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MEOS Q1 2020: 9 out of 10 Belgian employers plan to keep staffing levels the same during Q1 2020

The mood is cautious in Belgium and around the world as we look ahead to 2020

  • The Net Employment Outlook stands at a cautiously optimistic +6%, unchanged in comparison with both the previous and the same period last year.
  • Hiring sentiment declines slightly in Flanders (+5%) and Wallonia (+3%) whilst it improves in Brussels (+8%).
  • Outlooks remain positive in nine of the 10 industry sectors during the forthcoming quarter, although they show a slight decrease in 7 of them compared to the previous quarter.
  • Companies of all sizes plan to stabilize or slow the hiring pace in the next quarter.
  • Globally, employment prospects are positive in 42 of the 43 countries and territories surveyed worldwide and in all 26 countries surveyed in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East, Africa), even though the number of countries with declining forecasts clearly exceeds the number of countries where hiring plans are improving.
  • Complete results are available on the ManpowerGroup Knowledge Center. Download our infographic (

Brussels, Belgium, December 10, 2019 – According to ManpowerGroup’s Employment Outlook published today, hiring pace is expected to remain positive in Belgium during the first quarter of 2020. Of the 750 Belgian employers surveyed at the end of October by ManpowerGroup, 7% plan to increase their workforce by the end of March 2020 and only 2% plan to make cuts. Staffing levels are expected to remain stable in nine out of 10 industry sectors. After adjusting for seasonal variations, the Net Employment Outlook (*) – the difference between the percentage of employers expecting to hire staff and the percentage of those planning to reduce staff – stands at a cautiously optimistic +6%. The Outlook is unchanged in comparison with both the previous quarter and the same period last year.

Belgian employers should be cautious as they move into 2020. While the Net Employment Outlook remains at the same level as the previous quarter, the results of our survey show that employer confidence is weakening in most surveyed sectors and in businesses of all sizes. This is likely due to the current economic and political uncertainties – particularly in the context of Brexit - and indicates there are likely to be more difficult months ahead in the labor market. The previous month’s figures in the temporary work sector confirm this trend. Nevertheless, there is still a strong demand for many profiles in short supply. 

Philippe Lacroix, Managing Director de ManpowerGroup BeLux

Strongest Outlooks in 3 years in Brussels

Employers expect to add to payrolls in all three regions during the upcoming quarter. Job seekers in Brussels can expect to benefit from the strongest labor market (+8%) in three years during the first quarter of 2020. Outlooks improve by 4 percentage points when compared with the previous quarter. In Flanders (+5%), hiring plans remain relatively stable both quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year (decreases of 1 point). Employers forecast slow-paced hiring activity during the January to March period in Wallonia (+3%), declining by 3 percentage points in comparison with the previous quarter.

Positive Outlooks in nine out of 10 industry sectors

Workforce gains are forecast for nine of the 10 industry sectors during the first quarter of 2020. The strongest hiring pace is expected by Construction sector employers, reporting a Net Employment Outlook of +11% (improving by 11 points in comparison with the previous quarter), while Outlooks of +10% are reported in both the Agriculture, Hunting, Forestry & Fishing sector and the Electricity, Gas & Water sector. Hiring pace is expected to be moderate in the Wholesale and Retail Trade sector (+8%) and in the Restaurants & Hotels sector (+7%, improving by 12 points in comparison with the previous quarter) and in the Finance, Insurance, Real Estate and Business Services (+7%). Employers are more cautious in the Public and Social sector (+5%) and in Manufacturing (+4%). Transport, Storage & Communications sector employers (-1%) report their weakest ꟷ and first negative ꟷ forecast in three years, with hiring prospects declining by 5 percentage points quarter-over-quarter and 10 percentage points  year-over-year.

On a quarter-over-quarter basis, Net Employment Outlook improves in only three sectors and declines in seven sectors. On a year-over-year basis, hiring intentions increase in six sectors and decline or remain stable in four.

Forecasts in decline or stagnation in companies of all sizes

According to the survey, employers in all four organization size categories anticipate job gains during Q1 2020: +4% in the micro-enterprise segment (<10 employees), +9% in small businesses (10-49 workers), +14% medium-sized businesses (50-249 employees) and +20% in large companies (≥ 250 employees). However, there is a downward trend in all segments, both quarterly and annually, except for the micro-enterprise segment where the Net Employment Outlook remains stable.

Positive forecasts in all 26 countries surveyed in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East, Africa)

ManpowerGroup interviewed over 21,000 employers across 26 countries in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East, Africa) who anticipate payroll gains during the first quarter of 2020. In comparison with the final quarter of 2019, hiring plans strengthen in 10 countries, but weaken in 12. When compared with this time one year ago, Outlooks improve in eight countries, but decline in 13.

In France (+7%), employers report the strongest hiring sentiment in 12 years. By contrast, it is the first time in three years that German employers (+4%) have been so pessimistic. Brexit is weighing heavily on the minds of UK employers (+2%) with their weakest hiring plans in seven years. Employers in the Netherlands (+4%) are cautious, while a slow hiring pace is expected in Italy and Spain (+1% in both countries).

Elsewhere in the world, employment prospects remain robust in the United States (+19%) and Japan (+25%), while the Net Employment Outlook remains moderate in China (+8%) and stands at its weakest levels since the survey began 14 years ago in India (+10%).

The next Manpower Employment Outlook Survey will be released on 10 March 2020 to report hiring expectations for the second quarter of 2020.

(*) Net Employment Outlook.” This figure is derived by taking the percentage of employers anticipating an increase in hiring activity and subtracting from this the percentage of employers expecting to see a decrease in employment at their location in the next quarter. The result of this calculation is the Net Employment Outlook. Net Employment Outlooks for countries and territories that have accumulated at least 17 quarters of data are reported in a seasonally adjusted format unless otherwise stated.  Commentary is based on seasonally adjusted data where available. Data is not seasonally adjusted for Croatia or Portugal.

Presentation of the Survey

The ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey for the first quarter of 2020 was conducted between 16th and 29th October 2019 by interviewing a representative sample of employers from more than 58,000 private companies and public organizations in 43 countries and territories around the world (750 in Belgium). The aim of the survey is to measure employers’ intentions to increase or decrease the number of employees in their workforce during the next quarter. All survey participants were asked the same question: “How do you anticipate total employment at your location to change in the three months to the end of March 2020 as compared to the current quarter?” It is the only forward-looking survey of its kind, unparalleled in its size, scope, longevity and area of focus. The Survey has been running for more than five decades and is one of the most trusted surveys of employment activity in the world. It is considered a highly respected economic indicator.
Note that in Quarter 2 of 2008, the survey adopted the TRAMO-SEATS model for seasonal adjustment of data.  As a result, you may notice some seasonally adjusted data points change slightly from previous reports. This model is recommended by the Eurostat department of the European Union and the European Central Bank and is widely used internationally.

About ManpowerGroup®

ManpowerGroup® (NYSE: MAN), the leading global workforce solutions company, helps organizations transform in a fast-changing world of work by sourcing, assessing, developing and managing the talent that enables them to win. We develop innovative solutions for hundreds of thousands of organizations every year, providing them with skilled talent while finding meaningful, sustainable employment for millions of people across a wide range of industries and skills. Our expert family of brands – Manpower®, Experis®, ManpowerGroup® Solutions , FuturSkill®, Proservia™ et Right Management®– creates substantially more value for candidates and clients across 80 countries and territories and has done for 70 years. In 2019, ManpowerGroup was named one of Fortune's Most Admired Companies for the seventeenth year and one of the World's Most Ethical Companies for the ninth year in 2018, confirming our position as the most trusted and admired brand in the industry. In Belgium, ManpowerGroup Belgium wins HR Excellence Award 2018 in the category ‘Best Staffing, Sourcing & Contingent Workforce Management Company’.

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