Foreign Workers in Austria

Austria Table of Contents

One of the constant factors on the Austrian manufacturing scene since the 1960s has been the employment of foreign workers. Some of them were refugees from Eastern Europe who chose to remain in Austria and were permitted to do so. Others were from Turkey or farther away. In 1973 the number of foreign workers had reached about 227,000, or about 8.7 percent of the work force. After that, as Austria's own boom began to slow after the first "oil shock" and the global slowdown during the mid-1970s, the Austrian government began reducing the number of foreign workers to protect the positions of Austrian workers. In 1978 the number of foreign workers had been reduced had about to 177,000. In the 1980s, the number had dropped to approximately 140,000 to 150,000, or about 5 to 6 percent of the labor force. As in other West European countries, foreign workers in Austria performed and continue to perform many tasks not wanted by Austrian workers.

The number of foreign workers began rising rapidly in 1989, as the borders with Eastern Europe became more porous, and almost doubled by 1990. The number of foreign workers actually peaked during the middle of 1991 at about 280,000, or more than 8 percent of the work force. The Austrian government began taking vigorous border-control and administrative measures in order to prevent further entry of these workers into the labor force. The number began dropping during the last several months of 1991, as it had during the 1970s when the government intervened, but there was no certainty that the government would be as successful during the 1990s as it had been during the 1970s because of the more open borders between Eastern and Western Europe. What was more probable was that the rise in Austrian unemployment during the early 1990s, as a result of the Austrian recession, would reduce the number of foreign workers. The unemployment rate among those workers is higher than among native Austrians. Although certain elements of the Austrian economy, especially hotels and restaurants, cannot function without foreign workers, many Austrians resent the employment of foreigners when many Austrians are without work.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress