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In an interview with Lille-based 'La Voix du Nord' newspaper, Fabrice Verheye of the official French Government's Employment Agency 'Pole Emploi' explains why 15 kilometres down the road the labour market is very different from France.
In France, temporary employees tend to be used as stand-ins for somebody who is on holiday, on sick leave or to cover peaks of activity. In Belgium temporary employment is often used as a trial period before full-time employment. It usually lasts three months and could then be transformed into a permanent position.
The hourly gross salary in France is lower than in Belgium because the difference between gross salary and net salary is 24% in France compared to only 13% in Belgium.
Working hours vary between 35 and 39 hours per week in France compared to 38 and 40 in Belgium. The French have one more week of holidays than the Belgians and one more Bank Holiday.
There is no second pension arrangement in Belgium and the minimum level of pensions is set by the government without any involvement of industry sector sub-arrangements.
The Belgians only have two types of employees: Workers (blue collar) and Employees (white collar). There is no manager status in Belgium. In France the list of different employee statuses is endless: Worker, Specialist Worker, Qualified Worker, Highly-Qualified Worker, Master Craftsman, etc. The Belgians find this complication hilarious.
The biggest difference between France and Belgium is the relative importance of professional experience versus degrees. Fabrice Verheye says, "a candidate without professional experience is hardly ever employed (in Belgium). Employers don't care about â€˜highfalutinâ€™ degrees. They want somebody who has learned a few lessons from the tough reality of the labour market."