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One Belgian employer in four is having difficulty finding qualified personnel

Labour market tension persists worldwide although employers seem to be less concerned about it.

• Under pressure from the uncertain economic climate, employers are particularly cautious in their hiring decisions. Nevertheless, 27% of Belgian employers state that they are still facing labour shortages. That's 9% fewer than last year.

• Unsurprisingly, skilled trades (welders, electricians, bricklayers, etc.) are at the top of the list of 10 most critical positions, ahead of engineers and technicians.  

• Employers seem to be less concerned about the impact of labour shortages on their company’s operations.

Brussels, 31 May 2012 – ManpowerGroup looked at changes in global talent shortages for the seventh year in a row. While our country appears to be moving in the right direction, the phenomenon is still worrisome. In fact, one employer in four in Belgium and in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East, Africa) is having difficulty filling vacancies. And one in three worldwide. New data: employers seem to be getting used to living with the chronic talent shortages and are seeking short-term solutions.  

ManpowerGroup announced the advent of a new age at the Davos World Economic Forum last year.  In the Human Age, talent rather than capital will be the primary differentiating factor between companies. Talent, with local differences, has become rarer than ever around the world. This has happened despite high unemployment rates, the economic crisis, and demographic changes – Japan, for example, is dealing with the ageing of its working population, while in Brazil, the number of young people is increasing significantly.

The numbers speak for themselves. 34% of those surveyed by ManpowerGroup at the end of January are having trouble finding qualified staff - a number that remained steady compared to the previous year. The results of the survey indicate that the talent crisis is worse on the Asian (45%) and American (41%) continents than in the EMEA region (25%). Globally, the worst hit countries are Japan (81%), Brazil (71%), Bulgaria (51%), Australia (50%), the United States (49%) and India (48%). In Europe, employers are facing the same problem in Germany (42%), Poland (37%), and France (29%) and, to a lesser extent, in Italy (14%), the United Kingdom (11%), Spain (9%) and the Netherlands (7%).

Belgium improved its position in the world rankings
Belgium fell in the rankings – moving from 18th place in 2011 to 28th place in 2012, indicating that its situation is improving. Our country ranks 11th out of 21 in Europe, in the middle of the pack. However, 27% of the 750 employers surveyed by the HR specialist aren't finding the skills they’re looking for, whereas 36% complained of this last year. The reasons given by employers? A shortage of candidates (43%), lack of experience (27%), and lack of skills (15%). Recruiting difficulties are greater in Wallonia where 32% of employers can't find the skills they need. This is a significantly higher rate than for their colleagues in Flanders (25%) and Brussels (24%).

Our country's ranking is, therefore, moving in a positive direction. However, is this a sign of real improvement? Philippe Lacroix, Managing Director of ManpowerGroup Belgium-Luxembourg, ascribes the better ranking primarily to the economic crisis. "Companies are hiring less and/or delaying new hiring to reduce their costs and adjust to changes in their business growth. The situation is gradually becoming the "new normal" - company growth is weaker and employers are getting used to doing more with less. As a result, the fact that there isn't enough qualified talent available is felt to be less of an urgent problem. However, the challenge remains significant with one out of four employers experiencing difficulty recruiting.” The survey supports this explanation: to the question about the impact of labour shortages on company success, 26% of Belgian employers answered that there was no impact (compared to 8% in 2011), a trend widely seen across Europe and around the world. "This short-term reaction is understandable, but not ideal. I'm personally convinced that the implementation of an integrated and proactive skills management strategy strengthens the competitive position of companies over the long run", added Philippe Lacroix.

Skilled trades lead mission-critical positions
As each year, ManpowerGroup has created a list of the top 10 most difficult positions to fill. As was the case two years ago (2010) - and it's no surprise - skilled trades (welders, electricians, bricklayers, etc.) are at the top of the list in Belgium, ahead of engineers and technicians (maintenance, production, etc.). Next come unskilled workers, (management) assistants and administrative staff.  Engineers appeared in the 2012 ranking. This isn't surprising when you know that too few young people are studying engineering and that last-year students are hotly sought after by recruiters. Doctors and healthcare professionals entered the ranking in sixth place, with nurses dropping to eighth place. This is because the sector has taken off as a result of population ageing and longer lifespans. Other new arrivals include equipment drivers in ninth place and sales in 10th place. These skills are traditionally difficult to find. Drivers (lorries and forklifts) dropped to seventh place (they were in fourth place last year).
On the other hand, IT workers and accounting and financial staff are no longer in the 2012 list (they were in seventh and ninth place, respectively, in 2011).

As in preceding years, the list is dominated by technical positions and the situation doesn't seem to be improving. The trend was confirmed again recently by a Vormelek study ( The training centre for all electricity industry employees and workers hit the alarm button when it stated that job offers for electricians had increased by 31.3% in 2011 and that the number of students had decreased by about a fifth. "Once again, a close look at the list clearly shows the mismatch between the supply and demand of candidates in the labour market. Efforts continue to correct the situation, particularly with respect to training and professional orientation. The recent unemployment policy reform should also help to improve things by bringing more people back to work," concluded Philippe Lacroix.

The complete results of the Manpower talent shortage survey are available from the ManpowerGroup Knowledge Center.
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