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MINIMUM WAGE

Will the EU force Austria to adopt a minimum wage?

Austria, which does not have a minimum wage, is resisting efforts at a European Union level to put a minimum in place.

A waitress serves guests at a roof-top cafe in Vienna. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
A waitress serves guests at a roof-top cafe in Vienna. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

The EU Commission is proposing each country adopt a minimum wage set at 50 per cent of the average wage, or 60 percent of the median income in each member state.

Currently, Austria, along with Sweden and Denmark, has no minimum wage. However, Austria has the most collective agreements in the EU, with 98 percent of employees covered in this way.

This means in Austria, minimum standards are not set by law, but by collective or individual bargaining with the employer.

READ MORE: What you need to know about the ‘minimum wage’ in Austria

However, Austria has resisted these efforts. 

The Labour Minister has said he does not support a minimum wage for Austria, but trade unions and the Chamber of Labour are in favour.

Austria’s Labour Minister Martin Kocher said on Wednesday the EU will not be able to force Austria to create a minimum wage along with other countries across the bloc, and he rejects the proposal.

The minimum wage directive will be discussed at an EU summit on Friday. 

Can the EU force Austria to adopt a minimum wage? 

This does appear to be somewhat of a grey area, with Austria saying it is up to them to set labour policy and the EU saying the same. 

Köcher said this week that the EU lacks the power to shape the minimum wage in Austria, saying that labour policy is the responsibility of EU member states. 

The EU however says it has the power to do so under article 153(5) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU).

This section gives the EU power to shape working conditions in member states, provided they are ‘proportionate’ and ‘subsidiary’ – i.e. they do not go too far and they do not interfere in areas member states can organise themselves. 

Legal commentators are split on the issue, meaning that if the policy does come into place, it could be headed for the courts. 

Should Austria impose a minimum wage? 

Austrian employee representatives are said to be in favour of the introduction of a minimum wage as many bordering countries have significantly lower average wages, making Austria a hotspot for labor mobility, the Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports.

Generally, collective agreements will be negotiated by trade union representatives and will apply to an entire industry or in an entire state, meaning that you yourself do not need to negotiate your wage. 

Workers from Central and Eastern Europe often move to Austria, putting the wage level under pressure.

Austria’s Chamber of Labour (AK) and the Federation of Trade Unions (ÖGB) have called for Austria to adopt an EU minimum wage along with greater wage transparency in order to close the gender pay gap between men and women. 

In terms of the gender pay gap, women in Austria are third from the bottom of the table in the EU, earning an average of 19 percent less than men.

Across the EU, women earn an average of 14 percent less than men. At the current rate, the World Economic Forum has calculated that it would take 135 years to close the gender pay gap.

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For members

WORKING IN AUSTRIA

Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in Austria

If you are moving to Austria and planning to work once you're here, there are a few websites that you need to know.

Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in Austria

Austria is certainly one of the best countries to work in, with strong labour laws that give employees access to public health insurance through their employers, a minimum five weeks of paid vacation and many rights for families.

The alpine country is also known for its high quality of living. Residents can enjoy cheap public transport, public schools and plenty of free or cheap cultural, sports and leisure options.

There are also many vacant jobs, and the country is aiming to make it easier for foreigners who have qualifications to come fill in those jobs – many in nursing and healthcare professions, but a lot in several other so-called “shortage occupations”.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

If you are planning to work in Austria, here are a few government or government-linked websites to know.

Migration.gv.at

It may not look very modern, but this website will have most of the things you’ll need if you want to move to Austria – especially coming from countries outside of the European Union.

This is where you will find the infamous “point calculator” to see if you get the minimum amount of points based on specific criteria (such as age, education, and language knowledge) to be able to apply for certain work-based residence permits.

There are also many pages explaining the different visas, permits, and many other issues with migration to Austria. The website has a very extensive and complete English version.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The 2022 salary requirements for Austria’s EU Blue Card

ABA – Work in Austria

ABA – Work in Austria is a department of the Austrian Business Agency, which operates under the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs in Austria.

The website has plenty of information – in English – about Austria, living and working in the country, and its job market. ABA – Work in Austria also offers services, including relocation and recognition of qualifications.

Vienna Business Agency

Another site aimed at expats and immigrants but connected to the City of Vienna. The website is entirely in English (there is a German version, too), and most of it will have tips and services for businesses and startups settling in the Austrian capital.

However, there is also an extensive advice area for foreigners. 

People moving to Vienna can also schedule in-person and free appointments to receive advice on anything from setting up a company to paying taxes.

READ ALSO: The downsides of Vienna you should be aware of before moving there

Portal der Arbeiterkammern

This is the Chamber of Labour website, which is an organisation that represents the interests of 3 million Austrian employees and consumers.

Even if you are not a member, it still has plenty of valuable information on Austria’s working and labour market. The website, however, is only in German.

Der Wirtschaftskammer

Also, a local website, WKO is the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, and even though it is only in German, it holds a lot of information, especially on labour laws in the country.

Furthermore, it is possible to schedule a free appointment with an English-speaking representative to answer questions on employment, self-employment, and more.

READ ALSO: Which are the best companies to work for in Austria?

Public Employment Service Austria (AMS)

This is Austria’s official provider of labour-market related services. The government agency offers placement assistance and vocational counselling.

It is also the point of contact for those looking to register as employees, hire people or seek many of the benefits (including unemployment payments) that they are entitled to. It also has a job-looking platform.

Even though a part of the website is in English, most of the pages are in German only. It is also challenging to find people willing to speak English at the AMS offices.

Bonus website: The Local

Besides our news website, with pieces that will help you learn more about life in Austria and be up to date on the latest and most important information, The Local also has a job search platform where you can look for open positions which require only the English language.

Check out our jobs platform here. 

Do you know any other government or government-linked websites that might be useful for people working in Austria? Let us know: [email protected]

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