AUSTRIA: EWCO CAR on Working Conditions of Young Entrants

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 12 December 2013



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Austria is one of the countries with the lowest rate of youth unemployment within the EU which is effect of a focus on political measures regarding the transition of young people between education and employment. Therefore working conditions of young entrants to the labour market are not a specific subject of political or social-partners strategies. But the relatively high general subjective satisfaction with their working conditions indicates that the high level of the general labour regulation system in Austria also works for young entrants to the labour market.

QUESTIONNAIRE

NCs are kindly requested to answer to this questionnaire taking into account the information provided in the background note. The answers will be used as input for elaborating the Comparative Analytical Report – Working Conditions of Young Entrants. Correspondents’ contributions will be edited as ‘national contributions’ and published as stand-alone reports on the web.

This EWCO CAR is specifically focused on the group of “young entrants to the labour market”. This group includes all young people (between 15 and 30 years old) who have recently entered into the labour market (i.e., people with a work experience shorter than 1-2 years in the labour market), with relative independence of their age and for whom work is their main and core activity. This definition excludes young people for whom studies are their main activity but who combine their studies with some remunerated activity as part of their training programmes (e.g. apprenticeships in dual systems), as well as unemployed young people, even if they are actively looking for a job (see Background note for more detailed information on the concept of young entrants to be considered in the research).

The CAR coordinating team is conscious that such as “narrow” definition of “young entrants to the labour market” can make difficult the identification and collection of relevant information on the topic. Therefore, and in the case no national information is available using this “narrow” definition, National Correspondents can use a “proxy” definition of “young entrant to the labour market” as any young person (i.e. between 15 and 30 years old) who is in employment, irrespectively of the number of years of experience that he/she has in the labour market (again, unemployed young people are excluded from the analysis).

The questionnaire focuses on the following topics:

  • General description and characterisation of the main current working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in your country in comparison to other age groups (around 700 words)

  • Identification and characterisation of existing differences in working conditions within the group of young entrants to the labour market in your country (around 600 words)

  • Evolution of working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in the last five years. Effects of the economic crisis (around 500 words)

  • Initiatives taken by national governments/social partners in order to improve employment levels and working conditions of young entrants to the labour market (around 500 words)

  • Make a final commentary on the main results (around 100 words)

Please give your answers as specifically as possible for the subheadings (1.1., 1.2.,…) in each block.

Block 1: General description and characterisation of the main current working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in your country in comparison to other age groups

The data used for the CAR are non-published data of the Austrian Working Climate Index (WCI) especially and exclusively provided to FORBA by the Upper Austrian Chamber of Labour and the Institute for Empirical Social Studies (IFES), which produced a special analysis of the raw data (in the form of tables).

The sample: The WCI data can be used to specifically look at young entrants up to age 30 who have not been on the labour-market for more than two years. Adding five survey years (2008-2012), the sample size amounts to 921 respondents. The data allow us to compare three groups: young entrants, young workers (below 30 but in the labour market for more than two years) and workers above 30.

1.1 Career and employment security issues

  • Satisfaction at work; employment status, presence of precarious and/or atypical forms of employment (temporary workers, part-time, agency work); Pay systems and levels/conditions; Autonomy at work; Fear to lose employment; Working time issues (number of worked hours, working time flexibility), etc

The WCI data provides results with respect to workers’/young entrants’ satisfaction with a variety of aspects of working conditions. The following results all refer to a comparison of mean values (five point scale: 1=very satisfied; 5= not at all satisfied) in 2012. The overall job satisfaction of young entrants (1.90) is nearly the same as that of workers above 30 (1.91). Young workers longer in the job show a slightly lower overall job satisfaction (1.97).

There is also some difference regarding respondents’ satisfaction with career opportunities. According to the 2012 data, young entrants were the most satisfied in this respect, with a mean value of 2.27. Young workers longer in the job show slightly less satisfaction (mean value: 2.40) and workers above 30 are the least satisfied group (mean value: 2.56).

With regard to working time regulations, the satisfaction of the three groups is more or less the same, which indicates a relatively high satisfaction of all groups in this respect. Young entrants and workers above 30 reach exactly the same mean value (1.95) and the difference to young workers longer in the job is minimal (mean value: 1.97).

In contrast to the satisfaction with career opportunities and opportunities for vocational training, where young entrants show the highest satisfaction, a glance at autonomy at work reveals another picture. In terms of autonomy in operational procedures at the workplace workers above 30 are the most satisfied of the three groups (mean value: 2.11). Young workers longer in the job are close, with a mean value of 2.15 whereas young entrants are least satisfied in this respect (mean value: 2.32).

1.2 Skills development

  • Continuing vocational training activities, training activities paid by employer, etc

A similar picture to career opportunities shows a glance at the comparison with respect to the satisfaction with vocational training opportunities on offer in the company. Again, young entrants show the highest level of satisfaction (man value: 2.18), followed by young workers longer in the job (mean value: 2.31) and workers above 30 (mean value: 2.38)

1.3 Health and well being

  • Exposure to risks and hazards, stress at work, job intensity, psychosocial risks, information on existing health and safety risks at work, monotonous/complex work, social support at work, organisational issues, etc

With regard to health and safety, respondents of all three groups reported a similarly low exposure to health risks in the workplace. Looking at the answers to the question, “Do you feel exposed to health risks (noise, dust, soil, air, …) in your workplace?” (five point scale: 1=very exposed; 5=not at all exposed), the mean value of workers above 30 amounts to 4.21, that of young workers to 4.22 and that of young entrants to 4.31. A similar picture emerges for the risk of accidents and injuries, with a mean value of 4.22 for workers above 30, 4.24 among young workers longer in the job and 4.29 for young entrants. The reported exposure to health risks and hazards is thus on a relatively low level, with very little difference between the three groups.

1.4 Reconciliation of working and non-working life

  • Work life balance, flexibility at work to fulfil personal/other matters, ability to set own working time arrangements, etc.).

With respect to the reconciliation of work with private interests and family responsibilities, all three groups show a relatively high level of satisfaction. Again, young entrants reach the highest level here, with a mean value of 1.78, followed by workers above 30 (mean value: 1.90) and young workers longer in the job (mean value: 1.92) and. The main difference is that a higher share of young entrants (41% compared to 35 and 34%) reported being very satisfied in this respect.

An interesting aspect is the satisfaction with wages. Young entrants stated to a greater extent (9% compared to 6% of workers above 30 and 4% of young workers longer in the job) that they can live very well on their income. At the same time, the share of those claiming their income to be insufficient is also higher among young entrants (15%) than among workers above 30 (10%) and among young workers longer in the job (8%).

Block 2: Identification and characterisation of existing differences in working conditions within the group of young entrants to the labour market in your country

NCs are kindly requested to provide the most updated information (coming from national surveys, administrative registers or ad-hoc national researches/studies) on differences of working conditions within the group of young entrants to the labour market, for a series of variables. Please provide the information only for those variables where significant/important differences, either positive or negative, can be identified, stressing the causes and rationale of these differences

2.1 Personal characteristics of young entrants

  • Differences by age ranges: the lower the age, are working conditions worse?

With regard to the overall Working Climate Index as well as with regard to sub-indices (society, company, work, prospects), the middle-age group of young entrants (aged 21-25) tends to reach higher satisfaction values than the 26-30 age group. The lowest values can be found among the youngest group of entrants to the labour market (aged 15-20).

Regarding the autonomy in operational procedures at the workplace, the results show a growing satisfaction with age (mean value of satisfaction: 1=very satisfied, 5= not satisfied): 15-20: 2.45; 21-25: 2.17; 26-30: 1.92. By contrast, the satisfaction with further training opportunities is higher among the youngest group (1.95) of young entrants compared to middle agers (1.98) and 26-30-year-old entrants (2.16). Also with regard to career opportunities, the younger entrants are more satisfied (mean: 2.08) than respondents aged 26 to 30 (mean: 2.25) and those aged 21-25 (mean: 2.30). The data also shows considerable differences in satisfaction with regard to participation opportunities: the youngest group is less satisfied (2.44) in this respect as are those aged between 21 and 25 (2.33), whereas those between 26 and 30 reported a clearly higher level of satisfaction (2.00).

Interesting differences can be observed with regard to income: 17% of young job entrants aged 15-20 and 15% of those aged 21-25 reported their income to be insufficient to make ends meet, compared to only 7% among the 26-30 age group. By contrast, 44% of the latter group felt their income to be perfectly sufficient, but only 27% of the youngest group (21-25: 32%) - this is a significant difference.

This is even more interesting considering the volume of working time. 45% of those between 21 and 25 and 33% of the age group 26-30 but only 10% of the youngest group work less than 20 hours a week. In contrast 46% of the latter group, but only 14% of the other two age groups work 38.5 hours a week. The mean value of the youngest group is at 35.7 hours, that of the age group 21-25 at 25.8 hours and that of the eldest group at 29.45 hours. Moreover, the latter groups are also to a higher extent affected by overtime work.

  • Differences by gender: do young women endure worse conditions than their male counterparts?

In general, female young entrants are less satisfied with a number of aspects of their working conditions but the most significant differences can be found with regard to the following aspects. This especially refers to the satisfaction with career opportunities: while 34% of male respondents are very satisfied with the career opportunities offered by their job, this is only true for 26% of female young entrants; another 30% of males reported being satisfied, compared to only 25% of female respondents. This result is further underlined by the satisfaction mean value: 2.06 for male and 2.27 for female young entrants. The same is true for the satisfaction with further training opportunities: mean value of men: 1.89; mean value of women: 2.11. Female young entrants are also less satisfied with the participation opportunities in the workplace: 21% reported being very satisfied and 26% being satisfied whereas 25% and 33% of male young entrants are very satisfied and satisfied respectively. This higher level of satisfaction is also reflected by the mean value: men: 2.28, women: 2.44.

  • Differences by educational levels: do the less qualified young entrants suffer worse working conditions than the rest?

With respect to decision-making opportunities in the workplace (procedure, pace, scheduling, etc.), young entrants with compulsory educational level (mean: 2.51), workers in the construction industry (mean: 2.59) and both unskilled (mean: 2.58) and skilled workers (mean: 2.65) are less satisfied (average mean: 2.32). The same is true for the satisfaction with participation opportunities at work. Unskilled workers also show also lower levels of satisfaction with the opportunities for further training (mean: 2.74), which is clearly below the average (1.98), and regarding their career opportunities (mean: 2.67, below average: 2.15). Young entrants reported low levels of stress (permanent work pressure without time to have a breather), which is shown by the average (mean of 4.03 on a five-point scale: 1= heavily affected; 5= not affected). University graduates (mean: 3.69) and skilled workers (mean: 3.67), by contrast, reported clearly above average levels.

With regard to working time the results show clear differences by educational level. Only a minor share of young entrants with compulsory school education only (7%) and apprenticeship certificate holders (2%), but a high proportion of those with university entrance level certificates (52%) and university graduates (29%) work part time below 20 hours a week.

  • Differences by other personal characteristics

  • Reasons and rationale of these possible differences

With regard to income differences, it is likely that older young entrants (26-30 years) have spent more time within the educational system, have higher educational levels and therefore have better paid jobs. With respect to educational levels, the fact that young entrants with lower educational levels report the worst working conditions reflects an overall trend based on the segmentation of the labour market according to skill levels.

2.2 Occupational characteristics

  • Differences by economic sectors: are there sectors where young labour market entrants enjoy/suffer better/worse working conditions than in others?

  • Differences by size classes: Are SMEs providing better/ worse working conditions for young labour market entrants in comparison to larger companies?

  • Differences by occupations: do young people in less skilled occupations have poorer working conditions than those young people in skilled occupations?

  • Reasons of these possible differences

Block 3: Evolution of working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in the last five years. Effects of the economic crisis

3.1 Please provide information on the evolution of working conditions of young labour entrants in the last five years. Have working conditions of this group improved/deteriorated in comparison to the existing situation five years ago (before the economic crisis began)? What are the reasons for these changes

The only available information on the evolution of the working conditions of young entrants to the labour market is data of the Austrian Working Climate Index. However, the number of respondents within the sample for each year is relatively small (about 170-190).

Young entrants to the labour market in Austria in general show a rather high level of job satisfaction, even though over the past five years job satisfaction levels declined from 1.70 to 1.90 (on a five point scale: 1=very satisfied, 5= not satisfied). With regard to particular aspects, young entrants’ satisfaction with the opportunities for further training decreased most. In 2008 the mean value reached a level of 1.79 compared to 2.18 in 2012. An impact of the economic crisis is likely, given the drop in satisfaction from 1.79 in 2008 to 2.04 in 2009. After a recovery in 2010 to a mean value of 1.78, we see another decrease the following year, to 2.18 in 2012.

A similar development can be observed for young entrants’ satisfaction with career opportunities. Following a drop from 1.99 (mean value) in 2008 to 2.12 in 2009 and a short-lived rebound in 2010, satisfaction levels went down again to 2.32 in 2011 before recovering slightly (2.27) in 2012. Minor decreases in satisfaction can also be seen with regard to young entrants’ satisfaction with autonomy in operational procedures at the workplace (from 2.19 in 2008 down to 2.32 in 2012), with working time regulations (from 1.80 in 2008 down to 1.95 in 2012), with supervisors’ management style (from 1.86 in 2008 down to 2.06 in 2012) and with relations with colleagues (from 1.52 in 2008 down to 1.77 in 2012). Even though these decreases indicate a growing dissatisfaction among young entrants with these aspects of their working conditions, the levels of satisfaction in general remained relatively high.

By contrast, young entrants’ satisfaction with their income saw an increase during the same period. In 2008, the group’s income satisfaction reached a mean value of 2.61, one of the lowest of the various aspects of working conditions investigated. In 2012, the respondents were more satisfied with their income, indicated by a mean value of 2.33. Whereas in 2008 49% of young entrants claimed to be very or rather satisfied, by 2012 this share had gone up to 61%.

3.2 Based on possible existing prospective studies, please provide information on the expected evolution of employment levels and working conditions of young labour market entrants in your country in the near future (coming 2-3 years)

There is no information available on the expected evolution in the near future of employment levels and working conditions of young entrants. But the Austrian Working Climate Index data sheds some light on young entrants’ subjective perspectives concerning this matter, with the question, “How do you see your occupational future – what do you aspire in the long run?”. In 2012, 32% of respondents reported aspiring to advance to a higher occupational position in the same field (44% in 2008). Nearly the same share (33%) of young entrants claimed they wanted to stay in the same position and occupation (in 2008: 16%). Therefore we see that between 2008 and 2012 the focus of aspirations moved from aspiring career advancements to aspiring to stay in the same job. Another 9% reported wanting to change into another occupational field within the same company (4% in 2008), 10% aspired moving to another company (12% in 2008) and 19% a complete change of occupation. These results indicate an increase of more defensive aspirations with respect to one’s own occupational future.

Block 4: Initiatives taken by national governments/social partners in order to improve employment levels and working conditions of young entrants to the labour market

4.1 Identify main recent national measures/initiatives (1-2) put in place in your country by public authorities in order to improve employment opportunities and working conditions for young entrants to the labour market.

For the identified initiative(s), please provide:

  • General information (name, dates, responsible body, geographical and sectoral scope…)

  • Objectives pursued

  • Support offered, activities carried out

  • Target group(s)

  • Outcomes: major results/consequences on employment levels and working conditions of young labour market entrants

  • If available, assessment of these measures/initiatives (lessons learnt, future prospects)

4.2 Identify main recent initiatives (1-2) put in place in your country by social partners (either at national, sector or company level) in order to improve working conditions amongst young entrants to the labour market.

For these initiatives, please provide:

  • General information (name, dates, responsible agents, geographical and sectoral scope…)

  • Objectives pursued

  • Support offered, activities carried out

  • Target groups

  • Outcomes: major results/consequences on employment levels and working conditions of young labour market entrants

  • If available, assessment of these measures/initiatives (lessons learnt, future prospects)

In Austria the main focus with regard to young workers is on the transitions between education and employment. In this respect, supra-company apprenticeship training is a key initiative in place to ensure all youngsters are guaranteed an apprenticeship placement and to thus improve young people’s entrance opportunities on the labour market. Another activity is the so called “youth coaching” scheme, which is designed as a preventive measure to minimise numbers of early school leavers and offers individual support, including consultancy, supervision and assistance, to youngsters from the end of compulsory school until their integration into occupational/vocational education or training.

A recent measure which can be related to the working conditions of at least a specific part of young entrants to the labour market is the recognition of vocational school certificates as equivalent to apprenticeship certificates. This ensures that holders of vocational school certificates are qualified as skilled workers within the respective collective agreements. Because of the great importance attached to the dual system of vocational training in Austria, vocational school certificate holders formerly also had to pass the apprenticeship educational process. The initiative was launched by the social partners and was eventually implemented by the Federal Minister of Economy, Family and Youth (in 2013).

However, as the main political agenda in Austria with regard to young entrants to the labour market is the aim to reduce youth unemployment, such initiatives are not especially interested in the quality of work and employment of young entrants to the labour market. Thus, for instance, no regulation is in place in Austria for internships, a widespread form of a temporary contract, which especially university graduates face when entering the labour market. The aspect of quality of work and employment of young entrants is dealt with solely within the scope and framework of the general labour regulation system in Austria, which, in a European perspective, offers a relatively high level of working and employment conditions. Accordingly, no special attention is paid to this aspect, neither on the part of the government nor from the social partner perspective. Thus, no special initiatives or measures exist to address this problem in Austria. The main objective is the integration of the youth into the labour market.

Commentary by the NC

The results of the data analysis indicate that young entrants to the Austrian labour market show a high satisfaction with their working conditions, which is generally higher than that of young workers longer in the job as well as that of workers above 30. Because the Austrian Working Climate data used refer to respondents’ subjective perceptions, this could be an effect of little workplace experience in contrast to the two other groups. But the overall high level of satisfaction with their working conditions indicates that the workplace situation of young entrants in Austria is not bad, at least from their subjective point of view. Working conditions of young entrants in Austria are definitely not a subject of political or social-partner strategies. In this respect the focus is on the transitions between education and employment.

Manfred Krenn, FORBA

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