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Basic Information

Area: 30,528 km²

Calling code: +32

Population: 10,584,534

Official Language: Dutch, French, German

Time zone: CET (UTC+1), Local time: 17:31


Belgium is located in Western Europe and shares its borders with four other countries: Germany, the Netherlands, France and Luxembourg. It has a population of 10.4 million (2009) living in an area no larger than 30,528km2, which gives it one of the highest population densities in Europe. It also has 66km of coastline on the North Sea, where several of the countries ports are located. The capital city of Brussels lies in central Belgium and is the commercial and economic centre, other notable cities include Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent
The political system is based on a constitutional monarchy, with the country being divided into 589 municipalities each with a separate governing council who deal with matters concerning the operation of local services. Belgium was a founding member of the European Union, and in 2002 it adopted the euro (EUR) currency system which replaced the old Belgian franc (BEF).


Most of the countries economic activity takes places in the Northern Flemish territory, and in the capital city of Brussels. The service sector contributes towards 75% of the total GDP figure for the country - which is $381.4 billion (CIA Factbook 2009). Largest employers in Belgium include Fortis NV, Inbev SA, Electrabel SA and Arger.

Industry and manufacturing are prominent in the economy, and the countries positioning allows for goods to be exported to worldwide markets, although 75% of all stock is shipped to European countries. In 2009 the combined total worth of exports was $296.1 billion; major products exported included machinery, chemical, automobiles, metals and finished diamonds.
Agriculture accounts for less than 1% of the total GDP, but most agricultural land is used for the farming of vegetables, fruits and tobacco along with the rearing of animals to produce meats such as beef, veal and pork.


Belgium has a strategic Western European positioning and a good transportation network that allows for easy travelling in and around the country, as well as to other European destinations. There are a total of 43 airports in the country, the largest and most important is Brussels Airport (BRU) which is located 11km northeast of the city centre. Not only does it serve most European destinations, but it offers flights to the United States, Asia, Africa and the Middle-East and handles over 16 million passengers annually. A separate cargo terminal transports freight worldwide, and in 2008 over 800,000 tonnes of cargo was transported from the airport.
The road system is modern and consists of a number of linking highways, ringways, national roads and secondary national roads. It has 152,256km of roads which connect all major towns and cities, as well as linking to neighbouring countries such as France and the Netherlands. The high speed Eurostar train link connects London St.Pancreas with Brussels Midi/Zuid and allows commuters to travel between the two cities in under 2 hours. Metro, tram and light rail systems operate in the country, and a new urban rail commuter network (RER) is under development in Brussels and due to be completed in 2012.

Due to Belgium's coastal location on the Northern Sea there are four ports which serve the country, they are located in Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent and Ostend. The largest and busiest is the Port of Antwerp, which is also the busiest port in Europe.


Belgium has a total labour force of 5.01million (2009 est. CIA Factbook), of which 97% live in urbanized areas. Approximately 92% of the population are classed as official Belgian citizens, the remaining foreign nationalities comprise mainly of Europeans coming from France, the Netherlands, Morocco, Italy, Turkey and Germany. Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French and German. The number of people who speak Dutch and French as their first language are roughly equal, while German is only spoken as a first language by 1% of the population, most of the German speakers live in the Eastern region of the country, next to the German border. English is also spoken in Belgium, particularly among the younger generations, as English is a compulsory language taught in schools to IGCSE levels.

It is compulsory for all citizens to study up until the age of 18, which is two years higher than many other European countries such as England and Spain. After completing secondary schooling many of the students continue to study at a higher level. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranks the education system in Belgium as having a higher standard than all of its combined members average. There are a total of 28 universities and university colleges issuing internationally accredited bachelor and master degrees.
Registration and tuition fees for universities are set at a fixed rate, and there are numerous bursary and financial loans available to lower the costs for students with a low income, this gives a larger percentage of citizens the choice to be able to continue education if they wish. The educational system helps produced a skilled workforce with a high literacy rate of 99%

Business Costs

Not surprisingly commercial office rentals are highest in the CBD of Brussels. Office space in Brussels Quartier Leopold district costs average $43.56 per square foot per annum, ranking much lower than other European hubs such as Paris, Milan, London and Amsterdam. According to the European Cities Monitor report 2010, Brussels has the fourth best European location for business, based on familiarity of the area and easy access to other markets.

Belgium has set a national minimum wage to protect workers and stop labour exploitation. Anyone legally working in the country is entitled to a minimum of EUR 1440 per month, which is one of the highest minimum wages in Europe. With the current exchange rate (2010) it equates to over £250 per month higher than the minimum rate set for the United Kingdom. While highly skilled professionals can enjoy salaries which are equal to the worlds largest economic cities such as New York and London.

Corporate taxes are relatively high at a flat fee of 30.99% and an additional 3% 'crises surcharge' on all profits for companies operating within the country. There are several allowances to help ease the tax burden for companies that fit specific requirements, including the national allowance for corporate equity. Personal taxes are calculated depending on an individuals residency status. Residents are classed as anyone who has their main home in Belgium and are registered to a commune. Personal taxes work on a progressive scale, and for residents it ranges from 25% to 53.5%. Discounted VAT rates apply for goods such as books and medical items, while the flat fee has remained at 21% for the majority of good and services.
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