Youth employment measures agreed
The social partners in Austria agreed in March 1998 on policies to pre-empt a new crisis in youth employment. Since the demographic "bulge" will go down in the year 2000, only temporary measures are being adopted.
On 27 March 1998, Austria's national social partners announced a compromise on a package of measures to absorb into the labour market young people leaving school in 1998. This forms part of the national action plan on employment drawn up in response to the November 1997 EU Jobs Summit initiative (AT9802164F).
The agreement contains a commitment to new skilled occupations. The bureaucratic procedures for establishing job profiles and training curricula will be speeded up. In this way, new openings for apprentices should be created.
If there is an insufficient number of openings for apprentices in enterprises and in existing training facilities, the vocational schools will take them on for a year. It is hoped that during the year they will be transferred to a regular apprenticeship position. If not, they will be kept on. The social partners did not agree specifically that the full duration of an apprenticeship (that is, three or four years) could be spent in a vocational school nor that it would be considered equivalent to a regular apprenticeship. If necessary, the issue will be discussed in one or two years' time.
Young job-seekers unqualified for apprenticeships will be absorbed into newly created two-year on-the-job training schemes. New legal regulations will be necessary to harmonise their employment with that of apprentices. In the same vein, an opportunity will be created for 15-year-olds leaving school without an eight-year graduation certificate to work towards one free of charge. These measures are likely to benefit immigrant youths especially.
It is hoped that the above measures will avoid the emergency that took place in 1997 (AT9801159F). This cost an estimated ATS 1.4 billion to deal with and resulted in a 6% increase in new contracts for young people, up to 47,000. Local and federal government increased their intake by almost one quarter, tourism by 4.6%, public transportation by 3.5%, industry by 1%, crafts and trades by 0.5%. By the end of 1997 there were 2,258 openings and 4,100 registered apprenticeship seekers. It is expected that about 40,000 school leavers will be looking for an apprenticeship in 1998. Given the demographic situation, the problems will return to a lesser degree in 1999 and 2000. Since the demographic "bulge" will go down in 2000, longer-term measures are not being adopted. The measures now agreed contain the basic strategy for the coming years but not the detailed plans. The measures taken in 1998 will be evaluated later. At a press conference, representatives of the social partners explained that the outcome is a compromise in the interests of short-term need. The underlying issue - of promoting job creation in private enterprises versus public intervention in the labour market - will remain on the table.