Changes in US employment figures, in Belgium and elsewhere, are driven in part by changes in corporate ownership. For example, the noticeable dip in US employment in Germany in 2017 is most likely due to General Motors’s sale of Opel that year. It is also the case in Belgium that some of the companies which appeared in previous editions of our US Top 50 are no longer US owned (e.g. Temco or Monsanto).
But M&A activity is not sufficient to explain the decline in US employment in Belgium. While many US companies continue to invest and create jobs here – McDonald’s created almost 3,000 new jobs over the past 10 years, climbing from 11th to 2nd in our US Top 50 – in aggregate, Belgium is losing out to neighboring countries, where US employment is growing.
The real culprit is the high cost of labor in Belgium. High labor costs have led some US companies to relocate their operations, and they are also one of the reasons why the country is not winning more job-creating investments. In a context of high inflation, Belgium’s system of automatic wage indexation will only put further pressure on labor costs.
AmCham Belgium has high ambitions for the country: We hope that this year’s US Top 50, holding steady after years of decline, is the beginning of a reversal. We believe that Belgium has the right ingredients to attract net positive US employment, as we see in neighboring countries, but further labor market reforms will be needed to ensure that costs are competitive and talent remains available.