Austria has a higher share of immigrants in the total working-age population (17 %) than many other OECD countries. At the same time, the framework for integration policy is less developed than in a number of other OECD countries. These are among the main findings of the OECD review on the labour market integration of immigrants and their children in Austria.
The Austrian framework for integration at the federal level is insufficient and a structured integration programme for new arrivals with a distinct focus on the labour market is lacking. The integration measures provided below the federal level are broad but fragmented. Many initiatives by regional and municipal public institutions, social partners and non-governmental-organisations are project-based and cannot compensate for structures lacking at the federal level. There is a lack of co-ordination and evaluation, which is partly due to a lack of research on the integration of immigrants.
Better, but not yet good
In spite of these shortcomings, the Austrian integration policy has made considerable progress over the past years: Immigrants are now systematically trained for occupations that face shortages in skilled labour. As of 2012, immigrants will, moreover, move closer to the focus of active labour market policy by becoming a specific target group of the Austrian Labour Market Service (AMS).
Moreover, the overall labour market outcomes of immigrants in Austria are rather favourable in international comparison. At 75 %, the employment rate of immigrant men is slightly above the average of comparable OECD countries. This can be partly explained by a favorable overall labour market situation and by the origin-country composition. The bulk of immigrants in working age were born in OECD high-income countries or in successor countries of the former Yugoslavia. These groups fare relatively well in the labour markets of other OECD countries as well.
Women and immigrant offspring have difficulties
Other groups, in particular women from lower-income countries, are less well integrated into the labour market. This concerns also the Austrian-born immigrant offspring. These are now gradually entering the labour force and are four times more likely to be among the low-educated who are neither in employment nor in education than peers without a migration background (see Graph 2).
Share of low-educated population that is neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET) in the total population, aged 20-29 years, around 2007
Source: Adapted from OECD (2010): Equal opportunities? The Labour Market Integration of the Children of Immigrants, Paris: OECD.
To tackle these problems, additional effort in integration policy is needed. Pre-school education at the critical ages of three and four should be promoted and the share of youth with a migration background in apprenticeships and in the public sector be raised. It is notably in these areas that immigrant offspring are currently underrepresented.
However, even a higher educational degree from Austria does not provide immigrant offspring with the same opportunities as their peers who have native-born parents. This points to further structural obstacles such as discrimination in the labour market. This issue has not yet been sufficiently debated in Austria. The relevant institutions should therefore be strengthened and the public awareness about this topic be raised.
When they have a job, migrants are more likely to be over-qualified than their native peers in Austria. Within the OECD, the country has one of the highest shares of immigrants working in jobs below their qualification level. A formal recognition or evaluation of foreign credentials could provide remedy in this respect, since these tools increase the chances of finding employment that matches the education level. However, only few migrants make use of this option thus far.
The review was officially presented at the Austrian Federal Ministry for Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer
Protection in Vienna on the 24th of November 2011, in the presence of Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer.