Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Today, Flanders has primarily an industrial and postindustrial economy, Depending on the service and tourist industries. In recent years, economic activity in Flanders has expanded in final-step manufacturing, electronics, computer technology, and Industrial agriculture. The economy has contracted in heavy industry, such as steel manufacture and boat building. The North Sea cities are commercial fishing centers, supporting largescale fish processing. Several coastal cities are important ports for industrial production, raw materials, and agricultural produce. The fertile, flat land remains an agro-industrial center. Farmers grow vegetables, fruit, animal feed, forage, and grains, which in turn support large commercial baking, meat-processing, vegetable-oil extraction, commercial fiber-processing, and vegetable- and fruit-canning enterprises.
Industrial Arts. The Flemish are noted for small-scale artisanal production of foods and luxury goods. Chocolate, lace, tapestry, glass, and pottery are notable. Early Flemish dominance was based on the production and finishing of cotton, linen, and woolen cloth.
Trade. Flemish social values and cultural institutions are rooted in protoindustrial and industrial production for trade. The rise of early trade networks established Flemish municipal independence from an overarching feudal system and helped to install a system of government by a council of citizen representatives. Flemish cities established and joined trade associations that supported and facilitated trading relationships throughout Europe. Today, the Flemish character and culture are heavily influenced by traditions of trade, both on a large and small scale. The existence and persistence of the zelfstandigen, or independent self-employed business families, serves to define the Flemish people as independent Economic actors.
Division of Labor. In Belgium, occupational specialization is based on knowledge, training, and ability, but access to education and job training is limited by social class, ethnicity, gender, and economic status. Access to some occupations is facilitated only through family connections or kinship ties. In bicultural Brussels, some occupations are thought to be restricted ethnically, with the Flemish dominating many of the working-class occupations. Work is divided along gender and age lines in business, in the family, and in the household, as well, although not so strictly in practice as in widely held Gender ideologies. For women, work in small firms and commercial enterprises is overlain so completely on domestic gender roles that household and business-related tasks are often difficult to distinguish: for example, wives of business owners receive visitors in the home as wives, and they also "help" their husbands as unpaid receptionists, office assistants, and business administrators in household-based firms.
Land Tenure. Land is owned legally by individuals or by corporate groups, such as business investors or religious orders. Ownership is enforced by the legal system, based on written records of ownership through purchase or Inheritance. Rights to use and allocate the use of land and other property are held solely by the legal owner(s). Businesses and business profits are owned solely by the individuals or legal entities that have invested either property or money—but not labor, energy, or time—into those concerns.