Has Belgium really lost 20,000 jobs in the e-commerce sector?

The COMEOS trade federation regrets that the federal government has not taken any strong measures to allow more flexibility at work in the e-commerce sector. “We have already lost 20,000 jobs to neighboring countries” declared Tuesday Dominique Michel, the boss of COMEOS. How was this figure calculated? Déclic wanted to see clearly.

Initially, there is a map, produced by COMEOS which lists all the distribution centers (for e-commerce) which have set up in our area and at our borders… over the past 7 years.

In particular, we discover that a very large number of centers have set up in the Netherlands, 3 times more than here. There are also a few, much less numerous, in France and Germany.

In all, these centers located on the other side of our borders, employ 20,000 people according to COMEOS calculations.

Can we say, however, that these are lost jobs for Belgium?

That is much more complicated to establish. To find out, you would almost have to go and interview each boss and business owner concerned and ask them if they would have chosen to settle in Belgium, if the conditions had been different …

And it is not obvious. Because, when we look at the details of the companies concerned, we see that in the Netherlands, for example, there are both distribution centers of large international companies: Amazon, Primark, Microsoft, Tommy Hilfiger … but there are also the centers of a whole series of Dutch brands, which nevertheless represents 4,000 jobs, out of a little over 10,000 created (details in the video above).

From 20,000 to 13,500

Likewise, Germany has a large Zalando distribution center… which is a German platform. France can count, in Roubaix, on the center of La Redoute, but Roubaix is ​​its historic seat.

COMEOS estimates should therefore be taken with great caution. If we count all the jobs in business centers from the country where they are established… we go from 20,000 to 13,500.

Not to mention that some centers are quite far from our borders or seem more oriented towards Germany (around Eindhoven, in particular). Without counting either, in the other direction, the indirect jobs related to these distribution centers which could have on the other hand, raised the counter.

The Netherlands, paradise for distribution centers?

What emerges most clearly from the analysis of all this is the great attractiveness of the Netherlands for this type of center. Information taken from several specialists, it is linked to the lower cost per hour of work (36.419 € / h in Belgium against 33.884 € in the Netherlands), it is linked to the widespread use of students on the Dutch work as well as greater flexibility.

On this last point COMEOS considers that “lThe problem is that in Belgium, any progress towards a flexibilization of work, any modification of the organization of work, is the subject of very long negotiations between employers and unions who ask for very high compensation for this flexibilisation “.

The unions, them, insist on the fact that this model of parity negotiation, at the level of the companies but also at the level of the sectors, it is what prevents from unraveling the working conditions. They also point to the harmful effects on health of very staggered hours …

A race to the bottom

More broadly, we are also following a logic that is now well known at European level. That which allows multinationals to put the states in competition: on wages, on flexibility, on taxation … Which pushes the states in a kind of race to the bottom to make themselves always more attractive than their neighbors.

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