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Migrants in Belgium

How Belgium’s large migrant population live, work, and send money home.

Belgium

Belgium is a small Western European country that shares its borders with France and Germany. Although densely populated, Belgium ranks among the top 20 countries in the world on both GDP per capita and HDI. Throughout its rich and long history Belgium has been quite multicultural. This makes it attractive for migrants. Here is a look at some of the factors that affect the lives of migrants in Belgium.

Multicultural, multilingual

According to the UN’s migration data portal the number of international migrants in Belgium in mid 2019 was 2 million. With a total population of 11.4 million, the migrant community made up 17.2% of the country’s human capital. 60% of the migrants arriving in Belgium originate from other EU nations. The largest of these communities are French (167,508), Dutch (157,474), and Italian (155,866). Migrants from Morocco are 80,295 strong in Belgium, and comprise the largest non-EU community. The migrant population is unevenly distributed across the territories of Belgium. 28% of all migrants live in Brussels. 10% live in Wallonia and another 5% reside in Flanders. To recognize and facilitate the cultural and ethnic diversity Belgium has three official languages; French, Dutch, and German.

Migration policy

In December 2020 the Prime Minister of Belgium signed the UN Migration pact.

He echoed the sentiments of more than two thirds of the Belgian Parliament when he stated that ratifying the pact puts his country “on the right side of history.” The pact aims to make migration safe, orderly, and regular across Europe and other parts of the world. Endorsement of the UN pact is a significant positive development for migrants living in and aspiring to live in Belgium.

In mid 2019 there were almost 62,000 refugees in Belgium. During the past several months this number has increased. Asylum seekers spend longer periods in Belgian holding facilities. They are registered with the designated immigration offices. During the process asylum seekers are supported financially, socially, and judicially.

Remittances

Eurostat reports that the minimum wage in Belgium is EUR 1,593.81 per month. This compares favorably with France (EUR 1,521.22) and Germany (EUR 1,557). Hundreds of thousands of foreign workers send remittances to their home countries via efficient channels such as the Ria Money Transfer App. The sum of remittance outflows from Belgium in 2017 was $4.75 billion. In 2018 remittances increased by 14.2% to touch $5.53 billion. The largest corridors for remittances originating in Belgium reach Morocco ($508 million), Algeria ($30 million), Turkey, and Congo. The average cost of sending remittances from Belgium to Morocco is EUR 4.99 per EUR 345 (1.45%). Cost of sending money from Belgium to Algeria is EUR 8.91 per EUR 345 (2.6%). Migrants prefer to send remittances via mobile apps. One of the most popular of these is the Ria Money Transfer App, which is consistently fast, reliable, and easy to use.

Belgium is also a country with a large expat population. Belgians living overseas send remittances into the country. The inflow of remittances to Belgium in 2019 was $12.68 billion. This accounted for 2.5% of the country’s GDP.

Opportunities

Migrant communities in Belgium are prospering. However the situation not uniform. The rate of employment of migrant workers in Belgium is currently less than optimal. Migrants make up 20% of the country’s working-age population. Their labor market integration needs improvement. The single most important factor that can contribute to better employment of migrants is language. Achieving high proficiency in one or more of Belgium’s official languages dramatically widens migrants’ employment avenues.

Another solution is to improve the role-skill matching. Migrants need more support to develop and validate their human capital. Employers in both public and private sectors must have stronger incentives to hire a more diverse workforce. The Belgian government is committed to improving the situation with a series of short and long term reforms. These are expected to improve Belgium’s economy as well as have a significant positive impact on immigrants.

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