Craftsmanship, the driving force of the Luxembourg economy The craft sector has around 7,800 companies (2019) and 98,000 active workers.

With 98,000 active workers and 7,800 companies, the craft industry is considered to be Luxembourg's largest employer. Present in the food, construction, production and service sectors, it occupies a privileged place in the country's economic fabric.

Craftsmanship is particularly well established in Luxembourg. The number of craft enterprises has been increasing steadily since the 1990s. Today, the sector has around 7,800 companies (2019). They represent 21% of the companies in the Grand Duchy.

Composed mainly of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the craft sector is an economic giant and above all one of the country's main employers. While in 1970 it employed around 25,000 people, it will employ 98,040 in 2019, which represents an annual increase of 2.8%. On average, craft businesses employ 13 people and almost one person in five is employed in a manual trade in the Grand Duchy.

The craft industry brings together 121 different activities. It is present in the sectors of food, fashion, health and hygiene, mechanics, construction, communication, multimedia and entertainment as well as in various craft activities. 

Bakers, chocolatiers, pastry cooks and caterers: the food sector is one of the craft trades.
© CC (Chambre de commerce)
In Luxembourg, one person in five has a manual job.
© SIP / Christof Weber

Neither good or bad

Craft trades are on the upswing. Since the 1990s, the sector has continued to create jobs. This increase does not seem to be slowing down in the face of the danger of technological advances and the risk of making manual trades fall into decline. However, in the world of Luxembourg craftsmanship, everything seems to be going well, according to the figures provided by the Chamber of Trades, which indicate that almost all manual activities have developed positively, due to strong economic growth. A trend that could be explained by the fact that the population continues to grow. This situation would have an impact on companies, which, to close the loop, would recruit staff again.

One branch of the craft industry that has been able to take advantage of the upturn in the market is that of aesthetics and well-being. This phenomenon, which is becoming more and more a part of consumer habits, has been growing in the long term. In 1990 there were 80 beauty salons in the Grand Duchy, compared with 152 in 2019. The number of employees has even quadrupled from 238 to 921. 

Despite this positive trend in some sectors, other branches of the craft industry have been affected by changes in their environment: structural changes, new skills, globalisation of markets or societal mutations. All these phenomena have had consequences for some trades, such as the printing and dressmaking industries. In the world of clothing, a small industrial revolution had gradually taken hold over the years with the ready-to-wear market (prêt-à-porter), which gained in importance worldwide, at the expense of made-to-measure. This trend has certainly had an impact on the profession of the couturier, which is reflected in figures by a sharp decline in the number of people working in the fashion industry. In 1970, there were 277 employees compared to 134 employees in 2019 in Luxembourg. 

Proportion of the number of companies according to clusters and groups of clusters

Proportion of employment according to clusters and groups of clusters

A multinational workforce

The Grand Duchy is a win-win situation for cross-border workers, because the movement of cross-border craftsmen and women is also vital for the Luxembourg economy. According to statistics, more than half (52%) of the workforce comes from neighbouring countries. In 1990, the number of cross-border commuters represented 27% of employees in the craft industry. Thus, more than half of all employees do not live in Luxembourg. Of these, 51% live in France, 28% in Germany and 21% of cross-border commuters reside in Belgium.

At the same time, the share of foreign residents decreases from 47% to 33% between 1990 and 2019.

DAP or Master's Degree: the keys to open doors

Despite the fluctuations in the craft sector, it is undoubtedly on a positive trajectory, as it attracts more and more apprentices every year. In 2019, 1,764 young people or adults had registered for the Chamber of Trades' craft apprenticeship role. According to the figures, 92% of these young people find qualified employment immediately after passing the exam or continue their studies. Apprentices will complete their training with a Diplôme d'Aptitude Professionnelle (DAP) or Certificat de Capacité Professionnelle (CCP), which will give them a better chance in the job market.

In this way, the craft industry not only creates jobs, but also relies on apprenticeships, mobilising young people for employment. And with good reason, because the craft industry has developed the ideal conditions that enable it to consolidate its position as a leading employer by offering a wide range of outlets and real opportunities to become its own boss.  

To run his own business in Luxembourg, the future boss must have the Brevet de Maîtrise (Master's Degree) in his pocket. This golden key, which approves the end of the training course, is considered to be the benchmark for setting up a business and training apprentices. The Brevet brings together all the theoretical, practical and pedagogical skills required to create and manage a business. In 2019, 110 people have obtained this coveted diploma. 

Adult learning enables adults to acquire a vocational qualification.
© Université du Luxembourg / Luc Deflorenne
The craft sector is strongly involved in vocational training.
© Claude Piscitelli

Key Fact

According to a recent survey by the Chamber of Crafts and Trades, craft enterprises need 9,400 employees in 2020. This labour requirement takes into account the creation of new jobs as well as the replacement of retiring employees or those who have been lured away by other economic sectors (industry, public sector, etc.).

Thus, the age pyramid of employees shows that over the next ten years, between 20,000 and 23,000 retiring employees will have to be replaced in the craft sector (i.e. a quarter of current employees).