Austria - Working conditions

Austria was ranked number-one in the World Competitiveness Report of 1999 for quality of life, providing high-performance infrastructure and rapidly falling telecommunications and energy costs. It also has one of the best records of price stability in the world. Corporate tax rates are one of the lowest among leading industrial nations.

There is a strong labor movement in Austria. The Austrian workforce is 3.7 million, 40 percent being females. About 45 percent of the total Austrian labor force belongs to the 14 unions that make up the Austrian Trade Union Federation. Membership in unions is voluntary, but all wage earners are required by law to join their respective chambers of labor. Guarantees in the Austrian constitution governing freedom of association cover the rights of workers to join unions and engage in union activities. The Austrian Trade Union Federation (OGB) comprises constituent unions with a total membership of about 1.5 million. Since 1945, the OGB has pursued a moderate, consensus-oriented wage policy, cooperating with industry, agriculture, and the government on a broad range of social and economic issues in what is known as Austria's social partnership.

Compared to other EU member states, Austria has the third lowest unemployment rate, with only the Netherlands and Luxembourg providing better job opportunities. (The European Union's average unemployment rate was 8.5 percent by the end of 2000.) In addition, Austria prides herself on having the lowest youth unemployment rate in Europe. In the past, both the federal government and the state governments spent billions of schillings to provide vocational training to those who left school at the end of compulsory education and to help others achieve secondary school qualifications. Now that more companies are willing to take on apprentices, the government has decided to restructure its vocational programs.

At a time of prosperity for the Austrian economy, however, the country received unexpectedly poor ratings from the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE). It sharply criticized Austria for underfunding research and development. The organization also pointed out that Austria had far too few highly trained information technology personnel. UNICE expected a shortage of 13,000 qualified information technology workers.

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