Total employment more than 2.8 million
In 2018 total employment in the Flemish Region stood at 2,827,400 persons.
Between 2003 and 2018, total employment increased almost continuously (in total +436,775 persons or +18%). The strongest growth was recorded between 2003 and 2009. Afterwards, growth tailed off: first in the aftermath of the economic-financial crisis in 2009 and next during the debt and euro crisis between 2011 and 2014. Growth picked up again from 2015 onwards.
In 2018, more than 2,335,860 persons were salaried employees, while 491,540 persons were self-employed. The total increase between 2003 and 2018 was slightly higher among employees (+19%) than among the self-employed (+16%).
In 2018, employment in the trade sector stood at almost 366,000 persons, or 13% of the total. The rest of the top 5 included administrative and support services, head offices, consultancies and technical analysis, education and social services. Together, these 5 sectors accounted for almost 48% of total employment in 2018. In 2003 they represented only 40%.
Between 2003 and 2018, the importance of the service sectors in particular increased, as the economy is increasingly services-oriented. The top sectors were information and IT services (+106%), administrative and support services (+93%), and social services (+69%).
At the same time, employment declined in many other sectors. This was most noticeable in the textile and clothing sector (-55%), in IT, electronic and optical products manufacturing (-43%) and in the transport sector (-44%). The latter was the result of the closure of major automotive assembly plants.