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Austria looks abroad to address labour shortage

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The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKÖ) and the Labour Ministry want to work together to counteract the massive labour shortage in the coming years, Labour and Economic Affairs Minister Martin Kocher (ÖVP) said at a joint press conference on Tuesday, according to Euractiv. 

Austria faces a severe labour shortage, and the Federal Economic Chamber (WKÖ) and the Labour Ministry aim to collaborate to address it by targeting older workers, women with childcare responsibilities and advertising the domestic market abroad.

“It is about positioning Austria well as a business location in the world,” said Kocher at a press conference with WKÖ President Harald Mahrer on Tuesday, APA reported.

If Austria’s prosperity is to be maintained in the future, more workers would need to be attracted. In addition, Austria’s competitiveness would also be at stake. In other countries, such as Germany, a lot would currently be done to recruit new workers from other countries quickly. “The competition is not sleeping,” said Mahrer.

The two institutions aim to collaborate closely to boost the Austrian labour market by expanding their existing activities while involving the Austrian Business Agency and the labour market service (AMS). However, the number of foreign workers to be brought from abroad and the timeline remain unknown.

The Red-White-Red Card, which entitles its holder to settle and to work for a certain employer or to be self-employed, is an important tool to boost the labour market, and its reform has already been launched, Kocher said.

In the first three months of 2023, the number of cardholders increased by 50% compared to last year. Kocher expects the number to rise further from the current 1,900, while Mahrer believes it should reach the five-digit range in the medium term to meet the target.

According to liberal NEOS economic spokesperson Gerald Loacker, the conservative ÖVP, currently in a coalition with the Greens, would acknowledge staff shortage but continues to use xenophobic symbolism, making Austria unattractive for skilled workers from third countries. The right-wing FPÖ, on the other hand, is against recruiting more foreign workers.

Austria’s largest trade union ÖGB wants companies to offer attractive jobs and a suitable environment for skilled foreign workers and supports the WKÖ and the ministry’s plans while it suggests a degressive structure of unemployment benefits.