More people changed jobs between 2020 and 2021

Work & training
More people changed jobs between 2020 and 2021

Half continue to work in the same sector

For a year now, Statbel has been publishing the so-called transition matrices which show whether someone changes his or her labour market status based on the Labour Force Survey (LFS). In this press release, we focus on a part of these transitions: job-to-job transitions, i.e. employed people who remain in employment but change jobs.

Ellen Quintelier, labour market statistician at Statbel, notes that job-to-job transitions increased slightly between 2017 and 2021. While between 2017 and 2018 only 5.3% of employed people had changed jobs one year later, this is now 7.4%. We see that young people in particular are changing jobs. “Age is the most important determinant of whether someone changes jobs," says Quintelier. "Especially the ‘horeca’ sector and the cultural sector are two sectors with many job-to-job transitions, and due to COVID-19 there are even more changes in these sectors". Half of the people who change jobs continue to work in the same sector.

Percentage of employed people who have changed jobs

Since 2017, every respondent selected to participate in the Labour Force Survey is surveyed four times over a period of eighteen months. They are surveyed for two consecutive quarters, then they are not surveyed for two quarters and then they are surveyed again for two consecutive quarters. This makes it possible to examine for each respondent what his or her labour market status is during each of these four surveys and, for the employed, what the characteristics of the job are, such as the sector where one works, the profession, the starting date of the job,...

This publication focuses on the job-to-job transitions, i.e. on the group of people who indicate that they are working in one of the first two surveys and who indicate again that they are working one year later, but who in the meantime indicate that they have started working in a different job during the intervening period[1].

We see that the proportion of people changing jobs is rising slightly. Between 2017 and 2018, 5.3% of people aged 15-64 in employment changed jobs and between 2020 and 2021 this was already 7.4%. This change is not only driven by employees with a temporary job, among employees with a permanent contract we also see more changes.

Profile of employed people who change jobs

We see that age is an important factor in job-to-job transitions. Among 15-24 year-olds, almost 1 in 4 changed jobs between 2020 and 2021. Among 25-34 year-olds, this is slightly more than one in ten. This drops further to 1.7% among 55-64 year-olds. Changing jobs also increases equally in all groups between 2017 and 2021, with the exception of 55-64 year-olds.

Employed people who change jobs by age group (2017-2021)

There are no differences according to gender. The percentage of men and women who change jobs is more or less equal. In terms of region, we see more job transitions among residents in the Flemish Region than in the Brussels-Capital Region and the Walloon Region respectively, but it is increasing at a similar rate everywhere. As regards the level of education, we see no differences between 2020 and 2021. Before the coronavirus crisis, low-skilled people (often with temporary contracts) changed jobs slightly more often. The coronavirus crisis has had a slightly negative impact on them. In terms of numbers, however, more higher educated people are changing jobs because there are more highly-skilled people at work than low-skilled people or medium-skilled people. Part-time employees are slightly more inclined to change jobs, but these differences do not seem to increase recently.

Comparison between sectors

We will also take a look at the sectors in which people change jobs more often. We distinguish here between sectors where

  • employed people often change jobs
  • employees changed jobs more often due to the coronavirus crisis, i.e. between 2020 and 2021.

We always look at the sector in which the person works at the starting moment. Finally, we also look at the sectors in which people tend to change jobs within or outside the sector.

Although we expect Covid to cause many people to change jobs in the healthcare sector, we do not see this in the figures yet. In other sectors, however, we do see that people change jobs more often: for instance in the cultural sector and in the ‘horeca’ sector.

Sectors where on average people change jobs more often

The sectors in which the most job-to-job transitions took place in the years 2017 to 2020::

  • the ‘horeca’ sector (on average 11% of those employed in the ‘horeca’ sector who remain in employment have changed jobs)
  • the cultural sector (on average 9.3%)
  • the ICT sector (on average 8.6%)
  • other services (associations, repair of computers and consumer goods, other personal services; on average 7.9%)

Sectors in which job changes have taken place more often in the last year

The sectors that have seen more changes in percentage terms in the last year are

  • The cultural sector (between 2020 and 2021, 3.7 percentage points more of those in employment changed jobs than on average between 2017 and 2020)
  • Education (2.9 percentage points more)
  • Wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles (2.6 percentage points more)
  • The ‘horeca’ sector (2.5 percentage points more)

In the other sectors, according to E. Quintelier, there is no increase in the percentage of employees changing jobs, for example in the human health and social work activities sector there is no increase of job changes after Covid (yet).

Which sectors are employed people changing to?

On average, 45.7% of employees who change jobs stay in the same sector. This percentage decreased slightly in 2019-2020 to 42.3% and increased in 2020-2021 to 49.2%.

The sectors in which most people who change jobs continue to work, are 'construction', 'public administration and defence; compulsory social security’ and 'human health and social work activities'. The sectors where employees who change jobs stay employed the least are 'other service activities', 'administrative and support service activities' and 'arts, entertainment and recreation'. "Job transitions between sectors are thus also clearly influenced by the professions in that sector: a construction worker or a nurse may find it more difficult to change sectors than someone with an administrative profile," says E. Quintelier.

% that remains in the same sector (2017-2021)
C Manufacturing 40.2
F Construction 58.1
G Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles 48.1
H Transportation and storage 39.7
I Accommodation and food service activities 46.1
J Information and communication 49.2
K Financial and insurance activities 48.3
M Professional, scientific and technical activities 37.4
N Administrative and support service activities 31.9
O Public administration and defence; compulsory social security 56.2
P Education 54.9
Q Human health and social work activities 57.6
R Arts, entertainment and recreation 34.1
S Other service activities 19.6

It is difficult to paint a clear picture of which sectors employees change to. Therefore, we only discuss the sectors in which more than 10% of the employed people change jobs (besides staying in the same sector). Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles attracts people from many sectors: more than 10% of those employed in 'Industry', 'Transportation and storage', 'Accommodation and food service activities', 'Professional, scientific and technical activities' and 'Other services activities' change to this sector. The industry sector attracts people from 'Construction', 'Transportation and storage' and 'Information and communication'. The other sectors only attract employees from one or two sectors. There are also some sectors that attract people from many different sectors, but where none of them stand out: Transportation and storage', 'Accommodation and food service activities', 'Financial and insurance activities', 'Administrative and support service activities', 'Arts, entertainment and recreation' and 'Other service activities'. These sectors do not attract more than 10% of employees from any sector.


As the reason for the dynamics differs between the different sectors, we will elaborate on some of them below.

The cultural sector (NACE R)

The cultural sector has often had to close down during the coronavirus crisis. In a sector where job changes are already frequent, this has increased the number of job-to-job transitions even more. It is slightly more often the higher educated and significantly more often young people in this sector who change jobs. Of those who change jobs, on average 30.5% stayed in the same sector between 2017 and 2020. After the Covid crisis, this increased slightly to 40.8%.

Other service activities (NACE S)

This sector is diverse, but similar to the cultural sector: many associations had to remain closed during the crisis. It is also more often the higher educated people in this sector who change jobs. The average number of employees who - when changing jobs - continue to work in the 'other services activities' sector is low, on average 19.6% between 2017 and 2021.

Accommodation and food service activities (NACE I)

The ‘horeca’ sector, too, has often been open for less time or even closed during the Covid crisis. The ‘horeca’ sector is a sector with many low-skilled people, temporary contracts (e.g. students with a part-time job and flexijobs) that lead to many (job-to-job) transitions, also at a slightly later age. Often, those who change jobs continue to work in the ‘horeca’ sector (49.9% between 2017 and 2020), but because of Covid this percentage has decreased to 35.1%, which may be due to the fact that in 2021 the ‘horeca’ sector was still often closed or could welcome fewer people.

The ICT sector (NACE J)

In the ICT sector, it is mainly higher educated people who change jobs. Also, in this sector, people change jobs at a slightly older age. On average, half of them stay in the ICT sector, but these profiles can of course also go to many other sectors.

Education (NACE P)

In this sector, we see the movements mainly among employees with a lower level of education. The younger people in this sector change jobs more often than their older colleagues. More than half of the people who change jobs continue to work in the education sector (viz. 50,7% between 2017 and 2020). This percentage has increased to 61.6%, possibly due to the shortage of teachers, making it easier for people changing jobs to stay employed in education than in the past.

Wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles (NACE G)

The wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles sector is a sector with a relatively high number of lower educated people, and it is more often the lower educated who change jobs. People working in this sector are slightly less likely to stay in this sector since the Covid crisis (from 49.6% between 2017 and 2020 to 44.0% between 2020 and 2021).

[1] When we speak of people who have changed jobs, we are referring to people who themselves indicate that they have changed jobs. This can be with the same or a different employer. They are asked when they changed jobs and if the start date is less than a year they are included in the analyses.
Technically, it is about the people:

  • who are employed in the first and third survey, but in the second or third survey indicate that they have changed their job since the previous survey, or
  • who are working in the second and the fourth survey, but in the third or the fourth survey indicate to have changed their job since the previous survey.