3 minute read 11 May 2023

5 key insights from the Belgian Attractiveness Survey 2023

Authors
Tristan Dhondt

EY Belgium Strategy and Transactions Leader; Infrastructure Advisory lead

Out-of-the-box thinker. Focused on financing,deal making, and quantification of decision processes. Take macro-economic views. Challenge existing strategies and the status quo.

Marie-Laure Moreau

EY Belgium Assurance Partner and Regional Managing Partner Wallonia

Passionate about entrepreneurship and growth. Dedicated wife and mother. Loves ski and golf and supporter of Standard de Liege.

3 minute read 11 May 2023

Belgium’s number of foreign investment projects declined slightly in 2022, but job creation rose.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Belgium, in a global economic context plagued by the war in Ukraine and its impact on the energy market and supply chains, has delivered a mixed bag of results in which a slight drop in the number of investments generated a marked growth in employment. This is what emerges from the 2023 edition of the Belgian Attractiveness Survey, an annual study conducted by EY to assess Belgium’s attractiveness as an investment location. 

Belgium clearly remains a prime target for foreign investors. Still, it received less FDI in 2022 compared to other European countries, causing it to drop from 6th to 9th place in the ranking of most attractive European countries. Two positive elements: job creation is on the rise, and the outlook is encouraging for 2023.
 

1. Belgium attracted 4% fewer foreign investment projects in 2022 and is losing ground at the European level

Following two difficult years linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was hope that foreign direct investment in Belgium would quickly pick up again. However, this recovery was dampened by the uncertainties and economic crisis linked to the military conflict in Ukraine. The total number of foreign investments in Belgium retreated by 4% compared to 2021, with 234 projects registered in 2022, compared to 245 in 2021.

If we look at the evolution of foreign investment in all 44 countries analyzed by EY, we see a 1% increase in the number of FDIs on the continent. But the results vary greatly from one country to another.

2022 was not very favorable for countries such as Belgium or Spain, because these countries had already rebounded strongly in 2021 after the worst of the COVID-19 crisis. The growth in FDI projects in several Southern and Eastern European countries is at least in part due to the reconfiguration of global supply chains and an inclination towards cost-competitive European locations for manufacturing and back-office operations.

As a result, Belgium is losing ground in the ranking of European countries that attract the most foreign investment. It drops three places from sixth to ninth. The European ranking remains dominated by France, with a 3% growth in the number of projects in 2022. The leading podium is completed by the UK and Germany, with these three countries alone accounting for 50% of total FDI on the European continent.
 

2. Fewer projects in Belgium, but more jobs

In terms of employment, the figures are more encouraging. If we look at the FDI situation in Belgium in 2022, we see that the number of projects is falling, but on the other hand, job creation is rising, which is exactly the opposite of what is happening at the European level. The various FDIs carried out in Belgium in 2022 generated the creation of 8,071 jobs in 2022, up by 16% compared to 2021.

Job creation

8,071

amount of jobs created by FDI in Belgium in 2022

At first sight, this seems like good news, except that on this point too, Belgium could not keep up with the European average, with an average of 38 jobs created per project, compared to 82 at the European level.
 

3. The US still leads as the largest investor in Belgium

When we look at where the foreign investments in Belgium came from in 2022, we see that eight countries accounted for 70% of the FDI: the United States (41 projects), France (30), the United Kingdom (27), Germany (19), the Netherlands (17), China (11), Japan (11) and finally Denmark (7). Despite an 11% drop in the number of projects compared to 2021, the United States thus remains the largest foreign investor in Belgium.

4. FDI in Belgium is concentrated in 5 key sectors

Five sectors accounted for 59% of the projects and 62% of the jobs created in 2022. Transportation and logistics (40 projects) and business services and professional services (36) accounted for the majority of projects, followed by software and IT services (25), chemicals, plastics and rubber (21) and transportation manufacturers and suppliers (16).

5. Belgium attractive again in 2023?

EY surveyed international decision-makers to ask them about their investment intentions for 2023. The results are very positive for Belgium, since investors consider the country to be the 4th most attractive FDI destination in Europe in 2023, behind Germany, France and the United Kingdom. 

Belgium’s attractiveness

61%

of respondents has plans to establish or expand operations in Belgium over the next year.

61% of the decision-makers say they intend to expand or establish operations in Belgium over the next year. In last year’s study, this figure was only 52.9%, which shows that Belgium’s attractiveness is on the rise again.


 

  • About the Belgian Attractiveness Survey 2023

    1. The EY Attractiveness Survey draws on two sources. Our evaluation of FDI in Europe is based on the EY European Investment Monitor (EIM). This EY proprietary database enables us to track projects announced in 2022 across 44 countries.

    2. We explore Europe’s and Belgium’s perceived attractiveness via an online survey of international decision-makers. For Belgium, field research was conducted by Euromoney in February, based on a representative panel of 207 respondents. For Europe, field research was conducted by Euromoney in February and March 2023, based on a representative panel of 508 respondents.

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Summary

The economic effects of the uncertainty linked to the war in Ukraine slowed the recovery in foreign investment in Belgium in 2022. Belgium remains a leading destination for foreign investment in Europe, but is losing ground. The signals are encouraging for 2023. It is expected that a large number of companies will make the investments this year that were postponed in 2022.

About this article

Authors
Tristan Dhondt

EY Belgium Strategy and Transactions Leader; Infrastructure Advisory lead

Out-of-the-box thinker. Focused on financing,deal making, and quantification of decision processes. Take macro-economic views. Challenge existing strategies and the status quo.

Marie-Laure Moreau

EY Belgium Assurance Partner and Regional Managing Partner Wallonia

Passionate about entrepreneurship and growth. Dedicated wife and mother. Loves ski and golf and supporter of Standard de Liege.