Despite the uncertainties brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the labour market of the Brussels-Capital Region showed remarkable resilience. Following the pandemic, the employment rate quickly recovered and reached close to 60% in 2022, a significant increase of 6 percentage points compared to a decade earlier. However, the employment rate still lags behind the OECD average of 69% and is significantly lower than that of other major metropolitan areas within the OECD. Local job creation is driven by ample opportunities for highly skilled workers whom the Brussels-Capital Region attracts from its surrounding regions, the EU and beyond. These positive outcomes for high-skilled workers mask a highly polarised labour market in which not all of the region’s diverse population – in 2022, more than half of the region’s working-age population was born outside of Belgium – has seen their labour market prospects improve equally. Many less educated jobseekers continue to compete for a small number of vacancies. As a result, labour force participation remains low, unemployment and long-term unemployment rates high, and involuntary part-time work persistent.

The focus for the region therefore is on shaping a future labour market that is both inclusive and resilient. Effective policymaking will have to revolve around recognising and addressing the multiple and often distinct challenges faced by the region’s young and diverse population groups. In a labour market that offers high rewards for skills formation, tailoring continuous education and training offers and removing barriers to participation will need to take priority. Encouraging geographic mobility and simplifying access to employment services could greatly benefit less educated jobseekers. A rich but fragmented landscape of labour market services requires streamlining to reach all the region's talent more efficiently.

In envisioning the future for the Brussels-Capital Region, a comprehensive perspective includes steering the region’s trajectory towards a digital and environmentally sustainable economy, where it stands poised to assume a leadership role. The region abounds with opportunities in sectors demanding advanced digital competencies and those driving the transition to a net-zero emissions future. Nevertheless, policymakers must remain vigilant, for these transitions have the potential to further exacerbate inequalities. This report presents actionable strategies aimed at harnessing local assets, thus bolstering the region’s path toward a future with sustainable and equitable employment growth that leaves no one behind.

This report is part of the series OECD Reviews on Local Job Creation within the Programme of Work of the OECD Local Employment and Economic Development (LEED) Programme. Created in 1982, the LEED Programme aims to contribute to the creation of more and better jobs for more productive and inclusive economies. It produces guidance to make the implementation of national policies more effective at the local level, and to stimulate innovative local practices that can be scaled up. The OECD LEED Directing Committee, which gathers governments of OECD member and non-member countries, oversees the work of the LEED Programme. This report was approved by written procedure by the OECD LEED Directing Committee on 27 September 2023.

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