Civil Service

Austria Table of Contents

Civil servants have held a position of respect in Austrian society since the formation of the civil service in the eighteenth century, when it was considered to be "carrying out a mission for the state." The civil service is highly regulated. Public servants take an oath of office, promise obedience to their superiors, and pledge to keep official matters secret. A civil servant may neither join an association nor be employed in another job that could be interpreted as unworthy of his or her position.

Besides the high esteem in which the civil service is held, job security is also an attractive feature. Periodic raises are automatic, and promotions are scheduled at regular intervals. The retirement pension is adequate. A civil servant may be dismissed only for serious misconduct.

During the grand coalition of 1945-66, the ÍVP and SPÍ introduced the system of Proporz into the civil service. Prior to the founding of the Second Republic, the civil service had been dominated by ÍVP members, and thus after 1945 special steps were taken to recruit persons with ties to the SPÍ. The two parties came to exercise almost complete control of the personnel of the ministries that they controlled in the cabinet. During the period of single-party rule (1966-83), the importance of political allegiance came to play a lesser role in the selection process of the civil service. Chancellor Kreisky made sure that a large number of persons without party affiliation were appointed to high-level positions in the civil service.

Reforms also were introduced in this period to make the civil service better able to attract highly qualified people. In 1975 a civil service training academy was established, and after 1980 some top positions were changed to fixed-term appointments. Further changes were made to give equal opportunity for career advancement to all members of the civil service, regardless of their specialty. Traditionally, people with legal training had a decided advantage in rising to the top of the system. As of 1993, the government was working on a comprehensive reform of the civil service system.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress