822 firms are the driving force behind Belgian job creation

Results of the Belgian High Growth Monitor

A group of 822 high-growth firms accounts for one in three jobs created by private companies with a minimum of ten employees. These high-growth firms represent just 3.5% of Belgian businesses with a minimum of ten employees.

A small minority of 3.5% of Belgian businesses with a minimum of ten employees is responsible for the creation of 45,947 jobs. This amounts to 67% of the total net number of jobs created by business with a minimum of ten employees in the period from 2014 to 2017.

This is apparent from the results of the annual Belgian High-Growth Monitor, a study carried out by the Impulse Centre 'Growth Management for Medium-Sized Enterprises' at Vlerick Business School. In this study, Professor Hans Crijns and researcher Yannick Dillen apply the OESO definition for high-growth firms: companies with a minimum of ten employees who have seen their total number of employees grow by at least 20% per year over a three-year period.

The number of high-growth Belgian firms has remained relatively stable over the years (between 3 and 3.5% of the business population). The same applies to the number of jobs that these ‘gazelles’ create: in the past six periods, this has ranged from 45,278 (in the period from 2012 to 2015) to 55,269 (in the period from 2009 to 2012).

As researcher Yannick Dillen (Vlerick Business School) explains: “Although the composition of the group of high-growth firms varies significantly from period to period, the number of jobs created has proven to be a very stable factor. This is a reassuring finding. In periods in which total net job creation is disappointing, the Belgian economy can still rely on a select group of high-growth firms that remains stable even in difficult times.

However, in comparison to the Netherlands, Belgium is lagging behind: 5.4% of Dutch firms with a minimum of 10 employees were high-growth in the period between 2014 and 2017, which is almost two percentage points higher than the Belgian percentage.

However, high growth appears to be a temporary phenomenon in the lifecycle of a company. In the 2012 to 2017 period, just 11 Belgian firms managed to retain their high-growth status. Thus there is a large group of new firms in each period that emerge as high-growth for a short but sharp growth spurt.

High-growth firms are chiefly active in knowledge-intensive service sectors such as the IT and communications sector. There is a clear under-representation of high-growth firms in traditional sectors such as construction and retail.

The Brussels Capital Region and the Province of Antwerp have emerged as hotspots for high-growth firms, while Wallonia is markedly underrepresented by high-growth businesses. 

In the Belgian High-Growth Monitor, entrepreneurs who are members of the Impulse Centre 'Growth Management for Medium-Sized Enterprises' were also surveyed. All their companies have a track record of growth and, in many cases, high growth. The results show that finding qualified staff is by far the greatest barrier to growth. The introduction of new products (and/or services) and engaging in partnerships are the actions most commonly undertaken to achieve growth.

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