market and demographic trends, an overview of migration flows based on nationality and purpose as well as other policy data, legislative and procedural information. Additionally, the research will involve an examination of existing models of international recruitment.
Based on progressive consultations and research, several reports will be drafted resulting in the final report for each region with the recommended regulatory and procedural changes.
The project runs from 17 September 2023 to 17 March 2025.
Directorate General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM) – Unit 01 “Horizontal Policies”
OECD – International Migration Division
Jonathan Chaloff [email protected]
Hanafi Tessa [email protected]
Department of Work and Social Economy (DWSE) - Government of Flanders
Chris Gaasendam [email protected]
Walloon Public Service “Economy-Employment-Research” (WSP EER)
Stéphane Thirifay [email protected]
Vincent Berger [email protected]