Agoria warns of the ever-increasing demand for labour. If Belgium does not change its policy, the country will have no less than 584,000 unfilled vacancies in 2030, according to a study conducted by Agoria and the various regional employment offices. Avoiding such a situation can bring 95 billion euro to the Belgian economy by 2030.

Digitisation is going to lead to job losses, but a massive amount of jobs will be created in the coming years. But for every future job lost, 3.7 new jobs will be created to replace them, according to Agoria's calculations. The Federation for the Technology Industry, in collaboration with the regional employment offices VDAB, Forem and Actiris, inventoried for the first time the main trends in the labour market up to 2030.

This first in-depth study of the Belgian labour market up to 2030 includes developments for the country, the three regions, 16 business sectors and 75 job profiles, quantitative and qualitative forecasts, job losses, creation and development, the number of job vacancies and unemployment by region, sector and profile, worker inflows and outflows, the gap between demand and supply, digital skills for the future together with recommendations for policy makers.

"The labour market has strong development potential,"  says Marc Lambotte, Agoria's CEO. The Federation for the Technology Industry also presented its conclusions on a real project: the already half-finished Reyers tunnels in Schaerbeek. Kris Peeters, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment and the Economy, Fons Leroy, Executive Director of the VDAB, Basilio Napoli, Executive Director for Strategy of the Forem and Caroline Mancel, Deputy Executive Director of Actiris were present and committed to having a stronger working relationship from now on to cope with the changes in the labour market. "Work in the future is indeed everyone's business: public authorities, companies and federations, workers and jobseekers, all sectors and regions together", says Mr Lambotte. We, too, must be part of this change. "Be the change!" That is therefore the unifying message.

The labour market until 2030

Digitisation and the economic dynamics that are already under way today will undoubtedly lead to job destruction. But for every job lost in the future, 3.7 new jobs will be created instead. Demand for workers will exceed supply from 2021. The gap between the two will continue to widen until at least 2030. In the meantime, the content of many jobs will also evolve, forcing workers to retrain and deepen their knowledge.

Digitisation will have an impact on the job market as a whole. 4.5 million will have to upgrade their skills regularly. Some jobs will disappear, while others will change. But, above all,  the vacancies to be filled are going to increase. If actions are not taken, Belgium will number no less than 584,000 unfilled vacancies in 2030. In this way, we will suffer an additional loss of added value amounting to 60 billion euro of GDP.

310,000 workers and jobseekers will also need to be trained for a new, sustainable job. If they are actually trained, we will avoid a job loss equivalent to 35 billion euro of GDP. All in all, 95 billion euro are in the balance by 2030, i.e. 16.5% of GDP.

More jobs available

If some jobs, such as counter staff, workers or checkout staff, are in decline, others, such as sales representative or production operator, are undergoing substantial changes. Some functions (care staff, digital experts, etc.) are also progressing, while others, totally new (mobility planner or consumer coach), are emerging.

Incoming flow of limited manpower

Whereas labour demand is going to increase by 0.9% per year until 2030, supply will only increase by 0.3% per year over the same period. This growth in supply is mainly connected to school leavers. Other factors, such as migration, play only a limited role. From 2021, the incoming flow of manpower will no longer suffice to meet the growing demand for workers. Measures will be necessary to meet such demand. These forecasts take account of the gradual raising of the pension age to 67 in 2030.

584,000 unfilled vacancies by 2030

One vacant job out of 10 (11%) risks not being filled in Belgium in 2030 due to a structural shortage of manpower and a lack of skills adaptation. However, there are sharp differences between regions and sectors. This risk is particularly significant in Flanders (12%) and in Brussels (10%), and lower in Wallonia (7%). From a sectoral point of view, health care (18%), ICT (18%) and education (13%) are the sectors mainly affected. The growing demand for workers and the limited influx of graduates into these sectors are main cause.

Four strategies for a sustainable labour market

Agoria also conducted a micro-economic analysis of 75 employment profiles. This overall approach makes it possible for the Federation to express concrete recommendations for the labour market until 2030 and to take the appropriate measures with all the stakeholders in time.

  • Upgrading the skills of 4.5 million workers

It involves proactively upgrading the digital and related skills of 4.5 million workers. Digitisation and economic dynamics will have an impact on the content of virtually all functions, at all levels. The desired average digital skills level is increasing overall, just like the general skills level. A change in perspective is in view for almost all workers.

  • Retraining of 310,000 workers and jobseekers by 2030

310,000 persons (workers or jobseekers) will have to retrain by 2030 so that they can (continue to) hold a sustainable job.

Some (150,000) will need limited retraining of 2 to 6 months and others (160,000) will need intensive training of 6 to 18 months.

Agoria advocates more targeted communication about labour market opportunities and the development of occupational retraining programmes for jobseekers and job profiles in jeopardy. The Federation also wishes to facilitate inter-regional mobility, make the labour market more flexible and adapt social security to promote the transition to sustainable employment.

  • Filling 268,000 vacancies by activation

If we do not take the necessary steps, 584,000 vacancies will not be filled in 2030. A maximum of people will have to be activated to meet this significant demand for manpower. Agoria's analysis indicates that activation would enable 268,000 job vacancies to be filled. Agoria proposes several measures: activating jobseekers, stimulating economic migration, working more and/or longer and better adapting studies and study choices to the demand for labour.

  • More productivity: reducing labour demand by speeding up digitisation

Activation makes it possible to fill only a part of the 584,000 vacancies. After activation, there are still 316,000 job vacancies. A more sustained increase in productivity therefore proves necessary. The easiest way to achieve this is to speed up automation and digitisation in the areas with the most vacancies. Increased productivity would allow 208,000 jobs to be filled. This would therefore leave 108,000 job vacancies out of the 584,000. This corresponds to 2% of the active population, which we consider as a "natural job vacancy rate".

From study to action: a programme for the future

The profound changes in the labour market require a common approach. Work in the future is everyone's business: public authorities, companies and federations, workers and jobseekers. Agoria will therefore examine other measures to maximise the opportunities that arise, in consultation with all stakeholders. Under the slogan "Be the change", Agoria calls on everyone to work for this "work in the future" by putting forward ideas and actions. The programme will include debates, workshops and training provision.