Young people find flexibility and interesting, challenging work more important than base pay

PwC’s 2020 Workforce Preference study

  • 44% of respondents are willing to work abroad; for 70% of that group, the main motivation would be in order to have a challenging job
  • The importance of interaction with co-workers remains high, even in COVID-19 times, along with business and technical training, and stimulating innovation
  • For people between the ages 19-28, a pension plan is their preferred benefit in the focus area of other benefits, followed by medical coverage

Brussels – 22 October 2020 – To understand exactly what people aged 19 to 28 are looking for from their future employers, PwC polled 584 young people in Belgium about their perceptions. The ‘new normal’ created by the COVID-19 crisis has also generated new expectations among Gen Y and Gen Z, who now place more importance on non-financial aspects of work, as demonstrated in PwC’s 2020 Workforce Preference study.

Interesting work, abroad if not at home

In terms of overall importance, having work that is interesting and challenging, together with a good work-life balance (flexible work schedule and work time), are the highest scoring preferences among respondents. Both are ranked higher than for example base pay, which comes in third.

The importance of a challenging job opportunity and personal development is also a driver for mobility. Over two thirds (67%) of respondents indicated they’re willing to move within Belgium for an interesting job. A job abroad ranked in second place after Brussels as the most popular working location, with 44% willing to consider an international move for work purposes; and for 70% of that group, the main motivation is to have a challenging job. ​ 

What you do, who you do it with, and what you learn by doing it

In PwC Belgium’s 4th CFO survey, “Workforce 2.0”, finalised in early October, 93% of the finance leaders polled said the most significant permanent change in the workplace will be an increase in remote working. However, people-related aspects remain a key aspect of workforce preferences. 41% of the respondents in the Workforce Preference survey currently work full time, and say that interaction with their co-workers is important to them: it is ranked 4th in their list of preferred aspects of work. Interestingly, even if respondents who are not yet working are included, this aspect remains equally important.

It’s clear that for many people, stimulating and positive interaction with colleagues is very much a part of work - an aspect put under strain by the COVID-19 crisis,” comments Philip Maertens, Partner, People & Organisation, PwC Belgium. “The survey was being run before, during and after the lockdown. We did see shifts in the importance attributed to training in business and technical skills, and sharing ideas and innovation - which scored higher during lockdown, and increased further afterwards. The importance of the company’s profile and purpose also rose during and again after lockdown. These results suggest that companies that play key roles in society, and which invest to stay relevant, have managed to stand out in the minds of the workforce during the crisis.

The perfect reward package: pension and health benefits do impress

In addition to base pay, meeting the expectations of the future workforce means adding other elements to the reward package. It turns out that respondents between the age of 21 and 28 prefer a pension plan, followed by medical coverage, in terms of other benefits. This is contrary to the common assumption that younger employees rarely consider the longer term.

Another clear finding is that young people want flexibility to personalise their reward package according to their preferences,” explains Bart Van den Bussche, Director, People & Organisation, PwC Belgium. “The freedom to tailor benefits to personal needs ranks 3rd, just behind pension and health benefits in the focus area other benefits. Our study shows significant diversity in both the workforce and their preferences, and it’s fair to state that a flexible reward package can help employers strengthen the relationship with their talent over time. Personal preferences also change over time, so reward plans can be made more future-proof if they offer employees the ability to realign their reward packages accordingly. Similarly, it’s important for organisations to have a good understanding of which elements are needed to improve their employer value proposition and support talent retention.”


About the 2020 Workforce Preference study

PwC surveyed 584 people in Belgium to understand their expectations and perceptions of the labour market. 90% of the participants were between the ages of 19 and 28, in various combinations of studies and employment (see below). Download the full report here.


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