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France - Belgian staffing agencies concerned about cross-border status of French workers

02 November 2011

Regional government job centres (Pôle Emploi) in the North of France are signing partnership agreements with staffing agencies across the border in Belgium in order to satisfy the staffing requirements of the Dutch speaking part of Belgium (Flanders).

The regional unemployment rate in the North of France (Nord) is 11.3% compared with 4.2% in the Flanders region of Belgium.

Bertrand Sename, Director at Pôle Emploi in the town of Armentières, commented to regional newspaper La Voix du Nord "Belgian Flanders has a serious labour shortage and staffing agencies from the area come over the border to hire people from us."

"Some of them park their caravan offices outside our offices in order to be seen by local job seekers and we have meetings with them when they are hiring large numbers of people."

"The Belgians are mainly looking for lowly-qualified job seekers and they tend to hire people as agency temporary employees in order to test them for permanent positions."

"What the Belgians really value in a job applicant is mobility and motivation. The first thing they tell you is that somebody without a driving licence has no chance."

However, Belgian staffing agencies are slightly worried about possible changes in the law regarding the cross-border status (Statut Frontalier) of French workers in Belgium. French cross-border labourers who work in Belgium pay income tax in France according to the Franco-Belgian convention of 1964. They must live within 20 kilometres of the Franco-Belgian border on their side and they must work within 20 kilometres of the border on the other side.

Cross-borders workers must return to France every day. If they become unemployed, they receive unemployment benefit in France but their Belgian employer has to pay for their health insurance.

Sename concludes "Belgian staffing agencies are concerned that the cross-border status might disappear and they don't yet know what impact that would have. They are worried that the French might not want to come and work for them anymore."

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