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“Brussels is also doing poorly compared to other European cities”

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The Brussels metropolis is doing less well than most other European metropolises in many areas, writes Ewald Pironet.

As we know, there are major regional differences when we look at the tables of the Belgian economy. An example: the unemployment rate in Belgium is 5.7%, in Flanders 3.6%, in Wallonia 8% and in Brussels 11.3%. Brussels often comes out the worst in the statistics. It is then rightly argued that one cannot simply compare Brussels to Flanders and Wallonia because it is a big city and big cities everywhere face particular problems.

Thus, the economic performance of Brussels would compare better with the results of other large cities. And that is exactly what Patrick Bisciari and Sarah El Joueidi of the National Bank of Belgium have done. They compared Brussels to 35 other European metropolises, including Amsterdam, Paris, Milan and Warsaw. How is Brussels doing then?

Southern European cities like Rome, Lisbon and Athens do even worse than Brussels in terms of unemployment.

The Brussels metropolis is in the middle range in terms of economic growth per inhabitant and must outperform a leading group with Paris, Lyon, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Luxembourg, Munich and the Scandinavian capitals. However, there is a big difference between the heart of the Brussels metropolis, the Brussels-Capital Region, and the periphery (based on commuter flows, in this study the provinces of Flemish and Walloon Brabant, the district of Aalst and the districts of Ath and Soignies). While growth in the center was below average, growth in the periphery was higher than among the leaders.

In many respects, the Brussels metropolis does less well than most other European metropolises. For example, the unemployment rate in the Brussels metropolis is significantly higher than the average of the 35 European metropolises. Although southern European cities like Rome, Lisbon and Athens do even worse in terms of unemployment.

The Brussels metropolis also shows relatively low performance in terms of Internet access and has more adults who have not completed their secondary education. Brussels is almost the most traffic-burdened of all European cities. More people were also robbed or assaulted in Brussels last year than in many other major cities, and residents have less confidence in local police. Finally, the administration in Brussels is less efficient and there is more corruption.

Not only in comparison with Flanders and Wallonia, but also with regard to 35 European metropolises, Brussels appears to be underperforming.

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