Austria: Social partners’ involvement in unemployment benefit regimes

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 20 December 2012



About
Country:
Austria
Author:
Bernadette Allinger
Institution:

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

The social partners are involved in a variety of issues in the field of social and labour market policy in Austria’s corporatist system. They have a high degree of influence and formal participation in the administration of the unemployment benefit regime and employment services via an equal tripartite composition of the federal governing board of the Public Employment Service (AMS) and an equal tripartite composition of decision-making AMS bodies at regional and local levels. Within the last decade, both small amendments and major innovations have taken place in the country’s unemployment benefit regime, the most important ones being the replacement of the social assistance scheme with a means-tested income scheme and the inclusion of free service contract holders and (on a voluntary basis) self-employed workers in the UB regime .

1. The characteristics of the UB system in the country

Table 1: Types of Unemployment Benefit and Social Assistance programmes
 

Benefits

Main qualifying conditions

Funding

Unemployment Insurance (UI)

earnings-related

involuntary unemployment - employment record - actively looking for work

contributions from employer and, sometimes, also employees, often topped by government payments

Unemployment Assistance (UA)

social minimum, partly means-tested

unemployment insurance expired or not eligible for it - (often) a short employment record - actively looking for work

contributions from employer and employee and/or government payments

Social Assistance (SA)

social minimum, comprehensively means-tested

unemployment insurance expired or not eligible for it - (for most categories of claimants) actively looking for work

Taxes

1.1. Recent changes/transformations of the UB system in your country:

1.1.1. In the last 10 years, has the country’s UB regime been modified? Have new forms of interventions been introduced?

Note:

With the implementation of the Public Employment Service Act (AMSG) on 1 July 1994, the former Arbeitsmarktverwaltung (labour market administration) under the head of the Federal Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs was outsourced and the Public Employment Service (AMS) was founded as a public service provider. Since then, multiple modifications and changes have taken place and many amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Act (AlVG) have been added. Several tasks have been outsourced to new institutions (e.g. bankruptcy contingency fund, parental leave allowance), while new measures have been introduced (e.g. educational leave benefit, part-time benefit for older workers, family hospice leave). The social partners (Austrian Trade Union Federation ÖGB, Chamber of Labour AK, Federal Economic Chamber WKO, Federation of Austrian Industry IV) have a high degree of influence and formal participation in the administration of the unemployment benefit regime and employment services via an equal tripartite composition of the federal governing board of the AMS and equal tripartite composition of decision-making AMS bodies at regional and local levels. The AMS is responsible for all three types of unemployment benefits and social assistance programmes. While within the unemployment insurance programme, the core focus lies on measures targeted towards those who are de facto unemployed, a variety of measures for persons in employment is administered within the UI system, as well; where appropriate, those measures will be considered in the following. However, the focal point of the analysis in this national report lies on the unemployment benefit system in its ‘pure’ sense, i.e. on benefits for unemployed persons.

  1. Regarding the UI:

Several changes in the unemployment insurance system have been implemented within the last ten years:

  • ‘Pure’ unemployment insurance: Contributions to the unemployment insurance system were abolished for employees who have reached the minimum age for retirement or 60 years of age, as well as their employers in 2004. The aim of this measure was to keep employees longer in the labour market and make older workers more attractive for employers. In 2005, criteria of ‘reasonableness’ (Zumutbarkeit) of employment to be taken up have been made more flexible with regards to care duties (job location and working hours must not collide with mandatory care duties); maximum distance/travel time to work (2 hours total daily travel time for full-time work and 1.5 hours when working part-time); placement to a different occupation or part-time work (during the first 100 days of receiving UI benefits, the principle of occupational protection applies, which means that the jobs offered must not have a significantly negative effect on future employability in the original occupation); and temporary wage protection (within the first 120 days of receiving UI benefits, the level of income from a new job must lie at 80% of the former income and at 75% thereof after 120 days). In 2008, the minimum availability for employment take up was set at 20 hours per week or 16 hours for persons with childcare duties for children up to 10 years or disabled children when no other childcare is available. Furthermore, the four week waiting period for young unemployed under the age of 25 who meet only the ‘youth requirements’ (see below for explanation) was abolished. Stricter sanctions for unemployed being caught working on an undeclared basis have been implemented, as well: the time period for which UI and UA benefits can be claimed back has been doubled from two to four weeks. The aim of this flexibilisation of the criteria of ‘reasonableness’ of employment were increased transparency and the creation of clear criteria; prevention of decrease in employability; securing certain income levels; considering care obligations; granting faster access to UB for young persons (thus fighting youth poverty/economic dependence on others); fighting undeclared work; but also setting the focus on a quick re-integration into the labour market. On 1 July 2008, unemployment insurance contributions for dependent employees with low incomes were reduced and abolished, respectively: up to a monthly gross income of EUR 1,186, no contributions are to be paid; up to a gross income of EUR 1,294, contributions lie at 1% of the income; up to EUR 1,456 of gross monthly income, contributions for the unemployment insurance lie at 2% and for all employees earning more that that, the regular contribution of 3% applies (contribution limits as applicable in 2012). The employers contributions still lie at 3%, independent of the income (with the exception of minimal incomes, see below). The measure was intended to stimulate consumer demand and increase the net incomes of low wage earners.
  • New groups of employees to be considered under the UI: Since the beginning of 2008, so-called ‘free service contract holders’ (freie Dienstnehmer) are included in the unemployment insurance. Since the beginning of 2009, self-employed workers can voluntarily join the unemployment insurance. The initiative was taken by the former Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour (BMWA, which untypically united the agenda of both business and labour) and the inclusion of free service contract holders had been a long-standing demand of the ÖGB and AK. The aims of the inclusion of these groups were: improving social protection of free service contract holders and thus including precarious employment relationships in the system; providing social protection/economic support for self-employed; and providing PES services like placements/courses etc. for both groups of employees.
  • Amendments and changes to older workers’ part-time benefit schemes under the UI (Altersteilzeitgeld, ATZ) were implemented in 2004: After the expiration of ATZ, a so-called ‘transitional payment’ (Übergangsgeld) in case of unemployment between the expiration of ATZ and having reached retirement age was implemented, which is 25% higher than UI benefits. In September 2009, ATZ has become more flexible and easier to access with a continual reduction of working time preferred over the alternative model of ‘blocking times’ (i.e. working full time for half of the time period and working zero hours in the second half, i.e. retiring early, instead of working half time continuously). With both models, the former requirement of employing a substitute worker has fallen. Furthermore, ATZ has become available to employees working part-time if they have worked at least 60% of normal working hours before. With these amendments and changes, the following aims were to be pursued: improving employability of older workers; increasing older workers’ labour market participation; improving older unemployed workers’ social protection; and providing incentives for employers.
  • Changes in the educational leave (Bildungskarenz) system (under the UI) were taken in 2005, when it was decided that 16 hours training per week or comparable education, i.e. university studies were needed in order to be eligible to receive educational leave benefits. In 2008, the access to educational leave was eased: the minimum period for which an individual had to be employed by the same employer was reduced from three years to one year, and has also become available for seasonal workers. Furthermore, the benefit level was increased (from formerly about EUR 436 per month) to the fictional unemployment benefit level (with the minimum still being EUR 436), thus making the measure much more attractive for workers. Initially being a ‘crisis amendment’ (which has then become permanent), acess to training benefits has been further eased in August 2009: The minimum time period for which educational leave had to be taken was decreased from formerly three to two months. Furthermore, in order to be eligible for educational leave, the minimum employment time in the company has been reduced from one year to six months. The changes were aimed towards increasing the attractiveness of the measure and thus its take-up; improving social protection for workers on educational leave; and on increasing further education/training participation.
  • The parental leave allowance, which was formerly administered by the AMS, was replaced by a child care benefit (which is a pure family benefit, i.e. it is received by all parents/families independent of a prior labour market participation) in 2002 and consequently transferred to the health insurance providers. The initiative was taken by the former conservative/right wing government.
  • Framework conditions: Since 2010, registered partnerships (available only to same-sex couples in Austria) are considered in the AlVG; registered partners are thus treated like spouses. The aim of this measure was to increase equality in terms of sexual orientation. In July 2010, a new one-stop shop, the so-called ‘Gesundheitsstraße’ was implemented which means that the medical assessment of the ability to work is now carried out by just one institution (before both the AMS and the insurance institution responsible for retired workers, the PVA, were responsible, which often led to problems caused by different interpretations of the health assessment (i.e. ability to work) of individuals). The aim of implementing the Gesundheitsstraße was the streamlining of medical assessment (less bureaucracy, more cost effective).
  1. Regarding the UA:

See above where UA is mentioned (with regards to unemployed persons doing undeclared work).

The criteria of ‘reasonableness’ of employment is different for long-term unemployed (i.e. those receiving UA benefits) and for those receiving UI benefits: The definition for those on UA benefits is tighter; they may not reject an employment offer by arguing that the job is not in accordance with their formal qualification or their previous job, or that remuneration would be lower than what they had earned before having become unemployed.

  1. Regarding the SA (if relevant):

In September 2010, three out of nine Austrian provinces implemented means-tested income schemes which replace the former social assistance schemes, with the other provinces to follow over the course of 2011/2012 (see AT1009011I). The aim of the new scheme was to set national minimum standards of assistance in order to prevent poverty, as under the former social assistance scheme, there was great variation between the provinces (e.g. regarding eligibility criteria, stipulations on whether the benefit had to be repaid, or the amount of benefits). The means-tested income needs to be applied for either at the district or communal level or at the AMS, thus emphasising the link to active labour market policy. If jobs or courses offered by the AMS are not taken up, claimants face cuts or even cancellation of the minimum income. Under the old social assistance scheme, beneficiaries or their parents/children were forced to pay back the benefits received at a later time, when they have found employment and would be better off. This meant that about 50% of all potential beneficiaries did not apply for social assistance. These repayment claims have become abolished with the new minimum income scheme.

The means-tested income is funded by both the federal government and the respective provincial governments. The BMASK took the initiative for the change, together with the federal provinces.

1.1.3. For each of these changes / innovations please indicate from the main SP who was in favour or supported and who was against or resisted to it, and why:

As mentioned in chapter 1.1.1, due to the role the social partners play at various levels of the AMS and due to their role in assessing draft bills, they have always been an integral part in the policy implementation process with regards to the unemployment benefit regime. Thus, generally speaking, all modifications to Austria’s UB regime were made by and large consensually after tripartite negotiations – even if in most cases they are compromises between differing opinions of the labour and business side.

1.2. The main characteristics of the UB system as it is now

1.2.1. Unemployment Insurance.

  1. Coverage:

Unemployment insurance provides protection against the risk of unemployment for employees and – if opted for voluntarily – self-employed workers. Career public servants are exempt from unemployment insurance; however, in case of unemployment, they receive a so-called ‘bridging allowance’ (Überbrückungshilfe) which essentially equals the cash benefits provided by the unemployment insurance, with the major difference that the cash benefits for career public servants are paid for by their employer (i.e. the state). Furthermore, employees working minimum hours (i.e. earning less than EUR 376.26 a month in 2012) are exempt from unemployment insurance. Every employee who is subject to obligatory health insurance is also subject to obligatory unemployment insurance. The protection consists mainly of cash benefits, including unemployment benefit (Arbeitslosengeld), emergency unemployment assistance (Notstandshilfe), a further-training allowance (Weiterbildungsgeld), a part-time work benefit for older workers (Altersteilzeitgeld) and the so-called transitional payment (Übergangsgeld) for older unemployed persons who have reached certain minimum age requirement (see above).

  1. Eligibility:

The eligibility criteria for receiving unemployment benefit are the following: the individual must be unemployed, but able and willing to work. Furthermore, the individual must be available for placement in employment and must have completed the qualifiying period, i.e. must have been insured for a certain minimum period of time. For first-time claims, a minimum of 52 insurance weeks within a timeframe of 24 months prior to application is required. For further claims, a minimum time period of 28 insurance weeks within the past 12 months is required. For young persons under 25 years of age, 26 weeks of insured employment within the past 12 months is sufficient in order to be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

  1. Duration:

The period of entitlement of unemployment benefits depends on insured periods and the age of the unemployed person when he/she became unemployed. It ranges from a minimum time period of 20 weeks up to one year (and up to four years under certain circumstances, see below):

  • In case of fulfilment of the minimum insurance period, entitlement lies at 20 weeks.
  • In case the person was insured for three years within the previous five years, the entitlement lies at 30 weeks.
  • If the person was insured for six years within the previous ten years and the person is 40 years and older, entitlement is extended to 39 weeks.
  • If the person was insured for nine years within the last 15 years and he/she is 50 years of age or older, the maximum basic entitlement of 52 weeks is reached.

As mentioned above, the period of entitlement can be largely extended if the beneficiary takes part in labour market measures (under the framework of the active labour market policy) which are offered by the AMS. This includes mostly training courses and measures for re-integration into the labour market. If the beneficiary takes part in a re-employment scheme, the period of entitlement may be extended to three years and in some cases (persons who have undergone longer training periods or persons who are over 50 years of age) even to four years.

  1. Replacement rates:

Benefit levels depend – due to their nature as an insurance benefit – on previous income from gainful employment. The unemployment benefit is composed of a basic amount and – where applicable – of family supplements and/or supplements for recipients of very low benefits. The basic amount lies at 55% of the average net income of the calendar year preceding the job loss if the application is filed in the second half year, or the previous calendar year in case the application is filed in the first six months of the year. If the unemployed person has to support family members, he/she is entitled to EUR 0.97 per day for every dependant. Furthermore, if the unemployment benefit per day calculated lies below a certain threshold (EUR 27.16 in 2012, which is equivalent to a thirtieth of the equalisation supplement reference rate under the pension insurance scheme for single pensioners), a supplement up to a net replacement rate of 60% of the previous net income is due. If family supplements apply, the ceiling lies at 80%. However, the unemployment benefit plus supplements in that case must not exceed the equalisation supplement reference rate (which in 2012 lies at EUR 814.82).

  1. Financing:

Both employers and employees provide funds to the unemployment insurance via pay contributions. Contributions lie at 3% each (3% provided by employers, 3% by employees), totalling the contributions to 6% of wage and salary earners.

  1. SP involvement:
  • who are the organisations involved and at which level do they operate? (e.g. trade unions, sectoral or national confederations, etc)
  • why are these organisations involved (legitimacy)? Is it because they are representative?

Yes. As mentioned above, the social partners play an integral part in the administration of the UI benefit regime due to an equal tripartite composition of the federal governing board of the AMS. The organisations include the ÖGB and AK on the employees’ side, the WKO and IV on the employers’ side and the AMS, the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection BMASK and the Federal Ministry of Finance BMF on the government’s side.

1.2.2. Unemployment Assistance. Are forms of UA present? If yes, please indicate their general characteristics with specific attention to:

  1. Coverage:

Emergency unemployment assistance (Notstandshilfe) is the prolongation of unemployment benefits for long-term unemployed after the maximum duration during which unemployment benefits can be received has been reached.

  1. Eligibility:

Persons who have formerly received unemployment benefits and have reached the maximum time period during which those benefits can be received, are eligible to emergency unemployment assistance. Thus, generally, the same eligibility criteria as for unemployment benefits apply. However, additionally the receipt of this assistance is contingent on indigence and the income of a spouse/partner who lives in the same household. Those income thresholds are rather low, which means that if a spouse/partner has a reasonable income, the eligibility criteria of indigence are not met and thus the person is not eligible to receive emergency unemployment assistance (see d) replacement rates below).

  1. Duration:

There is no time limit for the receipt of emergency unemployment assistance. The maximum period is up until the recipient is eligible for a pension. Beneficiaries have, however, to reapply for emergency unemployment assistance every 52 weeks.

  1. Replacement rates:

Emergency unemployment assistance lies at 92% of the unemployment benefit if the benefit lies above the equalisation supplement reference rate of the pension insurance scheme (see above) or at 95% if it lies below that threshold. For first time claimants, after six months, maximum levels according to the period during which unemployment benefit was received apply:

  • In case the beneficiary was 20 weeks on unemployment benefits, the emergency unemployment assistance lies at a maximum level of EUR 27.16 per day.
  • In case the beneficiary was 30 weeks on unemployment benefits, the emergency unemployment assistance lies at a maximum level of EUR 31.67 per day

Family supplements apply; they are equivalent to those in the unemployment benefit system (see above).

  1. Financing:

Emergency unemployment assistance is – like unemployment benefits – financed by contributions to the unemployment insurance (see above).

  1. SP involvement:
  • who are the organisations involved and at which level do they operate? (e.g. trade unions, sectoral or national confederations, etc)
  • why are these organisations involved (legitimacy)? Is it because they are representative?

See chapter 1.2.1.

1.2.3. Social Assistance. Are SA programmes with a direct relationship with the UB system and/or SP involvement present?

The social assistance programme is administered by the AMS and has a direct link to labour market availability (see AT1009011I):

In 2011, the former social assistance was replaced in all provinces by a needs-based minimum income system which is a universal benefit and can thus be obtained irrespective of a prior labour market attachment. In order to qualify for the benefits, a claimant needs to:

  • be in need of financial assistance;
  • be a permanent resident of Austria;
  • have no more than EUR 3,866.25 of savings (home and contents are exempt from this calculation, but a car can be kept only if it is needed for employment or care activities, or because of a disability); and
  • be ready to take up work.

The payment, a flat rate, consists of a basic benefit (75% of the total) and living assistance (25%) Single people and lone parents get EUR 773.25 (net) per month, with couples receiving EUR 1,159.88. An extra sum is paid for every dependent child, however, this amount is to be set by the provinces individually and ranges between EUR 139.32 in Carinthia and EUR 208.78 in Vienna. For those living in privately owned housing or with family members, and not paying rent, the 25% living assistance element is withheld. The provinces cannot pay less than the mentioned amounts (which are re-assessed annually) but they can choose to pay more, or give additional benefits. The means-tested income needs to be applied for either at the district or communal level or at the AMS thus emphasising the link to active labour market policy. If jobs or courses offered by the AMS are not taken up, claimants face cuts or even cancellation of the minimum income.

2. SP involvement in the UB regime

Note:

As mentioned at the beginning of chapter 1.1, the AMS was founded as a public service provider which manages the unemployment insurance system and is responsible for active labour market policy with the implementation of the Public Employment Service Act (AMSG) in 1994. According to the AMSG, the federal headquarter (Bundesorganisation) of the AMS is to be composed of a tripartite federal governing board (Verwaltungsrat) consisting of nine representatives which are appointed by the BMASK (three of which are nominated by the employers’ side – two by the WKO and one by the IV; three of which are nominated by the employees’ side – jointly by the ÖGB and AK; and three by the government side – two by the BMASK and one by the BMF) and a board of management (Vorstand) consisting of two members which are elected by the tripartite federal governing board. Furthermore, the AMS consists of nine organisations at the provincial (Länder) level and 99 regional organisational units in which the social partners are equally represented as at the federal level. According to the AMSG, the areas of responsibility for the federal governing board include the proposal of the design and organisation of labour market policy. Moreover, a supervisory committee has to be installed by the federal governing board in order to monitor whether the AMS’s tasks are properly fulfilled. The federal governing board and thus the social partners are therefore involved in all four phases (development, implementation, management and monitoring) in which the process of UB provision is articulated.

2.1. The development phase

2.1.1. In your country, did SP participate in the development phase of UB programmes over the last decade?

Yes. Via their representation in the equally composed tripartite federal governing board of the AMS, the social partners participate in the development phase of all changes to the UB system. Furthermore, the social partners have traditionally held a high degree of influence in the design and development of labour market policies, including UB programmes.

2.1.2. If yes, please provide detailed information on the SP involvement in the development phase of UB regimes with respect to the following dimensions, distinguishing between UI and UA and reporting any important changes during the decade.

  1. Who did take the initiative of involving SP in the design process? Did they ask themselves?

The social partners are not only represented in the governing boards of the AMS at the national, provincial and regional levels and thus automatically involved in the design process of new measures/ innovations; it is also common practice in Austria’s highly corporatist social partnership system that organised labour and business are regularly involved in public measures concerning social and economic policy. When bills are drafted or public measures are planned, the social partners get the opportunity to assess proposals and issue statements. Likewise, they often approach the government (or rather the respective ministries) with demands (either separate statements or mutual position papers) or proposals regarding legislative changes in social, economic and labour market policy. The involvement of the social partners is thus highly institutionalised in Austria and not called into question.

Generally speaking, all changes that have taken place with regards to UB programmes have been implemented via law amendments in the AlVG, most commonly after extensive bipartite and tripartite negotiations.

There is no difference between UI and UA.

  1. Which are the forms of such kind of SP involvement?

As mentioned above, there is a high degree of negotiation and concertation between the social partners and the government.

  1. In which way is/was their involvement in the policy design process legitimated/accepted?

The social partners’ involvement in the policy design process is highly legitimised due to the fact that they are members of the federal governing board of the AMS and due to the high degree of concertation (see above).

  1. How frequent is/was such involvement?

Social partner involvement is taking place regularly and frequently.

  1. At what levels does/did such involvement occur?

With regards to national UB programmes, the involvement occurs mostly at the national level. However, if labour market policy measures concern the provincial or regional levels, social partner involvement occurs at the respective levels.

  1. Which are/were the effects of such involvement (with regard to both a more efficient/effective functioning of the programmes, and the strengthening and legitimation of the SP themselves)?

The social partners’ involvement surely leads to a high acceptance of the UB programmes. Their roles are not particularly strengthened via this involvement due to the fact that in Austria, the social partners have a relatively high legitimacy anyway.

2.2. The implementation phase

2.2.1. Distinguishing between UI and UA programmes, please describe the SP' role in accomplishing specific functions related to UB schemes (such as selecting the officials in charge of UB’ services, collecting contributions, etc).

As mentioned above, social partner representatives as well as government officials are equally represented in the major decision making bodies of the AMS and thus themselves hold functions relating to UB schemes.

There is no difference between UI and UA.

2.2.2. Furthermore, please analyze such SP involvement in terms of:

  • degree and institutional relevance of their involvement (mandatory, advisory or voluntary presence):

There is a high degree of social partner involvement and a high institutional relevance. The presence of the social partners is mandatory (as laid down in the AMSG) via a tripartite federal governing board of the AMS and an equal tripartite composition of decision-making AMS bodies at regional and local levels.

  • incidence of their involvement in the implementation process (at the beginning, throughout and/or at the end of the process):

Social partner involvement is taking place throughout the process.

  • the strategic positions possibly held by SP:

As representatives of the labour side, the AK and ÖGB naturally hold positions in favour of employees and as employer representatives, the IV and WKO hold positions in favour of the business side.

2.3. The management phase

2.3.1. In this case, distinguishing between UI and UA programmes, please describe SP’ role in terms of:

  • organisational commitment: are there specific sections of their organisations dedicated to the UB programmes?

All four social partner organisations have specific organisational sections dealing with social and labour market policy. However, there are no specific organisational units dedicated to the management of UB programmes; rather, specific organisational representatives hold functions in the AMS’ federal governing board, as shown above.

  • organisational coordination among possible different levels of SP dealing with UB:

Generally, there is a high degree of organisational coordination between the social partners among their various levels.

  • dedicated staff (composition of SP’ personnel in charge of UB programs):

All social partner organisations have experts for social and labour market policy, including experts for UB programmes, among their staff. But as mentioned above, the social partners nominate officials from their respective organisations to the federal governing board of the AMS which is in charge of the management of UB programmes.

  • operational autonomy (self-governing, conditioned by the state, other):

All four social partner organisations have operational autonomy and are self-governing.

  • financial autonomy (self-sufficient, dependent by the state, other):

All four social partner organisations are self-sufficient either via membership fees (ÖGB, IV) or via mandatory ‘chamber contributions’ (Kammerumlagen) by dependent employees (AK) and businesses of the private economy (WKO), respectively.

2.3.2. Distinguishing between UI and UA programmes, please describe the role of SP in case they are engaged in the financial management of the UB funds.

The social partners as such are not engaged in the financial management of the UB funds, but it is the AMS’ federal governing board’s task to suggest the level of contributions by employees and employers.

There is no difference between UI and UA programmes.

2.3.3. Distinguishing between UI and UA programmes, please answer to the following questions:

  • is the SP’ role in the organisation and provision of UB programmes linked to the organisation and provision of other programmes/services (for instance, related to education and training)?

Via their representation in the federal governing board of the AMS, the social partner representatives are involved in all UB programmes and services mentioned in chapter 1.1.

  • if there is some kind of organisational relationship/integration among different labour market policies and programmes, does it lead also to an administrative/operative relationship between the SP and the Public Employment Service, or with private employment agencies?

As mentioned several times in this report, the social partners are part of the federal governing board of the AMS; thus, there is a strong administrative and operative relationship between the social partners and the AMS.

  • if yes, did this lead to mergers, networks or coalitions building among the SP and public and/or private organizations (eventually at the local level)?

The social partners are an integral part of the federal governing board of the AMS and of decision making bodies at the provincial and regional levels.

2.4. The monitoring phase

2.4.1. SP involvement in monitoring/evaluating the UB performance

Are the SP involved in the monitoring and evaluation of the UB system?

The federal governing board of the AMS (in which the social partners are represented) has to install a supervisory committee whose responsibility it is to monitor whether the AMS’ tasks are properly fulfilled.

There is no difference between UI and UA.

  • Which aspects of UI/UA functioning are put under evaluation (e.g. procedures, results, other)?

n/a

  • Who is in charge of such monitoring/evaluation (a commission, an external body, etc.)?

n/a

  • How and when the monitoring process take place (in which phase of the process, with which frequency,…)?

n/a

  • Which is the output (a report, other) of such process and which the possible outcome (formal recommendations, rewards, sanctions, other)?

n/a

  • How extensive and relevant is the SP’ role in the assessment process?

n/a

2.4.2. monitoring the SP involvement in the UB system

Is the SP role within the UB system subject to evaluation and monitoring?

The social partners’ role within the UB system is not subject to evaluation and monitoring; the members of the federal governing board are appointed for six years, with a possible re-appointment being permitted. In case of an important reason (i.e. gross breach of duty or permanent incapacity to exercise the function), the social and labour minister is to cancel the appointment. Consequently, a new member is to be appointed for the rest of the six year period.

  • Which aspects of their performance are evaluated/monitored? (e.g. compliance to established procedures, ability to reach established targets, other)

n/a

  • In which way (by whom, in which occasion, with which frequency) is the SP performance evaluated

n/a

  • Which are the consequences, if any, of positive/negative evaluations?

n/a

3. Final observations

3.1. Public debates and policy discussion:

The involvement of the social partners in the unemployment benefit regime is undisputed in Austria. The social partners have always been involved in all issues concerning social and labour market policy including the country’s UB system in a twofold way: firstly, representatives of the social partners are represented in the federal governing board which has decision-making competences; and secondly, the social partners regularly provide assessments of draft laws and/or put forward proposals themselves. The social partners therefore do not question their involvement. Naturally, the positions of the labour side and business side differ on substantial issues: The WKO for example is of the opinion that unemployment assistance should be provided by federal funds and not by employers’ and employees’ contributions and generally favours the principle ‘work before transfer payment’ (incl. suggesting stricter sanctions when a ‘reasonable’ job offer is not taken), whereas the AK demands the increase of UI benefits to 60% of the former income (as a first step), a prolongation of the period during which benefits can be drawn and the omission of the contingence on a partner’s income for drawing UA benefits.

3.2. Research:

The topic of social partner involvement in Austria’s UB system is not extensively treated in academic contributions. Thus, only few publications can be provided:

  • Atzmüller, Roland (2009: Aktivierung statt Vollbeschäftigung. Die Entwicklung der Arbeitsmarktpolitik in Österreich, in: Hermann, Christoph / Atzmüller, Roland (Eds.): Die Dynamik des ‘österreichischen Modells’. Brüche und Kontinuitäten im Beschäftigungs- und Sozialsystem, Berlin, pp.135-186.
  • Feurstein, Gottfried (1998): Die Bewährungsprobe des Arbeitsmarktservices, in: Khol, Andreas / Ofner, Günther / Stirnemann, Alfred (Eds.): Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik, Wien/München, pp. 866-875.
  • Karlhofer, Ferdinand / Tálos, Emmerich (2005): Sozialpartnerschaft. Österreichische und europäische Perspektiven, Münster.
  • Tálos, Emmerich / Kittel, Bernhard (1995): Gesetzgebung in Österreich – Netzwerke, Akteure und Interaktionen in politischen Entscheidungsprozessen, Wien.
  • Trittremmel, Wolfgang (1998): Ausgliederung der Arbeitsmarktverwaltung. Eine erste Bilanz, in: Khol et al., pp. 529-544.

There are no academic contributions available stating the official positions of the SP regarding the existing UB.

The social partners themselves, however, regularly provide statements and press releases on their demands/proposals/reactions.

3.3. Other issues:

n/a

4. Commentary

4.1. Assessments and comments:

.

The strong involvement of the social partners in Austria’s UB system guarantees a reconciliation and coordination of interests between the state, the employer side and the employee side. Thus, innovations and changes to the system are – by and large – supported by all three parties. Via their representation in the federal governing board of the country’s Public Employment Service, they have a strong voice in decision making processes concerning the whole agenda of the AMS, including changes and innovations to the UB regime. Furthermore, the social partners have an important role to play in the proposal and assessment of draft bills. Their opinions are regularly taken into consideration, thus contributing to social peace.

4.2. Perceived strengths and weaknesses:

See 4.1.

Bernadette Allinger, FORBA (Working Life Research Centre)

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