Country Profile: AustriaHermann Schwenger
When Austria joined the EU in 1995, a nation-state, which had been founded in 1918 at the St. Germain peace negotiations and which was formed and accepted by the population mainly in the decades after World War II, entered a supranational state organisation of multi-national entities. This was nothing new to the former leading nation of the Habsburg Empire, but those had been very different circumstances. At one time Austria had led the empire which dominated Central Europe, together with France, Prussia and Russia, from the end of the 16th to the end of the "long" 19th century. In 1995 by contrast, Austria, with a population and surface area making up 2% and 2.7% respectively of the EU, is more known for its scenic landscape, its tourist attractions or its famous downhill skiers.
Country and People
Austria is a predominantly mountainous country located in southern Central Europe. Its territory encompasses both the Eastern Alps (which cover some two thirds of its surface area) and the Danube Valley. Austria has a total area of 83,858 square kilometres. The landlocked country shares national borders with the Czech Republic (362 km), Germany (784 km), Hungary (366 km), Italy (430 km), Liechtenstein (35 km), Slovakia (91 km), Slovenia (330 km) and Switzerland (164 km). Austria has historically been a cross-roads of travel routes between the major European economic and cultural regions.
The lowlands or hilly regions north, east and south of the Alps and the Danube Valley are the principal areas of settlement and economic activity, i.e. two-thirds of the population live in 40% of the territory. Of the total area, 20% are arable, 29% pasture, 44% forest (Europe's most heavily wooded country) and 7% are barren. At 3,797 meters, the Grossglockner is the highest mountain in Austria. Its longest river is the Danube, which flows east through Austria for a length of some 350 kilometres.
The population of Austria is slightly more than eight million, some 98% of whom are German-speaking. The four ethnic groups officially recognised (Croats, Hungarians, Slovenes, Czech/Slovaks) are concentrated in the east and south of the country. Other minorities are the Gypsies (Roma and Sinti) and the Jews. The largest de facto minority in Austria are the foreign workers with their dependents who constitute approximately 10% of the total population.
Seventy-eight percent of those Austrians surveyed in 1991 claimed an allegiance to the Roman Catholic faith, 5% claimed to be Protestants, 4.5% responded with another faith, 9% belong to no religious group, and 3.5% did not respond. This "catholic Austria", characterised by a close relationship between "throne and altar" before 1918, is largely due to an aggressive Counter-Reformation in the 1600s. Nevertheless, the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, although still formidable because of its historical position in Austrian society and network of lay organisations, receded in the period after 1945. Less than one-third of Catholics attend regular church, rates of divorce and abortion are high and increasing since the 1980s. The relationship between the Austrian catholic laity and their Church and the Vatican have worsened in 1990s.
Settlement within the boundaries of present-day Austria extends back to the Early Iron Age (Hallstatt culture). Rich mineral resources gave rise to a prosperous Celtic culture from 400 BC onward. The Celts established a kingdom known as Noricum which was a major trading partner of the neighbouring Roman territories during the first century BC. By 15 BC the Romans had conquered and subsequently incorporated the entire area in the conglomerate Roman Empire and created the three provinces of Raetia, Noricum and Pannonia. The Romans held sway in the Danube region for almost five hundred years. Up to the late eighth century the territory was repeatedly crossed by waves of migrating peoples: German tribes, Huns, Slavic Avars. Towards the end of the eighth century Charlemagne established the Carolingian Mark. Since the departure of the Romans, Irish and Scottish monks had progressively christianised the Alpine region. Entrusted with the administrati on of Austria in 976, the Bavarian dynasty of the Babenbergs pursued a successful strategy of aggrandisement. In 1156 Austria was declared a Duchy.
In 1282 the Habsburgs - whose origins lay in the Duchy of Swabia - were invested with the Duchy of Austria after the Babenberg dynasty died out. With great dexterity they set about steadily enlarging their power base, acquiring the Duchies of Styria, Carinthia and Tyrol through contracts of succession and then adding Gorizia and Istria (with Trieste) to their territories. Finally, in 1437 Duke Albrecht V became the first Habsburg to wear the imperial crown. The Habsburgs cleverly employed strategic marriages to enlarge their territories (bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria nube!), acquiring Burgundy and the Low Countries in this way, and soon a Habsburg also occupied the Spanish throne. In 1522 the dynasty split into a Spanish and an Austrian line. In 1526 the Austrian Habsburgs added Bohemia and Hungary to their lands.
By reversing the Ottoman thrust into Europe, Austria acquired new territories and emerged as a major European power.
In the second half of the eighteenth century Empress Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II implemented programmes of reform, laying the foundations for a modern state administration. In 1806 Franz II abdicated from the imperial throne. Two years previously he had declared Austria an empire. In the wake of Italy's emergence as a nation, Austria, and the Habsburg administration was forced to make several concessions to the rapidly burgeoning nationalist movement. In 1867 Emperor Franz Joseph acceded to demands for the creation of the Double Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. This conglomerate entity disintegrated at the end of the First World War, not least as a result of the centrifugal forces of nationalist self-assertion.
Now the rump of what had once been an empire, Austria was proclaimed a Republic in 1918. The intended "Anschluß" by the provisory parliament to the German Reich was forbidden. Reduced to the dimension of a small state, it had difficulty finding its place in the new European order. In 1938 Austria succumbed to the pressures of Hitler's Germany and internal instability.
The self-declared "first victim of Hitler" was revived territorially intact as a Republic in 1945, but remained occupied by the armies of France, Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States until 1955, when the Austrian State Treaty was signed. In the same year the Austrian Parliament enacted a constitutional law on the country's status of permanent neutrality, and before year's end Austria had joined the United Nations. In the ensuing decades this country has gained a recognised position in the concert of European nations. After years of endeavour, Austria became fully involved in the European integration process when it joined the European Union on January 1, 1995. In February 1995, Austria accepted the invitation to participate in NATO's Partnership for Peace. For many years Austria has made an active contribution to the United Nations' peace-keeping missions. Austria supports the creation of a European security system which would further enhance th e security of Europe.
The Political System
Austria is a democratic republic. Its head of state (the Federal President) and its legislative organs are elected by the populace. Citizens of Austria have been guaranteed basic rights and freedoms (such as freedom of belief and conscience) since 1867.
Austria is a federal republic composed of nine constituent federal states (Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Upper Austria, Vienna and Vorarlberg), each with its own assembly and government. Vienna is also the nation's capital. Federal legislation is enacted by the two chambers of Parliament: the "Nationalrat" and the "Bundesrat". The latter chamber represents the interests of the federal states. The state diets exercise the legislative power of the federal states. The 183 deputies in the "Nationalrat" are elected by the populace every four years. The members of the state diets are elected by the population of the federal state concerned. The members of the "Bundesrat" - currently 64 - are nominated by the state diets.
The supreme federal executive organs are the Federal President and the members of the Federal Government, headed by the Federal Chancellor, since 1970 a social-democrat. The supreme state executive organs are the State Governments, each headed by the State Governor. Since 1945, Austrias politics and society are largely determined by concordance between the different parties (SPÖ, ÖVP, FPÖ, LF and Greens) and social partnership between employers and employees/trade unions.
The Austrian economy might best be characterised as "small but beautiful". Austria is a small European country in terms of gross domestic product, area, and population. Yet, since the end of World War II, it has achieved a remarkable record of growth, even when international conditions have not been at their most favourable. Austria has done this by concentrating on manufacturing the products of the second industrial revolution - such as high-quality machine tools, chemicals, and other producer goods - and exporting them primarily to the countries of Western Europe, especially Germany. The Austrian system of economic and social consensus, characterised by the term social partnership, has functioned effectively to permit a high standard of living for its citizens and especially for its labour force. The chambers of commerce, and agriculture, and labour, together with the trade unions, have joined and supported a considerable framewor k of institutions and regulations that make Austria a model for relations between public and private institutions.
Like other industrial societies, Austria found its agricultural and industrial sectors declining as the services sector grew. Whereas services and industry accounted for nearly equal shares of the GDP in 1970, by 1997 industry's share (31.6%) was less than half that of services (66.9%). Agriculture's and forestrys share has declined steadily, so that by 1997, with 1.5%, it was no longer significant economically, but still had social importance.
Employment trends have shifted according to the relative importance of the three sectors. Agriculture's share of employment fell by more than half from 1970 to about 6.6% in 1997. Industry employed about 47% of the work force in the late 1960s and 30.3% in 1997. The service sector employed roughly the same portion of the work force as industry in the late 1960s, but in 1997 it employed 63.1% of the work force.
Services, like agriculture, are usually performed locally and by medium- or small-sized firms. Thus, a listing of Austria's twenty largest firms in 1991 showed mainly industrial companies.
Most Austrian firms are small. Over half the non-farm labour force is employed by firms with fewer than 100 employees. About 500,000 Austrians worked in medium-sized firms having between 100 and 499 employees, and only 140 firms had more than 1,000 employees.
Macro-economic data attribute to Austria the fourth highest GDP per capita, the second lowest unemployment rate and the lowest inflation rate in the EU. Austria is among the richest countries in the world and the "World Competitiveness Yearbook 1997" ranks Austria first in quality of life.
Demography and Family
The demographic history of Austria corresponds to the general changes that have taken place in other industrial nations, but with a number of regional and historical differences. An increasing life expectancy, a declining fertility rate (or a lower birth rate), and a greater concentration of population in urban areas are trends Austria shares with other advanced industrial nations. The cataclysmic events of World War I and World War II, the substantial population movements - both forced and voluntary - during the inter-war period and after World War II, the influx of foreign workers starting in the 1960s, and the opening of Eastern Europe beginning in the late 1980s all affected the size and structure of Austria's population.
Between 1900 and 1998, the country's population grew from 6 million to 8 million. War deaths and birth deficits during each of the world wars and the consequences of the Great Depression profoundly influenced the development of Austria's population. Approximately 470,000 were killed in action or as a result of military action during the World Wars, 100,000 (Jewish and non-Jewish Austrian) died in concentration camps or were executed, 200,000 emigrated. These unnatural losses could be balanced by about 650,000 people who immigrated to Austria between 1945 and 1990 and became citizens.
The increase in the birth rate in Austria during the 1950s corresponded with the trends in most other West European countries. Between 1950 and 1997, the infant mortality rate in Austria dropped from over 61.3 per 1,000 live births to 4.7 per 1,000, an indication of improvements Austrian health authorities had made in prenatal and postnatal care. During the 1960s, Austria experienced an unprecedented population growth related to an increase in births over deaths and a large influx of foreign workers. After the mid-1960s, however, there was a substantial and continuous drop in the fertility and birth rates in Austria, generally referred to as the "pill drop-off". In 1974 this trend was further influenced by the legalisation of abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy. Since the mid-1970s, Austria - after Italy and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) - has had the third lowest fertility rate in the world: 1.37 children per woman in 1998 (e stimated), a rate substantially lower than the replacement rate of 2.09. The overall decline of fertility among Austria's indigenous population is similar to developments in other advanced industrial nations in Europe.
The decline is caused by a complex set of factors, including the increased use of contraception and abortion, and the increased employment of women outside the home, and changing values and attitudes toward marriage, family, and childbearing.
An increase in immigration and the higher fertility rate of foreign workers account for the greatest part of Austria's net population growth in the 1990s. The actual average life expectancy at birth is 77.3 years (74.1 for males and 80.7 for females). Like other Western industrialised nations, Austria is confronted with an increasing proportion of senior citizens in the population. At present, the proportion of over-60s in the population is 19.7%; this will increase to 24.5% in 2015 and 33% in 2030. One of the major concerns under these circumstances is the burden placed on the Austrian social security system: to what extent will a constant, or shrinking, labour force be able to maintain an increasing number of pensioners?
Within Austria there are substantial variations in regional patterns of population growth among the indigenous population. Throughout the 1960s and the 1970s, there was a clear "east-west watershed" in population growth. The west had higher rates of fertility, while the east's lower rates of fertility led to a stagnating or declining population. The economic and social reasons for these patterns of development were complex and included the Soviet occupation of eastern Austria from 1945 to 1955 and the depopulation of regions along the Iron Curtain, the traditionally weak economic infrastructure of predominantly rural areas in eastern and south eastern Austria, and the conservatism and deeply rooted Roman Catholicism of western Austria.
In the late nineteenth century, large sections of the Austrian population were effectively excluded from the institutions of marriage and family because they lacked the property and income necessary to participate in them. In Alpine and rural communities, for example, property ownership was a traditional prerequisite for marriage that neither day-labourers nor household servants of land-owning farmers could meet. Among urban and industrial working classes, poverty was so widespread that it made the establishment of independent households and families difficult.
During the course of the twentieth century, however, marriage and family have become increasingly common, especially after World War II, when the "economic miracle" brought prosperity to nearly everyone. For the first time in Austrian history, there was almost uniform access to these basic social institutions. Because oft this, the post-war period up through the 1960s represented a "golden age" of the family in Austria. More than 90% of the women born between 1935 and 1945 have married - a percentage higher than any generation before or since. The "two child family" was considered an ideal.
Beginning in the 1970s, a number of trends appeared that represented a dramatic change in attitudes toward the ideals of marriage and family. There was a sharp drop in the birth rate and a decrease in family size, accompanied by a greater prevalence of people who never married, people who divorce, single-parent families, cohabiting couples, and marriages without children.
In the early 1990s, fewer Austrian women were bearing children - an estimated 20 to 30% will never have a child - and those who have children are bearing fewer. After the end of the "baby boom" of the early 1960s, the Austrian fertility rate dropped steadily from 2.82 to an all-time low of estimated 1.37 in 1998. Family size has shrunk correspondingly. Marriage without children was twice as common in the 1990s (a third) as in the previous generation, and the number of families having three or more children dropped by more than half (to 10.7%). Families having one or two children accounted for roughly one-third and one-fourth of families respectively in the early 1990s. Large families are most common among farmers, who have a historical and economic tradition of having many children, and among working-class women having little education.
Between 1970 and 1990s, the number of single-parent families increased almost five times faster than the traditional two parent families. Nearly 90% of single parents were women. Some of these single-parent households resulted from women's conscious choice to bear children without marrying. More often, however, divorce was the cause; more than one-half of single parents were divorced. About one-third of the single parents were unmarried, and about one tenth were widows or widowers.
The frequency of marriage has also declined since the 1960s. Of the women born in the late 1930s, only 8% remained single, compared with an estimated 25% of women born in the 1960s. One reason for the rise in the unmarried population is the increasing number of educated women who have professional and economic alternatives to traditional wife-mother roles. Another reason for the smaller number of marriages is that cohabitation without marriage has become more frequent and socially acceptable.
The declining number of marriages and the delayed marrying age are accompanied by an increased frequency of divorce. The divorce rate in Austria increased from 15% in the early 1960s to more than 33% in the early 1990s. Divorce granted on the basis of "no fault" or mutual consent became legal in Austria in the early 1980s. The divorce rate was highest in Vienna and lowest in Tyrol, an indication that traditional and religious values are least binding in urban areas and more persistent in a traditional Alpine setting. Women who are employed outside of the home and have their own sources of income demonstrate a greater readiness to divorce than "traditional wives".
Illegitimacy has also become more frequent. Beginning in the 1960s, the percentage of illegitimate births increased steadily, from 11.5% in 1965 to nearly 29% in 1997. For first-born children, the rate was over 33%. These figures reflect tolerant attitudes toward illegitimacy in many regions in the Alps where illegitimate children were a traditional aspect of the Alpine agrarian way of life. Wage-labourers and servants within the households of land owning farmers frequently were unable to marry, but their offspring enjoyed a high degree of social acceptance because illegitimacy was common and provided the landowners with the next generation of labourers. Although the traditional agrarian structure of these regions has changed considerably, the tolerance of illegitimacy remains. In other parts of Austria not having comparable traditions, illegitimate birth is not stigmatised to the same extent as it was earlier. More than half of the illegitimate births in Austria is legalised by marriage, and the great majority of second- and third-born children are legitimate. The fact that the social welfare system provides more extensive benefits for single mothers than for married ones also can be interpreted as a financial incentive for initial illegitimacy in some cases.
The origins of the contemporary Austrian social security system date back to the end of the nineteenth century, when rudimentary forms of social security were introduced for specific occupational groups. The main thrust in the development of the country's social security system in the twentieth century has been the creation of a unified social insurance policy for all occupational groups. The extent of social security coverage and the number of benefits increased in Austria steadily from the end of World War II until the early 1980s. As a result, Austria was among the most highly developed welfare states in the world and had a complicated system of direct taxes on employers and employees and indirect taxes that financed a broad spectrum of benefits.
The welfare measures begin before birth and accompany an Austrian citizen throughout his or her life. Many highly-developed areas of social welfare have been copied by other countries; these include kindergartens, schools, special-needs schools, youth and student hostels, old-age homes, council housing, hospitals, accident prevention and industrial hygiene. Austria's social security legislation encompasses extensive insurance coverage in the event of accident, illness (including surgery), childbirth, spa treatment, unemployment, invalidity, old age and pension payments for surviving dependants.
Every employee in Austria has a legal claim to at least five weeks' paid holiday leave per annum. If an employee falls ill, he or she either continues to be paid full wages/ salary or receives sick pay from the social insurance scheme. Mothers may not work eight weeks before and after a birth. Parents are entitled to take two years' maternity leave (from the day of the birth). During this time the parent receives maternity benefits and may not be dismissed from his or her job.
The working day consists of eight hours, the working week of forty hours (spread out over five days wherever possible). Higher wage rates apply to overtime. Child labour is prohibited. Young people, women and mothers enjoy special protection as employees.
A state benefit is payable on the birth of a child. Persons with their domicile in Austria who provide for children are also eligible to receive children's allowances. After the early 1980s, social policy entered a phase of consolidation characterised by difficulties related to funding extensive social security programs, growing levels of unemployment, stagnating economic growth, increasing budget deficits, and demographics of an ageing population. However, as of 1998, Austria had managed to maintain its high level of social security without major reductions in benefits.
The "General School Regulations" decreed by Empress Maria Theresa in 1774 laid the cornerstone for Austria's education system. Eight-year compulsory education was introduced in 1869. In modern-day Austria compulsory schooling lasts nine years. The four-year elementary school (ages 6 to 10) is followed by secondary education (in either a "Hauptschule" or the lower classes of an "allgemein bildende höhere Schule"). Pupils who leave school at fourteen can enrol at a Polytechnical Course which prepares them for working life. Apprentices are required to attend a vocational school. The upper segment of secondary education is covered by a range of school types: "allgemein bildende höhere Schulen" providing a general education with the emphasis either on the arts or on sciences, but also vocational schools at various levels. A diploma of completion acquired at one of the above school types entitles the holder to enrol at the 19 universities and colleges. Austria's school system is governed by uniform regulations nation-wide. No fees are charged for attendance at state-run schools. School text books and travel to and from school are largely free of charge. In the 1996/97 academic year there were 1,181,724 pupils in Austria, in 53,393 school classes and 217,200 students fully enrolled at Austria's universities and art colleges.
Social Data Production
In 1829, a central agency was established for providing official statistics, and it has existed ever since under different names. Since 1945, the name of the re-established agency has been the Austrian Central Statistical Office (Österreichisches Statistisches Zentralamt, ÖSTAT).
Austrian official statistics consists of the national statistical bureau, the Austrian Central Statistical Office (ÖSTAT) and one regional statistical office in each of the nine Länder. The task of ÖSTAT is to produce federal statistics, which means all statistics which go beyond the particular interest of an individual "Land" and which are of significance to the federal administration or which have to be provided by the Republic of Austria in accordance with obligations under international law directly applicable in Austria. However, the "Länder" and municipalities maintain small independent statistical offices. Special agreements have been concluded between the ÖSTAT and these offices to improve communication and data exchange. These offices use federal statistics for their own purposes, but also produce statistics on their own.
Statistical data collected in ÖSTAT surveys - compiled since the 1990s in ISIS (Integrated Statistical Information System) with online and offline access - form a basis for political and economic decision-making in the public and private sectors and are used for scientific research work, especially in the social sciences. Since Austria's entry in the European Union on 1 January 1995, ÖSTAT's cooperation with EUROSTAT has become even more important than in the previous years.
Since 1945, official Austrian statistics are characterised by their economic and social orientation. Not only population censuses were carried out decennially (1951, 1961, 1971, 1981 and 1991), but also the Austrian microcensus and sample surveys on consumption, labour force or housing, etc. were introduced in the 1960s. Mainly since the 1970s, another major field of research of ÖSTAT and research groups outside the office focus on historical statistics.
ÖSTAT is divided into an Administrative Division, a Systems and Methods Division, and eight other divisions covering various fields and sub-fields of statistics. The Austrian Data Processing Register as a separate Federal authority is attached to ÖSTAT.
Related statistical bodies are the Central Statistical Commission (CSC) and Special Advisory Sub-committees. The CSC is chaired by the President of ÖSTAT and is composed of ordinary members (mostly "officials") and extraordinary members (representatives of science, economy and culture). The CSC provides expert advice for the carrying out of complex surveys and acts as a mediator between producers and consumers of statistics. It also suggests priorities for ÖSTAT projects. The special advisory sub-committees (currently numbering 18) are set up to allow small groups of experts to discuss specific statistical problems.
Bachinger, Karl, Hildegard Hemetsberger-Koller and
Herbert Matis 1994: Grundriss der österreichischen Sozial- und
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National Statistical Institute
Österreichisches Statistisches Zentralamt (OESTAT), Hintere Zollamtsstraße 2b, A-1030 Wien. (+43/1) 71128/76547656, Fax:(+43/1) 715 68 28, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org , Internet: " http://www. oestat.gv.at/index.htm " . Publications are directly available from OESTAT.
Social Science Research Institutions
Social Science and Political Journals
Demographische Informationen, Wien: Institut für Demographie, 1. 1981(1980)-;
Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften (ÖZG), Wien: Verlag für Gesellschaftskritik, 1.1990-, ISSN 1016-765X;
Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft (ÖZP), Wien: Verlag für Gesellschaftskritik, 1.1972-, ISSN 0378-5149;
Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie (ÖZS), Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1.1976-, ISSN: 1011-0070;
Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik, Wien: Verlag für Geschichte und Politik, 1976-;
Soziale Sicherheit. Fachzeitschrift für die Sozialversicherung, Wien, 1.1948, June, ISSN: 0038-6065;
Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, Wien: Orac, 1975, ISSN 0378-5130.
Solsten, Eric, ed. 1994: Austria. A Country Study. Washington: Library of Congress.
Sully, Melanie A. 1990: A Contemporary History of Austria. London: Routledge.
Sweeney, Jim and Josef Weidenholzer, eds. 1988: Austria: A Study in Modern Achievement. Aldershot: Avebury.
Urbantschitsch, Wolfgang 1998: National Parliaments in the European Union: The Austrian Experience. Graz: Forschungsinstitut für Europarecht, Karl-Franzens-Universität.
University of Mannheim
Hermann Schwenger is documentalist / librarian of the Quellen- Informationsarchiv (QUIA) at the MZES. He is co-author of "Trade Unions of Europe. Structures, Sources and Research. A Reference Book" (forthcoming). As a sideline he is further preparing a thesis on "Consumer Cooperatives in the German Democratic Republic 1945-1952".