Flanders is an area where inhabitants speak Dutch it is approximately 60% of the population. The region is situated in North of the country. On the South the region is called Wallonia, which is the second largest part of the country, there live 40% of French speakers. The German speakers in the country are less than 1 % and they are based in the East of Wallonia territory. The most spoken language in Belgium is Flemish, which appears as a local form of Dutch. In fact, Brussels is organised as capital and autonomic region. In Brussels there is a balance kept between Dutch-speaking and francophone people.
Linguistic interests caused the split of political parties and deeper federalization in 1970. This country is characterizes as decentralized and purely federal. For instance, each region (Flanders, Brussels, and Walloon) are responsible for their own policy of education, public works, environment, and economy. Politics at the federal level have authorities to set the rights in justice, defence, finances and foreign affairs.
What are the main notable differences in economic, educational and social performance between Flanders and Wallonia?
Comparing North and South, the Flanders’ part performs better in economic terms than Walloon. Flanders’ region reached about 60% of Belgium’s GDP. The cities such as Antwerp have a dynamic and entrepreneurial economy. Antwerp is situated as the third-biggest port in Europe. Wallonia, which had a strong steel and mining industry past, now has become even more diverse investing in sectors such as biotechnology. After World War II in Flanders there where flowing more foreign investments. In that time in Wallonia manufacturing has limped. However, in public sector works approximately the same number of people in both Wallonia and Flanders, despite of the larger population in Flanders. This collapse can be explained by differentiations of economies between the two regions. In Wallonia the economy has more long-term declining because of disability of converting economy into more modern industries. Flanders’ economy is more open, resonant and cyclical.
Economic growth is expected to be declined in 2016 from 1, 4% to 1, 2%. Tax reforms, which are applied at the federal level, will reduce labour force cost and might cause increase of employment in the whole country for a long term period. There are some external factors which have further impact on the economic. Brexit may cause slower growth across Europe. Belgium’s open economy may suffer because of reducing demand for Belgium export. It needs to mention, that in 2015 Flemish exports reached the highest value ever. The analysis provided by Flanders Investment & Trade of the import and export figures pointed that export was worth more than 300 billion euros. The linguistic borders will contribute complication in politics and strengthen willingness to decentralization in Flanders.
What about doing business in Belgium?
There is some disparity in business culture between two communities. CEO’s who has a deal with Belgium’s companies shares theirs reflections described below. People in Belgium are results-oriented, hard workers and have respect to the hierarchic structure in a company they work for. Flemish are quite reserved people. Despite this, there are more possibilities to build a warm relationship with Flemish employees, than the Walloons, perhaps it takes time. In general Belgium’s people seem to be more self-effacing in comparison with Dutch or France. Flemish tends to be more self-awareness than the Walloons. If a manager presents the solution to Belgian employee they will not give immediately a response. For example, manager presents the same solution to Dutch employees; they will challenge the decision and probably propose some alternatives options. For people from other cultures might be inconvenient to not instantly get a clear answer or feedback. In Belgium there is a tendency to avoid immediate interruption. For Belgian people, it’s better to wait when the situation has been evolved.
Essentially Belgians are very amiable and polite people, for exception some behavioural differences between individuals. The symbol of status may not mean much but they also strive to provide personal well-being.
The standards in education are the responsibility of the Walloon and Flemish regions. In general, education requirements are high in all parts of Belgium. Some of largest universities are governmental institutions. For instance, there is Dutch-language university – Universiteit Gent and the French-language – Université de Liège. Additionally, in Flanders there are situated universities listened at the top of global rankings – Leuven and Ghent. Universities in Belgium are heavily subsidised, regardless whether it is a public or private university. According to the OECD, students from French-speaking region perform lower in maths, reading and since in comparison to students from Dutch- speaking regions. Despite those Walloon, policymakers are more open to change the way of teaching and imply reforms to improve results. It is harder to provide some changes in Flanders even if they overall score better statistically.
There has been found a solution to promote learning languages in multilingual Brussels. The project name is Marnix Plan, according to project the priority languages are French, Dutch and English.
The survey has figured out that in the Matrix Plan there has been described that 63,2% citizens in Brussels are French speaker, less than 20% are Dutch speakers and 2,5% inhabitants have English as their mother tongue. The English language seems to be more common in Brussels and this project emphasis on teaching English.
In Belgium discussion around language is a part of the political life. Education systems face obstacles in deviation between Dutch and French-speaking schools, which are administrated by regions. Even the small German-speaking community in Wallonia has their own authorities which are in charge of the education. In the capital, the French and Dutch – speaking schools co-exist separately. That’s why in Brussels this project are implying to provide changes in the system. Brussels authority needs to receive an agreement of both communities to authorise the changes.
According to Professor Jan Kerkhofs of Leuven University (KUL), Belgian people share similar fundamental values. The Flemish and Walloon people are mentally closer to each other in their judgments and objectives than the Flanders are with the Dutch or the Walloons with the French.
It is true, that wealth plays a role, but real complications are caused because of the language issue. The majority speaks Flemish as the first language and approximately 60% of them also speaks French, although only one on five French-speakers is able to speak Dutch.
The English language can be the lifebuoy to align inequality. Walloon region needs to revive industry and education. In Flanders, education reforms are also vital.
Policymakers in both regions should pay attention to stop the growing inequality of economies, employment and education. If they combine the effort it might prevent the deepening of diversity in the country.