One-third of Austrian workers are in non-standard employment


With an unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent in 2015 – one of the lowest in the European Union – Austria has what appears to be a secure job market for workers.

However, look closely at the data and you’ll discover a country where one-third of the population is in part-time, temporary or freelance work.

According to the national statistics office, Statistics Austria, 33.5 per cent of workers in Austria are in ’non-standard employment’.

Compared to other countries in the EU, this figure is high. In fact, when it comes to the number of people in part-time work, Austria has the second highest rate in the EU behind the Netherlands, according to the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat.

One Austrian worker in her thirties, speaking under the condition of anonymity, tells Equal Times she is working on a 70 per cent full-time temporary contract for a broadcaster in Vienna but wants to negotiate a more permanent position.

“The best I can get would be a freelance contract with guaranteed hours every month,” she says, explaining that there is a set number of full-time angestellte contracts – the most secure form of employment – and employees have to wait for one to open up.

Being angestellt means it is much easier to do things like buy property, as banks tend to only give mortgages to people on these types of contracts. The worker we spoke to also said that non-standard employment makes workers feel insecure.

“If your partner has a secure job, that’s fine. But my partner also works part-time and we can’t plan ahead. We want to move and maybe buy a flat but I can’t make that decision until I know about my contract,” she says.

“It’s about having stability and security, knowing how much you will earn at the end of the month. It’s hard when your income fluctuates.”


Mostly women affected

Although in this case both the worker in question and her male partner are in part-time work, non-standard employment overwhelmingly affects working women. Whereas 84 per cent of all men employed in Austria work in standard employment, only 47.9 per cent of women do, meaning that more women work under part-time or temporary contracts as they do full-time or permanent ones.

Alexa Jirez, from the Austrian Trade Union Confederation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, or ÖGB) says this statistic can be understood positively “partly because a lot of women are working”. She adds, however, that Austria is still a very traditional country when it comes to gender roles, maternity leave and childcare.

As a consequence of the employment status of women, Jirez says, many women are likely to face a deficit in their pension pot as they get older, making them more vulnerable to poverty.

Austrian women also face one of the biggest gender pay gaps in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2016 Women in Work Index, Austrian women earn, on average, 23 per cent less than Austrian men.

To support women into full-time work ÖGB focus on encouraging the government to improve childcare services, and it is also calling for a change to the school timetable so that it will suit working families. “Here in Austria schools start early – which is also a problem – and then finish early,” she says. “We want to have the closing times modified in a way that works for parents.”

Elfriede Harrer from WAFF, an organisation financed by Vienna city council that helps workers with professional development, tells Equal Times: “There are lots of different reasons people take part-time work. Women often want to reconcile family life with working life, while men are more likely to be in part-time work because they are in further education,” she says.

“Of course, there are some who want to be in full-time work. We support women in general to help them upskill and take further education to help them professionally.”