Employment programme launched for people with disabilities
In late 2000, the Austrian government announced the details of a new programme aimed at promoting the employment of people with disabilities. The social partners were involved in the programme's formulation and will contribute to its implementation.
The coalition agreement of the current government of the populist Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ) and the conservative People's Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP), which came to power in early 2000 (AT0002212F), included a planned employment programme for people with disabilities. Measures to implement the programme (known as Behindertenmilliarde) were announced in late 2000.
The programme is mainly motivated by the relatively high unemployment rate of people with disabilities in Austria; on average, about 40,000 disabled people are unemployed. Policy-makers stress that their successful integration into the labour market requires a favourable environment. Hence, measures are being devised to enhance mobility and access to new technologies. In 2001 and 2002, ATS 1 billion will be available for this programme, which will especially target four groups of people with disabilities who are deemed particularly disadvantaged in the labour market - young people, older people, disabled people with specific difficulties (such as blind people or those with learning difficulties) and women.
The specific measures set out in the programme are as follows:
- integration assistance (Integrationsbeihilfe) will be granted temporarily to companies which hire people with disabilities. For example, the wages of young disabled people may be subsidised from the programme, in order to give employers incentives to hire such workers;
- qualification and training measures are an important aspect of the programme, and should be designed specifically for the relevant group of employees;
- financial assistance to retain jobs (Arbeitsplatzsicherungsbeihilfe) should be used especially in order to promote the employment of older workers with disabilities, with financial means granted to companies to safeguard their jobs;
- assistance for companies should include advice on technical requirements at the workplace and other issues;
- assistance for people with disabilities will includes measures to enhance their mobility and access to information and communication technologies (such as special internet projects); and
- promoting the needs of people with disabilities though an information campaign, especially in the private sector, with the aim of increasing the willingness of employers to hire disabled people.
The social partners, along with organisations representing people with disabilities, were consulted in the formulation of the new programme. In addition, the social partners will contribute actively to the implementation of all measures at the regional (Länder) level. The programme will also be monitored by organisations representing people with disabilities, project leaders and public authorities.