Belgium experienced a record number of new start-ups in 2023, according to a report jointly published by entrepreneur associations Unizo and UCM, along with

information agency GraydonCreditsafe. Despite this growth, the country also saw unprecedented levels of business closures and a notable increase in bankruptcies.

In 2023, a total of 120,478 new sole traders and companies were established in Belgium, marking a 4.2% increase from the previous year. This upward trend continued into the first quarter of 2024, showing a provisional rise of nearly 2%.

Flanders, in particular, witnessed a significant rise in start-up activity. The services sector dominated the new enterprises landscape, constituting 38.5% of the total, followed by liberal professions (16%), construction (12.3%), and retail trade (7.3%).

However, alongside this growth, Belgium also recorded a record 101,973 business closures in 2023, accompanied by an uptick in bankruptcies. As a result, despite the high number of new businesses, the net growth rate of total businesses at the beginning of 2024 was a modest 1.46%, described as the lowest in a decade by Eric Van den Broele from GraydonCreditsafe.

Certain sectors, such as hotels and restaurants, retail trade, wholesale trade, and manufacturing, experienced a net decline in business numbers. Factors contributing to this decline include the aging demographic of entrepreneurs in these sectors and evolving consumer behavior, such as increased online spending over traditional retail and dining.

Both Unizo and UCM underscored the importance of government support to sustain entrepreneurship. They advocate for policies like reduced income taxes for sole traders and administrative simplification to foster a favorable environment for business growth. Photo by Phil Whitehouse, Wikimedia commons.