For the first time, Belgian employers are searching outside of Europe for IT specialists from Morocco to fill vacancies.
Rabat – Belgian employment organizations Voka and Agoria have started a pilot project to bring Moroccan computer scientists to Flanders, the Flemish region in northern Belgium, the Belgian magazine the Brussels Times reported Monday.
In collaboration with the Flemish Service for Employment and Vocational Training (VDAB), Voka and Agoria plan to receive the first employees in the second half of 2019.
It is the first time that VDAB and the Belgian employment organizations are searching for professionals outside Europe, according to the magazine.
Through the pilot project, Belgian employers decided to attract 30 Moroccan IT specialists over a period of 18 months after Belgium recognized a serious labor shortage in IT jobs.
According to the Brussels Times, there were only 900 qualified job-seekers for 4,000 “analyst developer” vacancies in Flanders last year.
“This is a pilot project. If this works well, we can scale it up quickly,” the Belgian magazine quoted Bert Mons, director of Voka West-Flanders.
Explaining why they chose Morocco, the Belgian Development Agency, Enabel, said that the North African country is considered a partner to Belgium and provides high-quality IT training courses.
Once vacancies are determined, the Brussels Times explained, Morocco’s national recruitment agency will select suitable IT students. Flemish companies will then recruit the Moroccan IT professionals with contracts ranging from six months to one year with a possibility to sign permanent contracts afterwards.
The Moroccan employees “will receive a competitive salary, which should help them find housing on the rental market,” Enabel said.
The magazine quoted Tom Meulenbergs, spokesperson of the Belgian minister of development cooperation, saying that “Belgium attracts the most low-skilled migrants of all Europe.”
“It is clear that our migration policy must become much more selective, as is the case in Canada and Australia, for example. We need to be much more self-determining about which profiles come here. This pilot project is a start.”
Voices against the recruitment of Moroccans
The president of the Flemish Brabant chapter, Jean-Paul Van Avermaet, has criticized the plan to bring Moroccan IT professionals to work in Flanders, the Brussels Times reported in a second article today.
“Instead of doing as we did in the 1960s and importing workers from Morocco, we should be looking inside our own ranks,” Van Avermaet said at Voka’s new year reception Monday evening.
The official referred to a time when Belgium’s integration policy failed to control labor migration and large numbers of industry and coal mine workers arrived.
“At the moment the rate of employment is only 70%. Of the remaining 30%, only 5% are looking for work. We need to make an effort towards that group,” Van Avermaet asserted.
However, the Brussels Times pointed out that Van Avermaet’s figures refer to the overall labor market. “The tech sector is experiencing a critical shortage of qualified applicants for the many vacancies which remain chronically open.”
Van Avermaet cited some alternative solutions to the IT job crisis in Flanders, including “investment in digitalisation and allowing people to work for longer,” according to the Belgian magazine.
The official also mentioned the higher number of retired people compared to those who enter the workforce. “The average retirement age in this country is 61, somewhat lower than in the EU as a whole.”