Belgium reels as thousands lose jobs
BELGIUM is wondering whether the world is out to get it after the small and divided nation saw thousands of layoffs ordered by multinationals in the past month alone.
Dutch bank ING is cutting 7000 jobs, with at least half of them in Belgium, according to the group’s Netherlands-based CEO.
The bloodletting comes only weeks after Caterpillar, the US machinery giant, shuttered a major plant in Belgium’s blighted city of Charleroi, ending 2000 jobs in one painful blow.
Also in September, hundreds of Belgian jobs fell at French insurer Axa and US-owned coffee maker Jacobs Douwe Egberts.
Germany’s Lufthansa is now threatening to do away with the country’s only major air carrier, Brussels Airlines.
With so much pain in such little time, observers are left with a feeling that the world is piling on poor Belgium, a onetime economic powerhouse that now stands divided and without direction, an easy victim for global companies.
But despite the cries and fury, nothing has stopped the outflow of jobs at foreign-owned multinationals in Belgium, a situation that has gone on quietly for decades.
Twenty-first century Belgium, with a population of 11 million, no longer has the weight to withstand globalisation as do its much bigger neighbours France and especially Germany.
The Netherlands, meanwhile, with its long mercantilist history, remains a choice home for multinationals, including Unilever and retailer Ahold, which last year ate up rival Delhaize, a once proudly Belgian multinational.