Living and working in Austria

18 Octubre 2017

  •   Population: 8.7 million (2017)
  •   Real GDP growth: 1.5% (2016)
  •   Unemployment rate: 6.0% (2016)

Data source: Eurostat

Eurofound provides research, data and analysis on a wide range of social and work-related topics. This information is largely comparative, but also offers country-specific information for each of the 28 EU Member States. Most information is available in English but some has been translated to facilitate access at national level.

Eurofound strives to strengthen the ongoing link between its own work and national policy debates and priorities related to quality of life and work. Increasingly important in this context is the Europe 2020 growth and jobs strategy launched in 2010, which has five headline targets, covering employment through to social inclusion and poverty reduction. The strategy is implemented in the context of the European Semester process – the EU's annual cycle of economic policy guidance and surveillance – which ensures that Member States keep their budgetary and economic policies in line with their EU commitments through, in part, National Reform Programmes. These programmes form the basis for the European Commission's proposals for country-specific recommendations (CSRs) for each Member State.

European Commission: The European Semester
European Commission: The European Semester - EU country-specific recommendations
European Commission: European Semester documents for Austria

2015 Eurofound EWCS survey results in Austria: 93% of people are satisfied with working conditions in their job

Survey results

Ability to choose or change
methods of work

Data source: 2015 EWCS survey

Possibility to accumulate overtime
for days off

Data source: 2013 ECS survey

Recent developments

Eurofound contacts in Austria

Correspondents in Austria

Correspondents report on topics related to developments in the countries working life and inform Eurofound’s pan-European comparative analysis. Read more

Consortium Working Life Research Centre, Vienna (FORBA) / Department of Sociology, University of Vienna

Eurofound governing board members from Austria

Eurofound's Governing Board represents the social partners and national governments of all Member States, as well as the European Commission. Read more

Harald Fugger Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection (BMASK)

Katharina Lindner Federation of Austrian Industry (IV)

Dinah Djalinous-Glatz Austrian Federation of Trade Unions (ÖGB)

Related content

Other country-specific information may be available in certain areas on demand. Please feel free to contact your country contact at Eurofound for this or any other information at information@eurofound.europa.eu

Living in Austria

Quality of life

Quality of life

EQLS data show that Austria has a high quality of life on average. Both life satisfaction and happiness have increased since 2007. Life satisfaction increased by 1 percentage point to 7.9 (on a scale of 1 to 10) and happiness also increased by 0.6 points to 7.9. Additionally, self-reported health has continually improved since 2007, from 25% of respondents rating their health as ‘very good’ in 2007 to 33% in 2016. In addition, the WHO-5 Mental Well-being Index has improved from 60 to 67 during the same time period, higher than the EU28 average of 64 (on a scale of 1 to 100). The share of people reporting difficulties in making ends meet is also below the 2007 level (25%), remaining at 20% in 2016.

Only 15% of the respondents in Austria report difficulties to deal with important problems, being the best ranking EU28 country in 2016. Additionally, 15% of respondents in Austria agree with the statement ‘when things go wrong in my life, it generally takes me a long time to get back to normal’ (close to the 13% recorded for the Netherlands, the best performing country). These two measures indicate a high level of resilience in Austria in comparison to other EU countries.

  2003200720112016
Life satisfactionMean (1-10)7.86.97.77.9
Taking all things together on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy would you say you are?Mean (1-10)8.07.37.77.9
Optimism about own futureAgree & strongly agree---73%
Optimism about children’s or grandchildren’s futureAgree & strongly agree---61%
Take part in sports or physical exerciseAt least once a week--50%56%
In general, how is your health?Very good-25%30%33%
WHO-5 mental wellbeing indexMean (1-100)-606667
Making ends meetWith some difficulty, difficulty, and great difficulty17%25%21%20%
I feel I am free to decide how to live my lifeStrongly agree--42%46%
I find it difficult to deal with important problems that come up in my lifeAgree & strongly agree---15%
When things go wrong in my life, it generally takes me a long time to get back to normalAgree & strongly agree---15%

Work-life balance

Work-life balance

Austria has a relatively good work­–life balance, being above the EU average in all of the three work-life balance indicators presented below. Notably, women in Austria experience least problems in ‘fulfilling family responsibilities because of work’ among the EU28 countries (25% of women in Austria, compared to the EU average of 38%). Regardless of the relatively good work-life balance compared to the other EU countries, most of the work-life balance measures in Austria have deteriorated since 2011.

  2003200720112016
(At least several times a month)   
I have come home from work too tired to do some of the household jobs which need to be doneTotal42%45%45%53%
Men40%47%43%53%
Women44%43%46%52%
      
It has been difficult for me to fulfil my family responsibilities because of the amount of time I spend on the jobTotal21%32%24%30%
Men23%37%23%34%
Women18%24%26%25%
      
I have found it difficult to concentrate at work because of my family responsibilitiesTotal7%14%14%13%
Men6%14%10%13%
Women7%13%18%14%

Quality of society

Quality of society

Many of the indicators of the quality of society in Austria have remained fairly stable since the previous survey in 2011. However, perceived tensions between different racial and ethnic groups increased approximately 10 percentage points from 2011, reaching 49% in 2016 and above the EU28 average of 41%. The Social Exclusion Index (with values ranging from 1 to 5) has improved 0.5 points from 2007, currently at 1.7 (close to the best ranking country Sweden at 1.6). Furthermore, trust in people has increased 0.5 points from 2007, now at 5.3 and close to the EU28 average of 5.2 on a scale of 1 to 10. 

  2003200720112016
Social exclusion indexMean (1-5)-2.21.91.7
Trust in peopleMean (1-10)5.94.85.35.3
Involvement in unpaid voluntary work% 'at least once a month'--19%19%
Tension between poor and rich people% reporting 'a lot of tension'30%20%24%23%
Tension between different racial and ethnic groups% reporting 'a lot of tension'38%42%39%49%
I feel safe when I walk alone after darkStrongly agree---46%

Quality of public services

Quality of public services

Quality ratings for seven public services

Note: scale of 1-10, Source: EQLS 2016.

The perceived quality of public services is good in Austria. Ratings given by respondents for all seven public services are above the EU28 average, as shown below. Austria ranked highest among the EU28 countries on health services (8.0 out of 10) and social housing (7.1). Most of the ratings have not changed much since 2007. However, the perceived quality of childcare services increased by 0.7 points since 2007.

  2003200720112016
Health servicesMean (1-10)8.17.88.08.0
Education systemMean (1-10)8.07.57.37.4
Public transportMean (1-10)7.27.27.37.6
Childcare servicesMean (1-10)-7.07.37.7
Long-term care servicesMean (1-10)--7.17.5
Social housingMean (1-10)--7.27.1
State pension systemMean (1-10)5.65.86.26.1

Working life in Austria

About

  • Autor: M. Krenn, C. Hermann, G. Adam, and B. Allinger
  • Institution: Working Life Research Centre (FORBA)

This profile describes the key characteristics of working life in Austria. It aims to complement other EurWORK research by providing the relevant background information on the structures, institutions and relevant regulations regarding working life. This includes indicators, data and regulatory systems on the following aspects: actors and institutions, collective and individual employment relations, health and well-being, pay, working time, skills and training, and equality and non-discrimination at work. The profiles are updated annually.

 

Highlights – Working life in 2017

Highlights – Working life in 2017

Author: Bernadette Allinger, FORBA (Working Life Research Centre)
Working paper: Austria: Developments in working life 2017

Austria experienced a turbulent political year in 2017. While a renegotiated and updated federal government programme was presented in early 2017 (planned to last for the remainder of the current legislative to 2018), cooperation between the federal coalition parties – the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) and the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) – ended in May 2017 following the resignation of Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner prior to the general election that was scheduled for October. Former Interior Minister Sebastian Kurz was made acting chancellor and eventually party leader in December 2017 after winning the election and becoming the world’s youngest head of government.

In the first six months leading up to the government crisis, several reform measures regarding labour and social policy were agreed and implemented, especially measures targeted towards reducing long-term unemployment. They were, however, immediately withdrawn by the newly elected government.

In the second half of 2017, no notable measures were elaborated or implemented, due to the de facto non-cooperation of the coalition parties, so that a virtual standstill was reached; this also had an impact on the social partners who, due to the forthcoming election, did not hold their annual Bad Ischler Dialogue summit. This annual event (since 2006) discusses topics of major national relevance and (usually) a joint social partner position paper, with suggested reform measures to be elaborated and presented to the government.

The social partners were faced with heavy attacks in the federal election campaigns in autumn 2017, especially by the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) and ÖVP, who subsequently formed the new coalition government. Their protagonists have announced they would limit social partner influence, especially those of the statutory chambers (notably the Austrian Economic Chambers (WKO) and the Austrian Chamber of Labour (AK)), with the FPÖ having demanded an end to the compulsory membership. This would have a major impact on the country's collective bargaining coverage (currently at around 95%), reached mostly due to compulsory membership of employers with the WKO.

For the time being (as stated in the newly elected government’s programme), the chambers have been asked to present the government with reform programmes showing concrete efficiency gains and financial relief measures for their members until mid-2018. If the government deems the proposed measures insufficient it may present statutory measures, potentially cutting membership fees, thus reducing the chambers’ budgets.

The FPÖ has traditionally not had close ties with the social partner institutions, contrary to the ÖVP; its former vice-chancellor Mr Mitterlehner was employed by the WKO before his political career.

Chancellor Kurz has not had any political involvement in social partner institutions, unlike his predecessor Mr Mitterlehner. Kurz had been ‘politically socialised’ during Austria’s neoliberal period, when the first ÖVP/FPÖ coalition government was in office (2000–2005), during which the social partners’ influence on policymaking was strongly limited.

Shortly after the election, the ÖGB published a resolution on the importance of social partnership targeted towards all social partner organisations and all parties represented in the federal parliament, in which – among others – the importance of the obligatory chamber membership and the inclusion of the social partners in the political decision making processes are highlighted.

During the first half of 2017, the social partners showed their strength and value when they agreed to the implementation of a minimum wage of €1,500 across all sectors, welcoming the government’s decision.

Once again, no industrial action was recorded, highlighting the importance of a well-functioning social partnership for social peace in the country. It remains to be seen what impact the new government and new structures will have on Austria’s long-established and powerful social partnership, and on the importance and relevance of social dialogue in the country.

Key figures

Key figures

Comparative figures on working life in Austria

 

2012

2017

% (point) change
2012–2017

Austria

EU28

Austria

EU28

Austria

EU28

GDP per capita

36400

25700

37100

27600

1.9%

7.4%

Unemployment rate – total

4.9

10.5

5.5

7.6

0.6

-2.9

Unemployment rate – women

4.8

10.6

5.0

7.9

0.2

-2.7

Unemployment rate – men

5.0

10.4

5.9

7.4

0.9

-3.0

Unemployment rate – youth

9.4

23.3

9.8

16.8

0.4

-6.5

Employment rate – total

75.1

71.7

76.4

73.4

1.3

1.7

Employment rate – women

70.0

65.5

71.8

67.9

1.8

2.4

Employment rate – men

80.2

77.8

81.0

78.9

0.8

1.1

Employment rate – youth

59.2

42.4

56.1

41.7

-3.1

-0.7

Source: Eurostat - Real GDP per capita (chain linked volumes [2010], in EUR) and percentage change 2012–2017 (both based on tsdec100). Unemployment rate by sex and age - annual average, % [une_rt_a]; Employment rate by sex and age - annual average, % [lfsi_emp_a].

Background

Background

Economic and labour market context

From 2012 to 2017, Austria’s GDP remained stable, whilst the EU average increase was 7.4% for the same period. Unemployment rates for all categories of workers increased slightly during the last five years, but the levels are still below the EU averages as Austria remains one of the European countries with lowest unemployment. Employment figures for all categories of workers in 2017 were above EU averages, in particular for young people.

More information on:

Legal context

There is a multitude of legislation in Austria dealing with different aspects of labour law. However, the central legislative enactment in Austrian labour law is the Labour Constitution Act ( Arbeitsverfassungsgesetz, ArbVG). This law regulates the collective interest representation on the two sides of industry at and above company level as well as collective bargaining.

In the beginning of 2017, a small change to the national labour code relating to works councils was implemented, concerning all newly established works councils from 1 January onwards: the works council term was extended from four to five years and the entitlement to time off work for educational or training purposes was extended accordingly by three days (amounting to three weeks and three days for each term of office).

Industrial relations context

For historical reasons (bitter class struggles in the First Republic, experiences of Austro-Fascism and the Nazi regime) the characteristic feature of the Second Republic is a strong commitment to the principle of harmonious cooperation. In the industrial relations system this principle found expression organisationally in the creation of collective interest organisations representing employers and employees which are widely encompassing, extend across party-political lines and are free from rivalry. The basic structure of this commitment to harmonious cooperation in Austria is its system of social partnership. In terms of societal values, this denotes readiness on the part of government and the collective organisations to make all social and economic issues the subject of negotiations as a means of arriving at consensual solutions. Institutionally, social partnership is a complex system built on co-determination within the establishment at micro level, the collective bargaining system at meso level, and tripartite and bipartite forms of concertation at macro level. Whereas the government admits an exclusive circle of social partner organisations to participate in all decisions on economic and social policy, the regulation of the terms and conditions of employment remains the autonomous province of the labour market parties, within the framework laid down by the ArbVG. The core area of industrial relations remains free from substantive state intervention.

Although the Austrian system of social partnership was overtly challenged during the period of the conservative-populist coalition government from 2000 to 2006, Austrian corporatism has largely recovered since the mid-2000s. The country’s system of collective bargaining, which takes place almost exclusively at branch/sector level, has continued to work – despite the fact that in the wake of the most recent crisis wage accords and collective agreements could in some cases be settled only after the threat of industrial action – which is unusual in Austria. With the re-instalment of a conservative-populist coalition government in late 2017, it remains to be seen what impact the new power structures will have on Austria’s long-established and powerful social partnership once more.

Actors and institutions

Actors and institutions

Trade unions, employers’ organisations and public institutions play a key role in the governance of the employment relationship, working conditions and industrial relations structures. They are interlocking parts in a multilevel system of governance that includes the European, national, sectoral, regional (provincial or local) and company levels. This section looks into the main actors and institutions and their role in Austria.

Public authorities involved in regulating working life

With regard to industrial relations and working conditions, the two most important public authorities are the Federal Ministry for Digital, Business and Enterprise ( Bundesministerium für Digitalisierung und Wirtschaftsstandort, BMDW) and, in particular, the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection ( Bundesministerium für Arbeit, Soziales, Gesundheit und Konsumentenschutz , BMASGK). The latter ministry is responsible, among other things, for employment policy and the supervision of the Public Employment Service ( Arbeitsmarktservice, AMS), and hence also unemployment insurance; for labour law and general social policy; for organising the Labour Inspectorates (Arbeitsinspektorate); and for the policy on the disabled, care provision and welfare benefits. The Federal Arbitration Board (Bundeseinigungsamt, BEA), a joint body established within the structure of the BMASGK, has a decisive role in Austria’s industrial relations system in that it is equipped with the right to recognise voluntary collective interest organisations as collective bargaining parties (or to revoke this recognition). This body thus facilitates social dialogue. The BMDW’s range of activities involves, among other things, economic policy and part of employment policy. The AMS, which is a public-law service agency with separate legal personality, is charged with responsibility for job placement and the provision of advisory services to job-seekers and employers regarding supply and demand in the labour market. The Labour Inspectorate forms part of the BMASGK and monitors employment conditions, including health and safety at work. The AMS, the BEA and the Labour Inspectorate are all under the responsibility of the BMASGK and can likewise be considered public authorities of importance for Austria’s industrial relations system. In the case of individual labour disputes, labour and social security courts (at three instances) are competent to rule on all disputes arising from labour law and all benefit claims arising from social security law, whereas disputes concerning the social insurance relationship are referred to administrative authorities under the aegis of the BMASGK.

Representativeness

There is no explicit concept of representativeness applying to collective interest organisations of labour and business in Austria. However, in relation to the capacity of voluntary organisations to conclude collective agreements, the Austrian labour law (the ArbVG) identifies some general preconditions a voluntary collective interest organisation has to meet: the (financial) independency (in particular, of the other side of industry); an extensive occupational and territorial coverage in terms of membership domain, which means that the organisation must at least be operative above company level; and a major economic importance in terms of the absolute number of members and business activities in order to be in a position to wield effective bargaining power. The criterion of representativeness is thus linked to the capacity of collective interest organisations to conclude collective agreements (the right to conclude collective agreements is conferred by the Federal Arbitration Board) and hence to their recognition as relevant social partner organisations.

More information on representativeness of the main social partner organisations can be found in Eurofound’s representativeness study of the cross-industry social partners or in Eurofound’s sectoral representativeness studies.

Trade unions

About trade union representation

Austrian constitutional law protects the right to organise within the framework of the general freedom of association (Vereinsfreiheit) guaranteed to all citizens by Article 12 of the 1867 Basic Law ( Staatsgrundgesetz). It also guarantees the right to form associations for the protection of employment-related interests in accordance with the Associations Act (Vereinsgesetz) giving practical effect to the freedom of association. Moreover, the right to organise is guaranteed as an independent basic right in Article 11 (1) of the 1950 European Convention of Human Rights, which forms part of constitutional law in Austria. As a consequence, in Austria, individuals are given the right to engage in trade union activities and to join them. There is no category of workers or sectors excluded from this right.

Trade union density has been declining since the 1960s in Austria. This trend is mainly due to the long-term structural transformation of the economy and employment: in the strongholds of unionisation – namely in manufacturing and the public sector – employment has declined, to the benefit of the private service sector which tends to record low density rates, especially among women, white-collar workers and atypical workers. In the 2000s, this trend has again accelerated, especially in the wake of the revelation of the Austrian Trade Union Federation’s ( Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB) involvement in the financial debacle concerning its former bank BAWAG PSK. Most recently, an increase in membership was recorded in 2016 for the first time since 1984, which can be attributed to a comparatively large membership gain of the Union of Public Employees (GÖD). The trade unions’ involvement in public policy-making is highly institutionalised in Austria in that the ÖGB and its seven affiliates participate in a number of bodies and committees – on an informal rather than formal (legal) basis, however. Thus, sovereign tasks such as the administration of pensions or unemployment schemes are not performed by them. ‘Yellow unions’ are not at all an issue in Austria, due to the tight procedure of recognition of interest organisations as social partners possessing the capacity to conclude collective agreements.

Trade union membership and trade union density

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Source

Trade union density in terms of active employees

28.3%

28%

27.8%

27.7%

27.4%

26.9%

OECD/Visser (7), based on administrative data.

Trade union membership in 1000s

999,200

994,800

992,800

988,900

988,400

990,700

OECD/Visser (7), based on administrative data.

Main trade union confederations and federations

In Austria, there is only one trade union confederation: the ÖGB.

Main trade union confederations and federations

Long name

Abbreviation

Members as of

31 December 2016

Involved in collective bargaining?

Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund (Austrian Trade Union Federation)

ÖGB

1,200,889

Yes (in general through its affiliated unions)

In recent years, the Austrian trade unions have increasingly been confronted by the need to merge due to a combination of factors – in particular, membership decline and financial weakness, especially in the wake of the revelation of ÖGB’s involvement in the financial debacle concerning its former bank BAWAG PSK. As a consequence of the BAWAG crisis, ÖGB was forced to sell all of its shares in the bank in 2006. Since then, the only source of revenue for ÖGB and its member unions has been the membership dues paid by trade union members. With the latest restructuring and merging processes, Austria’s trade union structure under the umbrella of ÖGB was significantly streamlined, compared with the late 1990s. Within a 10-year period, the number of trade unions affiliated to the ÖGB was reduced from 14 to seven unions. No notable developments occurred during the past few years.

Employers’ organisations

About employers’ representation

There are two main cross-industry employer organisations in Austria, the mandatory Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKO) and the voluntary Federation of Austrian Industry (IV), which organises large enterprises mostly in the manufacturing industry. All companies and entrepreneurs holding a business licence must register with the WKO (and its corresponding subunits), which is organised along geographical subdivisions (provinces, known as Länder) and sectoral sections, which are further subdivided into sectoral subunits. Companies holding more than one business licence are to register with all corresponding WKO sectoral groups; this means that there are more members than companies due to the fact that many employers hold more than one business licence.

For the IV and all other (sectoral) voluntary employer organisations, the principle of the general freedom of association as outlined above in the context of the trade unions equally applies to the employer side.

Due to compulsory membership of all of Austria’s companies – with the exception of those in agriculture, the liberal professions and the non-trading public sector – of the WKO and its respective subunits, the density of WKO in terms of both companies and employees is 100%. No information is available on the IV’s membership density.

Employers’ organisations – membership and density

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Source

Employers’ organisation density in terms of active employees*

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

Economic Chamber Act (Wirtschaftskammergesetz)

Note: Percentage of employees working in an establishment which is a member of any employer organisation that is involved in collective bargaining;

*within the private sector (with the exception of agriculture and the liberal professions) due to compulsory membership of all enterprises of the WKO; Main employers’ organisations.

Apart from the WKO, the IV is the most important employer organisation in Austria. Its membership domain encompasses manufacturing, managerial staff in the manufacturing industry and enterprises associated with the manufacturing industry.

Main employers’ organisations and confederations

Long name

Abbreviation

Members

Year

Involved in collective bargaining?

Wirtschaftskammer Österreich (Austrian Federal Economic Chamber)

WKO

517,477*

2017

Yes (in general, through its subunits)

Industriellenvereinigung (Federation of Austrian Industry)

IV

Over 4,400

2017

No (waives the right to conclude agreements)

*figure refers to active members (companies and entrepreneurs)

Tripartite and bipartite bodies and concertation

As far as general economic and social matters are concerned, national tripartite policy concertation is most strongly institutionalised in the so-called Parity Commission (Paritätische Kommission). This commission consists of top representatives of the government and the four major social partner organisations. The Parity Commission runs four subcommittees: the Advisory Council for Economic and Social Affairs ( Beirat für Wirtschafts- und Sozialfragen), the Subcommittee on International Issues (Unterausschuss für Internationale Fragen), the Subcommittee on Wages (Lohnunterausschuss) and the Subcommittee on Competition and Prices ( Wettbewerbs- und Preisunterausschuss).

The Parity Commission is the focal point for tripartite social dialogue, where matters of particular significance, common strategies and concerted action, as well as emerging conflicts, are discussed and the recommendations of the Advisory Council for Economic and Social Affairs are considered.

Social partner consultation in Austria is based on a practice of permanent, but informal, cooperation, rather than on legal regulations. The tripartite dialogue is extensive and deals with a variety of issues across all economic sectors. Social dialogue is strongly developed and is highly relevant for policy making.

Apart from the Parity Commission, a series of national and regional employment pacts (TEPs) have been set up by the (regional) governments in close cooperation with the national and regional social partners to implement tailor-made employment policies at national and regional level. The social partners’ participation in government employment policies is most strongly institutionalised in the AMS (in whose supervisory board there are representatives of both the government and social partners), which is the core instrument for realising labour market goals at the national and regional level. Moreover, the social partners are represented in the social insurance institutions, the BEA and numerous other bodies.

In terms of bipartite concertation, there is a long tradition of voluntary, informal cooperation and bargaining practice between the social partners at both national and sectoral levels rather than formalised bipartite bodies.

Main tripartite and bipartite bodies

Name

Type

Level

Issues covered

Arbeitsmarktservice Österreich (Public Employment Service AMS)

tripartite

national

Job placement, advisory services to job-seekers and employers; realisation of labour market goals

Hauptverband der Österreichischen Sozialversicherungs-träger (Main Association of Austrian Social Security Institutions)

tripartite

national

Representation and coordination of the 22 social insurance institutions, covering health, accident and pensions insurances

Workplace-level employee representation

The works council (Betriebsrat) is the only body in the private sector representing employees at workplace level. In legal terms, the works council is a body which is to be set up within establishments consistently employing five or more workers. It exercises the workplace-level consultation and co-determination rights conferred by law on the workforce as a whole. Works councils can either be established separately for blue-collar workers and white-collar workers, or may represent both categories. A works council is elected by the workforce – essentially by all employees within the establishment aged at least 18 – for a term of five years (for all works councils established from 2017 onwards; for pre-existing works councils the former term of four years applies) on the basis of proportional representation, with the number of council members determined by the size of the workforce. With regard to the works council’s information, consultation and co-determination rights, the employer is required to hold regular discussions with the works council and keep it informed on matters that are relevant to the workforce. The most important instrument for the expression of works council’s co-determination rights over a specific range of ‘social’ matters is the conclusion of a works agreement (Betriebsvereinbarung) between management and the works council.

In the public sector, a series of special rules exist regarding employee representation bodies (Personalvertretung) for each of the major employers – that is, the federal government, regional (Länder) governments, local governments and public enterprises; the rules are fixed by particular legal provisions. These bodies largely correspond to the works councils in the private sector.

Regulation, composition and competences of the representative body

 

Regulation

Composition

Competences of the body

Involved in company level collective bargaining?

Thresholds/rules when they need to be/can be set up

Betriebsrat

(works council)

Codified in the ArbVG

Representatives of the establishment’s workforce (number is contingent on the size of the workforce)

Consultation and co-determination rights; conclusion of a works agreement with management on social matters (not on pay issues)

Workforce of at least five employees

Employee representation at establishment level

In the figure, we see a comparison between Austria and European Union for the people with 'Establishment size : All' when asked 'Official structure of employee representation present at establishment'. For the 'Yes' answer, Austria's score is lower than the European Union score. For the 'No' answer, Austria's score is higher than the European Union score.

 

Source: ECS 2013, ‘Private sector establishments with more than 10 employees’, Eurofound data visualisation .

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining

Bargaining system

In Austria, the conclusion of collective agreements is essentially confined to the private sector. These agreements are negotiated, almost without exception, at multi-employer sectoral level. The unions for blue-collar workers and for white-collar workers usually form a bargaining community, so that the wage increases agreed upon are, in most cases, the same for both categories of employees. Most of the sectoral collective agreements cover the whole national territory and, in some cases, they are also concluded at the provincial (Land) level. Collective agreements are legally binding. Since the late 1980s a tendency towards ‘organised decentralisation’ of collective bargaining has been observed. As a consequence, the works agreement concluded between the two sides of industry at company level has been acquiring growing importance as an instrument for the regulation of terms and conditions of employment, as part of the generalised tendency towards greater flexibility, in particular in terms of working hours and – to a certain degree – pay.

Austria’s collective bargaining coverage rate adjusted for public employees is estimated to be over 95%. This – by international standards – extremely high coverage rate is mainly due to the fact that almost all agreements are concluded by subunits of the WKO, of which membership is obligatory.

Wage bargaining coverage

In Austria, collective agreements in general and collective wage agreements in particular are negotiated – almost without exception – at multi-employer sectoral level. This is because the Austrian labour law confers the right to collective bargaining – with only very few exceptions – to the parties above company level. Collective agreements concluded at company level amount to between 1% and 2% of all employees covered by any agreement at most (estimate by national correspondent). National cross-sectoral agreements are very rare and almost never regulate pay. Currently no employee in Austria is covered by a national general pay agreement. By contrast, 96% overall collective bargaining coverage for the entire private sector appears to be plausible. Within the last few years there have been no changes with regard to bargaining coverage.

Collective wage bargaining coverage of employees at different levels

Level

 

Source

All levels

98%

2015 – OECD and J. Visser, ICTWSS database

All levels

96 %

2013 – ECS

All, excluding national level

93 %

2013 – ECS

All levels

92%

2010 – SES

All levels

>95%

National correspondent’s estimate 2016 (private sector employees)*

Sources: Eurofound, European Company Survey 2013 (ECS), private sector companies with establishments >10 employees (NACE B-S) – multiple answers possible; Eurostat, Structure of Earnings survey, companies >10 employees (NACE B-S), single answer: more than 50% of employees covered by such an agreement. * See also Bönisch (2008) and OECD (2012), p. 136.

Bargaining levels

In Austria, the most important level of collective wage bargaining by far is the multi-employer sectoral level. In addition to this, only very few company-level agreements are negotiated; however, they form the exception. The peak social partner organisations have the capacity to conclude inter-sectoral general collective agreements ( Generalkollektivvertrag), but they are extremely rare and of hardly any practical relevance: for example, a general collective agreement on the step-by-step implementation of the 40-hour working week was signed in September 1969, and is formally valid, but came into force with the implementation of the Working Time Act soon thereafter.

Levels of collective bargaining, 2017

 

National level (Intersectoral)

Sectoral level

Company level

 

Wages

Working time

Wages

Working time

Wages

Working time

Principal or dominant level

   

x

x

   

Important but not dominant level

           

Existing level

x

x

   

x

x

Articulation

In Austria, there is a clear division of responsibility between collective agreements concluded at sectoral level and works agreements concluded at company level. Whereas the core area of fixing the rates of pay and the maximum working hours is essentially reserved to the parties to collective agreements, the regulatory competence of the parties to works agreements is almost invariably confined to ‘social matters’, such as the introduction of computerised personnel information systems, fixing the starting and finishing times for daily working hours, or the scheduling of breaks. The only pay-related matters that may fall within the regulatory scope of works agreements are pay entitlements for time spent attending works meetings ( Betriebsversammlungen), profit-sharing schemes, occupational pension schemes and the like. This restriction is intended to ensure the precedence of the parties to collective agreements in the system of employment regulation as a whole. In the case of delegation clauses laid down in a collective agreement some negotiation capacities in terms of working time and – to a certain extent – also pay are delegated to the company level parties concerned, but solely within the framework set by the sectoral collective agreements.

Timing of the bargaining rounds

The major bargaining rounds take place in the autumn. Traditionally, the pattern-setting metalworking industry starts the autumn bargaining round in October. For several years, increasingly more collective agreements have also been negotiated in the spring in, for example, the electronics, chemical, textile and paper industries. Additionally, further sectoral collective agreements are also negotiated in between the spring and autumn rounds, giving rise to year-round negotiations.

Coordination

Wage bargaining in Austria is strongly coordinated across the economy. This is because a practice of ‘pattern bargaining’ prevails, in which the metalworking industry takes on a leading role as the first major sector conducting wage negotiations in the annual bargaining process. The results have a considerable signalling effect for other sectors and are taken as a role model. In practice, though, they often mark one of the highest wage agreements compared to other sectors due to the relative strength of the metalworkers’ trade unions. Despite this high degree of bargaining coordination, Austria’s collective bargaining system is not marked by centralised wage-setting.

Extension mechanisms

The legislator has provided for an official procedure called an extension order (Satzungserklärung), whereby a collective agreement (or part of it) can be extended to include employment relationships of essentially the same nature which are not covered by an agreement. An extension order is issued by the Federal Arbitration Board (Bundeseinigungsamt) on application from an employer or employee organisation possessing the capacity to conclude agreements. In practice, such a procedure is relatively unusual, since there are only a few areas of employment which are not covered by a collective agreement.

Derogation mechanisms

In Austria, it is not possible to derogate from collective wage agreements in order to pay wages below the collectively agreed level. The collective agreement sets the framework within whose boundaries work agreements on company-specific regulations can be concluded. The so-called ‘distribution option’ entitles the two sides of industry to agree on a redistribution of a certain amount of the total wage bill at company level. This may be distributed flexibly by the employer to certain groups of employees, in line with certain criteria, such as compensation for very low incomes, rewards for high performance or diminishing the gender wage gap. With regard to this distribution option, a derogation clause is included in the collective agreements which states that in economically difficult times, the volume to be distributed may be decreased or set to zero. Eurofound has reported details of derogation clauses in collective agreements in this and six other EU Member States.

Expiry of collective agreements

In Austria, the Labour Constitution Act stipulates that a collective agreement remains in force even after it has expired, until a new collective agreement has been concluded (this applies to those employment relationships which were covered by the collective agreement before its expiration). However, the majority of collective agreements provide for a starting date of validity, but not an expiration date and are valid as long as they have not been cancelled by either side of the negotiating parties, or have become replaced by an updated version in the collective bargaining process. The cancellation of a collective agreement is in principle possible one year after the conclusion of the collective agreement, but in practice this rarely happens.

Peace clauses

According to the ArbVG (§2, 2), collective agreements have two parts, one part consisting of provisions regulating the legal relationship between the collective parties to the agreement (schuldrechtlicher Teil), the other part consisting of provisions regulating the rights and obligations of individual employers and employees arising from the contract of employment (normativer Teil). The provisions of the first part relate solely to mutual rights and obligations and implied duties and include a peace obligation. This peace obligation states that during the duration of the validity of a collective agreement, no industrial action is to be performed or supported by the signatory parties, if it is targeted towards a change in working conditions as set down in the collective agreement.

Other aspects of working life addressed in collective agreements

The change of seniority-dominated wage schemes was an important issue for the employer side to reduce the wage gaps between older and younger employees. So far settlements on this issue in the banking and insurance sector and in several industrial sectors have been reached.

One new topic concerns the attention to work–life balance in collective agreements in recent years. The most common instance is the recognition of parental leave periods for wage increases (that is, increments within the pay scheme) of varying lengths – between ten months for the first child only (e.g. in the retail sector) to the full length up to each child’s second birthday (e.g. in the banking sector, construction or chemical industry) – and to the recognition of parental leave periods towards claims which are dependent on the length of service (e.g. holiday claims, service anniversary bonus) of varying lengths (e.g. the full recognition of all leave periods in the metal industry).

In the retail sector, this is extended to periods of hospice care (i.e. terminal care for close relatives and care for severely ill children) for up to ten months; in several other sectors (e.g. in private social and health care), this is extended to phases of nursing care leave (recognition for claims which are dependent on the length of service of up to 24 months).

Furthermore, in social care collective agreements, provisions on nursing care leave are included – so that employees have a collective claim for it and it does not need to be individually negotiated – due to the fact that there is no legal claim for it and that it needs to be negotiated with the employer.

Provisions for unpaid paternity leave of up to four weeks within the first two months after the birth of a child are also included in some collective agreements (e.g. private education sector, banking).

The so called ‘free time option’ is based on a trade union initiative first in the electronic and then in the mining and steel industries with the explicit aim of improving the work-life-balance of workers. It allows them to reduce their working time instead of taking pay increases. Its extent depends directly on the outcomes of the annual wage bargaining process on sector level and needs to be negotiated annually.

Industrial action and disputes

Industrial action and disputes

Legal aspects

In legal terms, no clear principles are laid down for assessing the lawfulness and consequences of disputes, and in particular there is no Supreme Court case law on the subject. The legitimacy of strikes as a form of industrial action (Kampfmittel) by employees is to be inferred from, not least, the legal provisions which ensure the impartiality of the state. Nevertheless, this legitimacy applies only to strikes perceived as action taken collectively (Gesamtaktion) by the employees' side as such. In general, the term designates any form of adversarial confrontation over pay or other terms and conditions of employment between individual employers or employers' organisations on the one hand and trade unions or groups of employees on the other. Forms of industrial action used in such disputes include strikes, lock-outs and (possibly) boycotts. A distinction is made in legal theory between, in the case of strike action, an economic strike (wirtschaftlicher Streik), political strike ( politischer Streik), unofficial strike (wilder Streik), selective strike (Schwerpunktstreik), token strike used as a warning (Warnstreik) and partial strike (Teilstreik) and, in the case of lock-outs, between an offensive lock-out initiating a dispute (Angriffsaussperrung) and a defensive lock-out as a reaction to a strike (Abwehraussperrung). However, it should be noted that since so few industrial disputes occur in Austria, even the expert approach is essentially theoretical.

Between 2011 and 2014, minor strikes occurred (of which the biggest occurred in 2011), while in 2015 and 2016 there were no strikes (as in the period 2005–2010). In 2013, the average strike duration was 27 seconds per person, corresponding to 3,277 strike days and 26,215 strike hours; in 2014, the numbers were very similar, with some 5,196 involved workers being on strike for 26,471 hours.

Industrial action developments 2011–2016

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Total working days lost

56,670

563

3,277

3,309

0

0

Strike minutes per employee

7.9

0.1

0.5

0.5

0

0

Source: WKO Streiks in Österreich (latest update from May 2017), ÖGB Streikstatistik since 1945.

Dispute resolution mechanisms

Collective dispute resolution mechanisms

At company level, within the framework of its co-determination rights in social matters, the works council must participate in the regulation of all social matters within the establishment; for some it possesses a right of ‘parity’ co-decision-making, and for others it can call on a mediation and arbitration board (Schlichtungsstelle) if agreement cannot be reached with the employer. This board, composed of equal numbers of representatives from both sides with a judge as neutral president and set up by the competent labour and social security court, has the task of attempting to establish agreement between the parties on the matter in question and, if this is unsuccessful, deciding the case itself.

Individual dispute resolution mechanisms

In Austria individual labour law and employment disputes dealt with through jurisdiction fall within the purview of ordinary courts. Compared with these jurisdictional mechanisms in a narrow sense, alternative dispute resolution methods do not figure prominently in the country’s legal system of individual dispute resolution. To a certain extent, this may be due to the country’s pronouncedly ‘corporatist’ industrial relations structure. In the case of an individual labour/employment dispute, the employee concerned will – in particular if a works council is absent in the employer company – normally contact either the relevant trade union (in the case of membership) or the AK (membership of which is compulsory for all private-sector employees) for obtaining information, advice and – possibly – assistance in legal procedures. Actually, in most cases of individual employment dispute, either the AK or the trade unions usually try to intervene (by contacting the employer ) in order to bypass formal litigation before the courts.

Use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms

No official data on the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms (see paragraph above) are available. The Chamber of Labour annually publishes its performance report, in which it reports on the number and types of consultation for its members, as well as on the financial amount it could reclaim for its members in judicial and extrajudicial proceedings.

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations are the relationship between the individual worker and their employer. This relationship is shaped by legal regulation and by the outcomes of social partner negotiations over the terms and conditions governing the employment relationship. This section looks into the start and termination of the employment relationship and entitlements and obligations in Austria.

Start and termination of the employment relationship

Requirements regarding an employment contract

The employment of children (minors under the age of 15 or before completion of their compulsory schooling, whichever is the later) is in principle prohibited (under certain provisions, children aged 12 and over who work at home or in a close relative’s business are exempt from this rule). Thus, 15 years is the minimum working age in Austria. In general, there are no formal requirements for concluding an employment contract. If both parties provide declarations of their willingness to establish a continuing contractual relationship an employment contract is concluded. Freedom of form is a basic element of employment contracts in Austria which means it may be established in oral or written form. Even in the absence of explicitly defined terms statutory law and collective agreements guarantee minimum standards of employment conditions and have therefore to be considered in every employment relationship.

Dismissal and termination procedures

The unilateral termination of employment (Kündigung) does not need to be justified in Austria. Employee and employer can withdraw from an employment contract that has been concluded for an unspecified duration without giving reasons. The period of notice, which is related to job tenure, needs to be observed (as laid down by law or collective agreement). The range is from six weeks (up to two years of job tenure) to five months (26 years of job tenure and more).

See also further information on unemployment benefit provisions in Austria .

Entitlements and obligations

Parental, maternity and paternity leave

In Austria, maternity leave is obligatory and accessible only for mothers. A variety of different options exist for parental leave that include the participation of fathers. New regulations regarding parental leave and a so-called ‘family time bonus’ (essentially paternity leave for fathers to be taken within two months of the birth of a child) apply for births from 1 March 2017 onwards.

Statutory leave arrangements

Maternity protection

Maximum duration

16 weeks: 8 weeks pre-natal and 8 weeks post-natal maternity protection. It is obligatory and cannot be taken by fathers.

Post-natal leave is extended to twelve weeks in the case of premature birth, multiple births or a Caesarean section.

Reimbursement

100% of average income of the last three months of employment before being on maternity protection, plus a supplement for bonus payments (essentially, an aliquot share of the 13th and 14th monthly payments).

Who pays?

(70%) from Familienlastenausgleichsfond (FLAF – Family Burdens Equalisation Fund), financed by contributions from employers (4.5% of their salary bill) and from general taxes; and partly (30%) from public health insurance.

Legal basis

Maternity Protection Act (Mutterschutzgesetz) 1979.

Parental leave

Maximum duration

According to labour law, the maximum duration of parental leave (entitlement by family) is up to the second birthday of the child. There are no mandatory periods for fathers, only optional ones.

Reimbursement

New model for births from 1 March 2017:

Parents can choose between a flat-rate childcare benefit account and an income-related model.

Flat-rate account:

- The period of drawing the benefit can vary by choice from between 12 months and 28 months by one parent. If the second parent also draws benefits from the account, the total maximum period for both parents increases to between 15 and 35 months.

- Depending on the length of the leave/drawing period, the daily rate is between €14.53 and €33.88 (in the shortest variant, this corresponds to about €1,030 a month for twelve (or fifteen) months and €442 a month for 28 (or 35) months for the longest period).

- For each parent, 20% of the total period is reserved, which are non-transferable. In its shortest variant, the minimum length for each parent is 91 days, in its longest possible variant, the minimum share for each parent is 212 days (around seven months).

- If the parents share the drawing period (at least 40:60%), an additional partner bonus of €1,000 (€500 for each parent) is granted.

Income dependent variant:

- 80% of the net income for 12 months (only one partner) or 14 months (both partners) with an upper threshold of €2,000 per month.

- A new feature is that the partner bonus (€500 each if they share the leave at least 40%:60%) is also granted for this variant.

For up to 31 days, both partners may draw childcare benefits in both the flat-rate account and the income dependent model at the same time.

Previous model (for births up to 28 February 2017):

Parents could choose between five payment options: four flat-rate and one income-related:

- €436 a month for 30 months or for 36 months if both parents apply for the payment (30+6 bonus months’ option);

- €624 a month for 20 months or 24 months (20+4 bonus months’ option);

- €800 a month for 15 months or 18 months (15+3 bonus months’ option),

- €1,000 a month for 12 months or 14 months for those earning less than €1,000 income a month (12+2 bonus months’ option)

- 80% of the last net income for 12 months or 14 months for those earning between €1,000 and €2,000 a month (12+2 bonus months’ income-related option)

Who pays?

FLAF

Legal basis

Maternity Protection Act (Mutterschutzgesetz) 1979, Paternity Leave Act (Väter-Karenzgesetz) 1989, Childcare Benefit Act ( Kinderbetreuungsgeldgesetz) 2001

Paternity leave

 

A so-called ‘family time bonus’ (Familienzeitbonus ) for fathers was introduced on 1 March 2017.

Adoptive or foster fathers are also eligible, as are same-sex partners (adoptive or foster parents). A written agreement with the employer is needed; there is no legal right to the family bonus time.

Maximum duration

The length of family time is between 28 and 31 days, within 91 days of the birth of a child; the earliest starting day is the day of birth.

Reimbursement

Daily rate of €22.60 (maximum €700 for 31 days).

The monetary allowance received during the family time will be deducted from the father’s daily rate of child care benefit if he later takes parental leave.

Who pays?

FLAF

Legal basis

Family Time Bonus Act ( Familienzeitbonusgesetz, 2017)

Sick leave

If workers are unable to work due to illness or accident and are thus on sick leave (Krankenstand), they are entitled to the continued payment of their full wages by their employers for a certain period of time (depending on their job tenure, up to 12 weeks). Once this period of continued full payment by the employer is exhausted, employees are entitled to half of their pay by the employer for another four weeks. During these four weeks and up to one year after the beginning of the sick leave, sickness benefits by the health insurance are provided. They are set at 60% of the former monthly wage; during the four weeks when half pay is granted by the employer, half of the sick benefits (30% of the former monthly wage) are granted as a top-up.

Retirement age

In Austria, the current statutory retirement age is 65 years for men and 60 years for women. According to the current legal framework, between 2024 and 2033 the pensionable age for women will gradually be increased by 0.5 year-steps per year to equal the pensionable age for men. For all pre-retirement schemes there is a deduction of 4.2% per pre-retirement year (exception: for the physically hard work scheme for long-time insured, the deduction is 1.8% per year), there also exists a bonus of 4.2% per year for retirement after age 60 or 65.

Pay

Pay

Pay: For workers, the reward for work and main source of income; for employers, a cost of production and focus of bargaining and legislation. This section looks into minimum wage setting in Austria and guides the reader to further material on collective wage bargaining.

The median annual income for full-time, full-season (i.e. year-round) workers has increased from EUR 36,273 in 2011 to EUR 39,812 in 2015 (see table below). When taking inflation into account, a small decrease in real wages of just below 1% can be observed. According to these data, there is still a profound income gap between males and females: while in 2011, the female median income was at 81 per cent of the males’ wages, it increased to 83 percent in 2015 (see Rechnungshof 2012 and 2016). There are large differences depending on the sector: in the mining and quarrying branches (NACE B), the median wages of full-time, year-round female workers were at 99% percent of male workers in 2015, whereas in NACE section S (other services), the female median was at only 64% of the male one. The sector paying te highest wages in total is the electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning branch (NACE D); this also applies to female workers only, whereas males earn the highest wages in NACE section K (financial and insurance services) (see Rechnungshof 2016, 76). The lowest wages, on the other hand, which were paid in 2015 were found in the accommodation and food services sector (NACE I), for both male and female full-time, year-round workers.

When looking into pay developments for all workers in Austria (i.e. also those with instable and precarious employment relationships, which were not taken into account in the data provided in the table below), only small pay increases between 2000 and 2015 can be observed, according to a fairly recent study (Eppel et al. 2017). According to the researchers, this cautious increase lies in a segmentation of the Austrian labour market in stable (i.e. year-round employed) and instable (i.e. seasonally employed, employed with interruptions) employees. Over a third of employees fall into the latter category; while the median real gross wages (i.e. corrected for inflation) have increased by 6.2 percentage points between 2000 and 2015 overall, the increase among the stable employees was over 7 percentage points and for unstable employed, real wages stagnated (plus 0.3 percentage points). The composition of the two labour market groups has changed within the last 15 years, also due to the labour market opening for nationals from central and Eastern European countries in 2011 and 2014; while in 2015, only 44% of foreign workers had a stable employment relationship, in 2000, the share was at 53%. At the same time, almost three quarters of Austrian employees (72%) had a stable employment relationship in 2015, which increased even from 2000 (68%). To sum it up, those in stable, long-term employment relationships have benefited to a much higher degree from wage increases than those with unstable employment relationships, of which especially Austrian nationals have benefited ( Der Standard on 26 May 2017 ).

Median annual basic wages and salaries per full-time, year-round dependently employed worker (excluding apprentices) in 2011 and 2015 (in EUR)

 

2011

   

2015

   

NACE

Men*

Women*

Total**

Men***

Women***

Total****

B

42,209

39,853

41,869

45,677

45,375

45,647

C

39,648

28,419

37,548

43,632

32,363

41,593

D

58,956

43,972

56,770

63,820

48,107

61,616

E

32,828

29,451

32,437

35,400

32,695

35,134

F

33,763

30,095

33,503

37,093

33,717

36,875

G

34,214

26,205

30,920

37,436

29,483

34,245

H

34,932

31,237

34,448

37,688

34,375

37,255

I

22,990

20,049

21,195

24,988

22,451

23,459

J

53,372

41,101

50,050

58,571

43,896

54,770

K

61,350

42,583

52,836

66,497

47,029

58,157

L

43,528

29,677

34,811

47,047

33,857

38,804

M

48,424

33,180

40,284

53,975

37,045

45,477

N

29,254

24,170

27,570

32,251

26,973

30,479

O

44,994

40,311

42,583

48,795

43,719

46,225

P

48,940

33,962

40,378

50,852

36,514

42,589

Q

36,881

31,009

32,825

40,525

34,668

36,429

R

36,364

28,509

33,126

39,276

31,397

35,905

S

38,459

23,712

29,889

41,790

26,600

33,818

TOTAL (incl. NACE A, T, U)

38,776

31,598

36,273

42,364

35,023

39,812

Note: The annual wage is generally based on 14 monthly payments, but exceptions may occur. * Table 31, p. 63 (Rechnungshof 2012), ** Table 29, p. 60 (Rechnungshof 2012),*** Table 43, p. 79 (Rechnungshof 2016), **** Table 41, p. 76 (Rechnungshof 2016).

Sources: Rechnungshof (Court of Auditors) 2016, Allgemeiner Einkommensbericht 2016 (General Income Report 2016), Vienna and Rechnungshof 2012, Allgemeiner Einkommensbericht 2012, Vienna; Download: http://www.rechnungshof.gv.at/berichte/einkommensberichte.html

Please note: The Court of Auditors publishes the Income Reports bi-annually, usually in December. The latest report was published in December 2016, including very detailed data (as provided here) on 2015 and less detailed data on 2014; the next report is thus due in December 2018, including data from 2017 (very detailed) and 2016 (slightly less detailed). The WLCP will be updated accordingly once the 2018 report has been published.

The data used in the reports are provided by Statistics Austria, based on income tax data and data provided by the Main Association of Social Insurance Providers (Hauptverband der Österreichischen Sozialversicherungsträger).

Minimum wages

There is no statutory minimum wage provision in Austria. Minimum rates of pay are not fixed by law but are laid down in sectoral/branch-level collective agreements. The wage set for the least skilled group of workers determines the de facto minimum wage for the industry covered by the applicable collective agreement. A monthly minimum wage of €1,000 (gross) has been established by collective agreements in virtually all branches of the economy since 2008. In 2010, the union demanded a minimum wage of €1,300, in 2012, the ÖGB women’s group asked for a minimum wage of €1,500, and in 2015, the white-collar union held a campaign on raising the minimum wage to €1,700 in all collective agreements (which constitutes two-thirds of the median income). These aims have not been reached yet, but a schedule for reaching €1,500 was recently established. In January 2017, Austria's federal coalition government asked the social partners to negotiate on the implementation of a cross-sectoral minimum wage of €1,500, with solutions to be presented until mid-2017. If no social partner agreement was to be presented by then, the government would implement statutory regulations. After months of negotiations, on 30 June 2017, the heads of the four main social partner organisations presented the outcome: a general agreement on the implementation of a minimum wage of €1,500 was agreed upon. The new minimum wage is to be implemented via sectoral collective agreements by 2020 (in all those sectors where the minimum wage is currently lower). Already in bargaining rounds in 2017, the new minimum wage was implemented in a variety and multitude of sectors; in others, agreements on a gradual implementation by 2020 were made. For more information, see Austria: Social partners agree on €1,500 monthly minimum wage for all sectors .

For more information regarding the level and development of minimum wages, please see Eurofound’s topical update on statutory minimum wage in the EU 2018 or visit Eurostat .

Collectively agreed pay outcomes

For more detailed information on the most recent outcomes in terms of collectively agreed pay, please see the topical update Developments in collectively agreed pay and Eurofound’s collective wage bargaining portal

Working time

Working time

Working time: ‘Any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his activities or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice’ (Directive 2003/88/EC). This section briefly summarises regulation and issues regarding working time, overtime, part-time work as well as working time flexibility in Austria.

Working time regulation

The legal regulation on working time in Austria is laid down in the Working Time Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz, AZG) and the Act on Rest Periods ( Arbeitsruhegesetz, ARG) setting the legal frame for the working time regulation. According to these laws, deviations from the legal standards at sectoral and at company level are possible but this requires first a sectoral collective agreement and, based on this, a works agreement between works council and management. So working time still remains an issue in collective bargaining. This is particularly the case since the last amendments to the Working Time Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz, AZG), which have increased the options for flexible working hour arrangements, reserving their implementation to regulation by collective agreement.

For more detailed information on working time (including annual leave, statutory and collectively agreed working time), please consult Eurofound’s report on Working time developments in the 21st century: Work duration and its regulation .

Overtime regulation

The legislation in Austria restricts the working day to a maximum of eight hours (excluding breaks) and the working week to a maximum of 40 hours. However, weekly working hours may be varied up to 10 hours per day and up to 50 hours a week over a reference period (between 13 and 52 weeks) by agreement, as long as an average 40-hour week is maintained. The thresholds marking beginning of overtime is set by legislation as both daily and weekly. In Austria, the thresholds are eight hours per day and 40 hours per week. Due to a recent amendment of the AZG, since 2016, the daily maximum working hours may be extended to twelve hours when active travelling time is involved (for example, driving a car during a business trip). The newly installed government (December 2017) announced their plan to generally extend the maximum daily working time to twelve hours and the maximum weekly working time to 50 hours. To date, no information on the implementation timeline is available. (For more detailed information, see the Austrian national contribution of Eurofound's Annual Review).

Separately from the maximum working time, legislation in Austria also sets the number of overtime hours, usable as required in a set period, often a year, but still in compliance with the upper limits set for daily and weekly working time. The logic behind this regulation is to limit the over-concentration of allowable hours into too short a period. Specific maximum overtime limits are five hours per week, and an additional 60 hours per year. There are no conditions for the use of overtime (procedures, justifications) and the enhanced pay rate and time off in lieu is 50%.

Part-time work

Part-time work in Austria is defined by law (Working Time Act) as any employment, where the agreed weekly working time on average is below the normal working time fixed by law, by collective agreement or by works agreement. According to the favourable principle, collective and works agreements can only agree a shorter normal working time. Since 2007 (amendment of the Working time Act), an enhanced pay rate of 25% for extra work (even within the normal working time) has been implemented. Extra work is defined up to the limit of the normal working time (40 hours a week), therefore overtime pay rates normally begin beyond the 40-hour limit, so the amendment implemented an enhanced pay rate for part-time work below the 40 hour limit.

Part-time work in Austria is very prevalent and has been rising during the last decade, reaching 28.2% of total employment in 2017. It increased overall in the last five years by 2.5 percentage points. This is attributable to the increase in both male and female part-time work. Almost every second women in employment in 2017 was working part time, this makes Austria one of the countries with the highest female part-time rates in the EU.

Persons employed part time in the EU28 and Austria (% of total employment)

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Total (EU 28)

18.6

19.0

19.0

19.0

18.9

18.7

Total (Austria)

25.7

26.5

27.4

27.7

28.2

28.2

Women (EU 28)

31.4

31.8

31.7

31.5

31.4

31.1

Women (Austria)

45.6

46.0

47.2

47.8

47.9

47.9

Men (EU 28)

7.7

8.1

8.2

8.2

8.2

8.1

Men (Austria)

7.9

9.0

9.4

9.7

10.5

10.5

Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [ lfsi_pt_a ] – Persons employed part time (20 to 64 years of age) – total and by sex.

 

Involuntary part-time

 

Involuntary part-time workers can be defined as those working part time because they could not find a full-time job.

Persons employed in involuntary part-time work in the EU28 and Austria (% of total employment)

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Total (EU 28)

28.4

30.0

30.4

29.9

28.5

27.1

Total (Austria)

10.1

11.8

11.5

12.4

13.0

12.4

Women (EU 28)

24.9

26.4

26.8

26.2

25.0

23.7

Women (Austria)

9.3

10.5

10.3

11.0

11.3

10.8

Men (EU 28)

41.0

42.4

42.7

42.5

40.1

38.7

Men (Austria)

14.3

17.9

16.8

18.5

19.9

19.4

Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsa_eppgai]- involuntary part-time employment as a percentage of the total part-time employment, by sex and age (20 to 64 years of age)

Involuntary part-time work in Austria has risen from 10.1% in 2012 to 12.4% in 2017, and is much less prevalent than the EU average. The gender difference is quite pronounced: males are more likely to be in part-time work involuntarily than women (just like in the EU28). This shows that for women, part-time work is often a strategy to better reconciliate work and family, in a country which is still dominated by the male-breadwinner model with the female only supplementing the family income. The recent rise over the last few years mirrors the labour market situation in Austria, which has become more tense compared to previous years, with unemployment also rising recently.

Night work

According to the Working Time Act (AZG) (§12a), night work is defined as work between 22:00 and 5:00.

Shift work

Regulations on shift work (Schichtarbeit) are found in the Working Time Act (§4a, 11 and 12), in the Act on Rest Periods (ARG) (§3, 5 and 7), and in sectoral collective agreements. The Labour Inspectorate classifies work as shift work if a workplace is taken by one or more alternating workers on a working day or when work groups replace one another successively in certain company departments. Overlapping working hours can still be considered shift work if those overlaps are minimal. However, the fundamental characteristic that several workers alternate on a workplace needs to be met.

Weekend work

Generally, all employees are entitled to an uninterrupted weekly rest period of 36 hours which must include Sunday (in which case it is referred to as ‘weekend rest period’). However, exceptions to weekend rest period are regulated in the ARG (§10 to 22). For example, employees may be employed in cleaning and maintenance work, nursing and care activities or supervisory and security duties. In addition, by ministerial decree, the following types of work may be exempt from Sunday work: work which is necessary to meet essential needs or manage transport and communications, requires continuous operation for technological reasons, cannot be postponed owing to the risk that raw materials will deteriorate or is necessary to meet leisure, recreational or tourism requirements. Special regulations govern weekend work, for example work carried out by employees at fairs and markets, transport workers, hospital staff and the drivers of certain vehicles. Further exemptions from the ban of Sunday work can be established by collective agreements where it is necessary to avoid a business disadvantage and to preserve jobs. Saturday work in the retail sector is regulated in collective agreements; in principle, employees may work every Saturday, but in exchange, they receive five ‘extra-long weekends’ (Friday to Sunday or Saturday to Monday) per half year.

Rest and breaks

Provisions for breaks (Ruhepausen) and rest periods ( Ruhezeiten) are stipulated in the Working Time Act (§11 and 12).

A scheduled break (Ruhepause) of at least 30 minutes is granted when the daily working time exceeds six hours. Under certain circumstances (if it is in the interests of the employee or necessary for company reasons), the rest break may be divided into two parts of 15 minutes each or into three parts of 10 minutes each. A different division of the break can be stipulated in a works agreement. In companies with no works council, the labour inspectorate may grant a different division of breaks upon request; however, each part of the break must have a duration of at least 10 minutes. Manual labourers working at night are entitled to an additional 10-minute break per night. This break is counted towards the working hours (i.e. paid), whereas the 30-minute break for six hours of work is not counted towards working time (i.e. unpaid). Special regulations apply for shift workers. Employees engaged in work activities which require the uninterrupted continuation of work are to be granted ‘short breaks of appropriate duration’ instead of the above-mentioned rest breaks. Such short breaks are to be counted towards working hours (i.e. paid).

Special regulations also apply to employees who work with display screens (such as computers) for more than two hours a day: according to the Regulation on Display Work (Bildschirmarbeitsverordnung BS-V §10), an employee is eligible to a 10-minute break after each 50 minutes of display work. These breaks are to be paid by the employer. Instead of breaks, a change in work activity, which compensates the burden of display work, can be taken.

After the end of daily working hours, employees are entitled in principle to an uninterrupted break of at least 11 hours before the start of the next day’s work (Ruhezeit – rest period). In addition, all employees are entitled to an uninterrupted weekly rest period of 36 hours, which must include Sunday (in which case it is referred to as Wochenendruhe – weekend rest period) or, where they also work at weekends as permitted, to an uninterrupted rest period of 36 hours granted in lieu which does not fall at the weekend and must include one entire weekday (in which case it is referred to as Wochenruhe – weekly rest period in lieu). For exceptions from the weekend rest, see above.

Working time flexibility

The last amendments to the Working Time Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz, AZG), have increased the options for flexible working hour arrangements, reserving their implementation to regulation by collective agreement. In the meantime, most sectoral collective agreements in Austria have provisions on flexible working time arrangements. This especially refers to bandwidth models and flexitime. Bandwidth models allow companies to exceed the normal working time within a certain scope of fluctuation, for instance, up to 44 hours a week, reaching the normal working time within a certain reference period. Moreover due to derogation clauses in collective agreements, concrete flexible working time schemes (such as bandwidth models and flexitime) can be agreed upon at company level by works council and management in a works agreement. The figures in the table below highlight the widespread use of flexitime models in Austrian companies especially for white collar workers.

Do you have fixed start and finishing time in your work?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Austria and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Do you have fixed starting and finishing times in your work?'. For the 'No' answer, Austria's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, Austria's score is lower than the European Union score.


Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015

More detailed figures are available from Eurofound’s European Working conditions survey .

Health and well-being

Health and well-being

Maintaining health and well-being should be a high priority for workers and employers alike. Health is an asset closely associated with a person’s quality of life and longevity, as well as their ability to work. A healthy economy depends on a healthy workforce: organisations can experience loss of productivity through the ill-health of their workers. This section looks into psychosocial risks and health and safety in Austria.

Health and safety at work

The main instrument to protect the health and well-being of workers in Austria is the Health and Safety at Work Act ( ArbeitnehmerInnenschutzgesetz). With the exception of an increase in 2010, the total number of work accidents as well as the number of accidents per thousand employees have both fallen between 2008 and 2012. In the case of all accidents, the reduction amounts to 15%. The decline in work accidents follows a long term trend. Between 1998 and 2008 the number of accidents has decreased by 37%. The prevention strategy of the Austrian Workers' Compensation Board (AUVA) may be partly responsible for the long-term decline.

Accidents at work, with four days’ absence or more – working days lost

 

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

All accidents

66,528

57,715

60,688

58,253

56,299

54,445

52,968

51,224

Percent change on previous year

-

-13.2

5.1

-4.0

-3.4

-3.3

-2.7

-3.3

Per 1,000 employees

18.9

16.4

17.3

16.4

15.6

15.3

14.9

14.2

Source: Eurostat, [hsw_mi01] and [lfsa_eegaed]

Total work accidents*

 

Number of accidents

 

Number of accidents

2001

120,000

2009

119,000

2002

115,000

2010

113,000

2003

121,000

2011

111,000

2004

121,000

2012

109,000

2005

122,000

2013

107,000

2006

126,000

2014

106,000

2007

117,000

2015

103,000

2008

136,000

2016

104,000

*including accidents on the way to and from work, rounded to 1,000's

Source: AUVA (page 14).

Psychosocial risks

The main instrument to protect the health and well-being of workers in Austria is the Health and Safety at Work Act ( ArbeitnehmerInnenschutzgesetz). Since the 2013 amendment the legislation explicitly refers to psychological strains as a risk factor at workplaces that need to be avoided. Psychological strains include psycho-social, psycho-emotional and psycho-mental strains. According to the law, employers are required to evaluate work places with respect to psychological strains that can cause health problems and find and implement adequate remedies. The evaluation and possible measures have to be documented, stored and made available to the labour inspectorate upon request. In practice the labour inspectorate recommends regular surveys among employees with questions on psychological strains (the law does not specify how often the evaluations have to take place). The labour inspectorate provides a model interview guideline which covers physical, mental and emotional strains; problems with respect to qualification, cooperation, lack of information and lack of room for manoeuvre; climatic, acoustic and visual strains; lack of space and resources; inadequately designed work processes; lack of orientation, disturbances and interruptions; burdensome work hours and workloads, as well as other psychosocial risks.

Work intensity: Do you have enough time to get the job done?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Austria and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Do you have enough time to get the job done?'. For the 'Always or most of the time' answer, Austria's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Rarely or never' answer, Austria's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Sometimes' answer, Austria's score is lower than the European Union score.


Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015.

Skills, learning and employability

Skills, learning and employability

Skills are the passport to employment; the better skilled an individual, the more employable they are. Good skills also tend to secure better-quality jobs and better earnings. This section briefly summarises the Austrian system for ensuring skills and employability and looks into the extent of training.

National system for ensuring skills and employability

The Austrian system of vocational education contains two major pillars: On the one hand there are specific VET schools (for diverse subjects such as general technical education, IT, business administration, tourism etc.), some of which provide the students with a university-entrance diploma ( Matura); on the other hand there is an elaborated apprenticeship system that combines on-the-job learning with a limited school-attendance (what is also called dual system of education). While the VET schools fall under the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) and are regulated by the School Education Act ( Schulunterrichtsgesetz), the apprenticeship system with some 200 different apprenticeships is overseen by the Federal Ministry for Digital, Business and Enterprise (BMDW), based on the Vocational Education Act (Berufsausbildungsgesetz). It is on the apprenticeship system that the social partners can exert some influence. The BMDW maintains an advisory board for vocational education in which the social partners have a seat. In the case of the development of a new apprenticeship, proposals are discussed in the advisory board and the social partners have the possibility to submit an official statement about any draft regulation put forward by the ministry. Draft regulations can also be developed by the social partners themselves.

An obligation to provide education or training up to the age of 18 has recently been implemented from the school year 2017–2018 onwards. This stipulates that every young person must participate in further schooling or training following their compulsory education (after nine years of school). The focus will be on individual support, taking into account the respective interests, skills and needs of the young persons. Through the programme, various education and training offers and measures are to be better coordinated and used more efficiently. Support in the choice of an education/training programme, prevention of drop-out, preparation of further education for disadvantaged young people and supra-company apprenticeships are to be further developed.

Training

Further training is not regulated in Austria. There are hundreds of institutions that supply further training courses on a wide range of issues. Because of the lack of general standards, the quality of the courses differs considerably. The social partners operate their own training institutions. TheWirtschaftsförderungsinstitut der Wirtschaftskammer ( WIFI) has strong links to the Federal Economic Chamber, while the Berufsförderungsinstitut ( BFI) is supported by the Austrian Trade Union Federation and the Chamber of Labour. Both institutions are among the largest providers of further training in Austria.

Training: Have you had any on the job training in the past year?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Austria and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Have you had on-the-job training in the last 12 months?'. For the 'No' answer, Austria's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, Austria's score is lower than the European Union score.


Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015

Work organisation

Work organisation

Work organisation underpins economic and business development and has important consequences for productivity, innovation and working conditions. Eurofound research finds that some types of work organisation are associated with a better quality of work and employment. Therefore, developing or introducing different forms of work organisation are of particular interest because of the expected effects on productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of companies, as well as on workers’ working conditions. Ongoing research by Eurofound, based on EurWORK, the European Working Conditions Survey and the European Company Survey , monitors developments in work organisation.

For Austria, the European Company Survey 2013 shows that between 2010 and 2013 51% of establishments with 10 or more employees reported changes in the use of technology, 42% introduced changes in ways to coordinate and allocate the work to workers and another 24% saw changes in their working time arrangements.

Work organisation: Are you able to choose or change your methods of work?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Austria and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Are you able to choose or change your methods of work?'. For the 'No' answer, Austria's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, Austria's score is lower than the European Union score.


Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015.

There are no other recent major surveys/studies on work organisation for Austria.

Equality and non-discrimination at work

Equality and non-discrimination at work

The principle of equal treatment requires that all people, and in the context of the workplace all workers, have the right to receive the same treatment, and will not be discriminated against on the basis of criteria such as age, sex disability, nationality, race and religion.

The main legal basis for equality at work is the Equal Treatment Act ( Gleichbehandlungsgesetz). Initially adopted in 1979 to stop discrimination against women in the world of work, a 2004 amendment has expanded the coverage to ban discrimination based on ethnicity, religion and ideology. For public sector workers there is specific legislation, the Public Sector Equal Treatment Act (Bundesgleichbehandlungsgesetz) which pursues the same objectives. There is also specific legislation for the equal treatment of disabled persons (Disabled Persons Equal Treatment Act, Behindertengleichstellungsrecht).

The main institution that deals with infringements of equal treatment principles is the Commission for Equal Treatment ( Gleichbehandlungskommission). Workers who feel discriminated against can file complaints with the Commission. In addition there is also an Advocacy for Equal Treatment ( Anwaltschaft für Gleichberechtigung) where complainants receive legal support.

Equal pay and gender pay gap

The Equal Treatment Act (Gleichbehandlungsgesetz) and the Public Sector Equal Treatment Act (Bundesgleichbehandlungsgesetz) both explicitly prohibit gender-specific discrimination in pay issues. Since 2011, companies with more than 150 employees are required to produce an income report (Einkommensbericht) every two years. The report has to include how many men and women are assigned to the different wage groups as well as the average salary of men and women. The works council or employees in companies without works council have the right to be informed about the content of the report and they can file a legal complaint up to three years after the publication. Read more about first experiences with the reports in a Eurofound 2018 report. Furthermore, job vacancies must be advertised in a gender neutral way and the advertisement must include the collectively agreed minimum wage for the position and a statement on the willingness of the employer to pay more than the minimum wage (Überzahlung). In 2016, an obligation to inform part-time workers about forthcoming full-time jobs was introduced: When an employer plans to announce a full-time position or a position with a higher number of hours, the employer’s part-time employees are to be informed beforehand. In this way, internal employees wanting to increase their working hours can apply first – this applies mainly to female workers due to the high incidence of female part-time work in Austria. While in 2011, Austria's largest union, the Union for Salaried Employees, Graphical Workers and Journalists (GPA-djp), suggested to regularly hold specific female wage bargaining rounds, in order to increase their salaries and reduce Austria's high gender pay gap, this was never implemented. Thus, there are no regularly recurring social partner initiatives targeted towards closing the gender pay gap. At the same time, in many collective agreements, the recognition of leaves (parental, nursing care, hospice) for wage increases has been addressed within the last few years, of which mostly female workers benefit, as they are the ones usually taking longer leave periods than men.

According to the latest bi-annual General Income Report from the Austrian Court of Auditors (Rechnungshof) published in late 2016, women in Austria in 2015 earned on average 38% less than men (not corrected for working time). Among permanent full-time workers, the gender pay gap still lies at 17%. Pay inequalities are highest among full-time white-collar employees (33%) and blue-collar employees (30%), but virtually non-existent among public sector workers: 7% lower pay for female contract public sector workers and 3% higher wages for female career public servants. One of the main mechanisms to reduce the gender wage gap is the increase in sector-specific minimum wages (Hermann, 2009).

According to Eurostat data, Austria's unadjusted gender pay gap (defined as the relative difference between the average gross hourly earnings of women and men in the private sector) was at 21.7 percent in 2015 and has thus decreased slightly within the last decade (in 2006, it was at 25.5 percent ). Compared to other member states of the European Union, Austria is still among those countries with highest gender-related wage differentials and is above the EU-28 average, which was at 16.3 percent in 2015. Based on 2014 data (in which Austria had a gender pay gap of 22.2 percent), Statistics Austria conducted an analysis of various factors influencing the gender pay gap: 8.6 percentage points could be explained by differences in observed characteristics such as economic activity, occupation, education, age, length of service in the enterprise, full-and part-time work, type of employment contract, region or size of the enterprise. The remaining 13.6 percentage points could be explained by the observed characteristics.

Quota regulations

The Disabled Person Employment Act (Behinderteneinstellungsgesetz) requires that companies with 25 and more employees employ one disabled person for every 25 workers. In some sectors the threshold is 40 employees. However, the legislation also includes the possibility that companies can pay a special monthly tax to avoid the employment of disabled staff.

In 2011 the government has adopted quotas for supervisory boards of corporations in which the state has a stake of 50% and more. In total the regulation applies to 55 companies. At least 25% of those board members that are delegated by the ministry of economic affairs should be female and the proportion should increase to 35% in 2018. In 2016, the proportion of women in the supervisory boards of state-controlled companies has reached 38%, according to the Ministry for Women's Affairs; thus, the target of reaching 35% by 2018 has been reached prematurely.

In 2018, quota regulations for women in management on supervisory boards in privately owned companies were implemented: a quota of 30% females in supervisory boards in listed companies and companies with more than 1,000 employees is to be reached. If a company fails to comply with the quota, the vote is void and the respective seat remains vacant.

Bibliography

Bibliography

Bönisch, M. (2008), ‘Kollektivvertragliche Abdeckung in Österreich’, Statistische Nachrichten 2008 (3), pp. 207-211.

OECD (2012), OECD Employment Outlook 2012, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Hermann, Christoph (2009), ‘Mindestlöhne in Österreich: Historische Entwicklung und aktuelle Probleme’, in Hermann, C. and Atzmüller, R. (eds.), Die Dynamik des ‘österreichischen Modells’: Brüche und Kontinuitäten im Beschäftigungs- und Sozialsystem, Edition Sigma, Berlin, pp. 111–133.

Rechnungshof (2016), Bericht des Rechnungshofes über die durchschnittlichen Einkommen der gesamten Bevölkerung, Rechnungshof, Vienna.

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