Brussels - CC / Flickr
Brussels - CC / Flickr

When I’m in Belgium I am a happy resident of St Josse-ten-Noode. It’s on the doorstep of the EU institutions and it’s Belgium’s poorest commune with an average income of only €7079 per year per inhabitant. Lathem-St-Martin is the richest commune in Belgium with an average income of €19820. Both of these stats strike me as extremely low and – I presume – are calculated on the basis of income after tax has been paid.

So today’s Eurostat report about the GDP per head of different regions was a surprise – Brussels is the 3rd richest region in the EU, with GDP per head of €59400. It has been reported by EUObserver, and the Eurostat PDF is here. Those are GDP figures rather than income figures, hence the discrepancy, but the interesting point is this: Brussels for sure does not feel like the 3rd richest region of the EU! In fact in many areas the place feels poor and run down, and house prices are low too. Munich or Stockholm feel much more obviously wealthy. Eurostat adds the caveat that figures can be distorted by significant flows of commuters – undoubtedly the case for Brussels where Belgium’s enterprises have their HQs that are mainly staffed by workers resident in Flanders.

This – like lots of things in Belgium – just leaves me feeling mighty confused!

2 Comments

  1. Dániel Fehér

    Hey Jon,

    St. Josse is — as far as I know — also the Belgian commune with the highest unemployment and criminality rate (as well as the one with the highest quota of surveillance cameras per square meter). It’s nevertheless also my favourite of all Brussels communes. Just think of the Fritterie/Frietkot of Mr. Martin on Place St. Josse with the best French Belgian Fries in town!

    Concerning the Brussels Regions’ GDP: This is probably due to the fact that Belgium used to be a tax heaven for large companies until just a few years ago — I’m not sure if they still practice it, but they used to give huge tax exemptions for multinational companies for bringing their HQ to Brussels… Have a look at that enormous office/industrial park on the way to Zaventem, and you know where the statistics come from!

    Plus, it’s also true that Eurostat counts the money where it’s earned, not where it’s spent. That’s why Brussels can have an unemployment rate (among local residents) that’s somewhere around 20% and still produce such exorbitant amount of wealth.

  2. House prices have been up sharply in recent years. While many Belgians could easily afford buying their own home around 2000, prices have nearly doubled in the 5 years to 2005 and have further increased recently.

    By the way: Sint-Josse is also the Belgian commune with people from the most nationalities. I think it was far over 100. And at the same time it is one of the smallest communes when looking at the surface area.

    I enjoy living here!

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