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HEALTH INSURANCE

Everything you need to know about health insurance for freelancers in Austria

Social insurance, the term used to describe health insurance and other aspects such as pensions, is compulsory in Austria - even for self-employed people. Here’s everything you need to know.

Everything you need to know about health insurance for freelancers in Austria
Freelancing in Austria? Here's what you need to know about health insurance. Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Everyone in Austria has to have health and social insurance, but for self-employed people it can be overwhelming to navigate the system.

This is because social insurance is usually taken care of by an employer and the amount is simply deducted from a salary every month. 

However, setting up social insurance as a freelancer or self-employed person can be simplified – once you know the basics.

How does social insurance work in Austria? 

For employed people in Austria, social insurance payments are made to the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse (ÖGK) every month via their employer. 

The ÖGK is the largest social health insurance company in Austria, with 82 percent of people in the country insured through the organisation.

Freelancers and self-employed people have to organise insurance themselves though, which can be done through the organisation of social insurance for self-employed people (Sozialversicherung der Selbständigen) or SVS

FOR MEMBERS: How to survive as a freelancer in Austria

For freelancers from overseas, navigating insurance in another language can be a daunting part of the process. 

James Tibbles, a former freelance web designer from the UK who lives in Tyrol, advises any self-employed people in Austria to seek help from an advisor when starting out.

James told The Local: “My tax advisor explained it all to me and picked out the correct one for my circumstances, so whenever I received a letter from them I just immediately passed it on to her.”

Another tip is to find an advisor that speaks a high level of English, which can be relatively easy in more metropolitan areas or regions with a strong tourism industry. 

Registering as self-employed also involves signing up with the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKO) who can then help you with setting up insurance with the SVS.

The key thing to remember is that health and social insurance is compulsory in Austria. So make sure it is a top priority. 

What do SVS payments cover?

SVS payments cover several aspects of health and social care. 

According to the Austrian government, social insurance payments cover: “prevention, sickness, incapacity for work/invalidity, maternity, unemployment, old age, death of a person liable to provide maintenance, survivors’ pensions, nursing care and social need.”

It basically grants people the same social insurance coverage as those on payroll.

For example, €100 of SVS payment can be broken down as €65 towards pension, €26 for health insurance, €5 towards self-employment provisions, €2 for accident insurance and €2 in administration costs.

As you can see, the largest percentage of SVS goes towards a pension, which means even though payments are considered to be high by many self-employed people, a large portion of the money is being invested.

READ MORE: How does the Austrian pension system work?

In fact, Austria’s pension system is one of the best in Europe, offering 80.9 percent of the average salary, which is only beaten by Luxembourg and Italy.

To compare, the state pension in the UK is just 28.4 percent of the average salary with experts warning that the payments don’t even cover a minimum standard of living.

As an added bonus, social insurance contributions in Austria can even be deducted from your tax bill at the end of the year (but only what you have paid so far).

Typical SVS payments

If you are self-employed in Austria, it is compulsory to pay for health and social insurance once your income exceeds €5,710.32 annually. But if you don’t reach that limit then you are exempt from paying social insurance.

The minimum contribution for those earning up to around €8,000 a year is around €160 a month. Once your salary exceeds that amount, you will be charged more. 

For the first three years, payments are calculated on a minimum contribution basis. But from the fourth year of self-employment, social insurance contributions are calculated in relation to the income in the preceding third year of business.

READ ALSO: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Austria?

However, it’s important to be aware that when first registering as self-employed in Austria there is often a delay to the start of social insurance payments.

This can mean receiving a bill several months later and having to pay six months worth of social insurance in one go. Afterwards though, you should receive SVS bills on a quarterly basis.

Useful links

SEA – The self-employed in Austria group supports self-employed individuals by delivering information in the form of guidebooks and free articles in English. 

SVS – The social insurance organisation for self-employed people in Austria.

WKO – The Austrian Chamber of Commerce is a useful source of information for self-employed people.

Useful vocabulary

Sozialversicherung – social insurance

Selbständigen – self-employed

Neue Selbständige – new self-employed

Steuer – tax

Gesundheitsversicherung – health insurance

Pensionsvorsorge  – pension provision

Unfallversicherung – accident insurance

Verwaltungskosten – administration costs

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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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