For many people, Austria is primarily a holiday destination. Winter sports fanatics from all over the world come to Austria for their skiing holidays; others come to enjoy hiking in the Alps during the summertime. Thousands of tourists flock to places like Vienna and Salzburg every year for their holidays — but working in Austria? Surely that’s just for Austrians?
Wrong. You’d be surprised to know just how many expats have found employment in Austria. Most of them end up working in the nation’s capital Vienna, which is home to many major international organizations, such as the OSCE and OPEC. Together with New York, Geneva and The Hague, Vienna is one of the UN cities and hosts several offices and sub-organizations of the United Nations.
The fact that Austria is so widely known as a holiday destination already hints at one important truth about the Austrian economy: the importance of tourism. With 334,000 direct employees (in 2013), tourism is a significant source of income and jobs. As mentioned above, the Alps feature big as Austria’s main tourist attraction, but city trips, cultural tours and spa holidays also play an important part.
Looking at the bigger picture, it is the services sector as a whole (not just tourism) which is the motor of Austria’s economy. Sixty-eight percent of the country’s total workforce is working in Austria’s third sector, generating some 65% of the GDP. Apart from tourism, trade and banking are the main areas of interest. People employed in Austria’s banking sector still benefit from relatively strict confidentiality laws.
Austria has a modern and productive industry. The secondary sector employs 27% of the national workforce and accounts for roughly 33% of the GDP. Having said this, the mining industry has lost a lot of its importance in recent years. Although there is still salt and some ore mining, other areas (such as coal) have been neglected. Today, most people working in Austria’s mining industry are employed in quarries.
The primary sector contributes very little towards the GDP and only 1% of the working population is actually employed in the agricultural sector — despite the fact that 87% of Austria’s surface is agricultural, mountainous, or forested land. The reason may be that there is comparatively little industrial farming. About 17% of the agricultural enterprises and farmers in Austria specialize in organic produce — the highest density in the EU.
Austrian wines are back in the game after the glycol scandal of the 1980s. More and more people are working in Austria’s wine business, making wine one of the country’s most important agricultural exports. Especially in Germany, Switzerland, the USA and the Netherlands Austrian wines enjoy particular popularity.
In our article on moving to Austria, we have already dealt with a couple of permits for living and working in Austria, namely the EU Blue Card and the Red-White-Red Card. In this paragraph, our main concerns will be the long-term work permit for non-EU/EEA nationals and the permit for the secondment of employees. EU citizens (apart from Croatian nationals) enjoy free labor market access.
The secondment of employees to Austria requires a specific permit, depending on where the company sending the project worker is registered and on the nationality of the worker. If the employer is an EU company but the employee is either a Croatian national or a non-EU citizen, an EU placement permit (Entsendebestätigung) is needed for working in Austria. If the employer is not from an EU member state or is originally from Croatia , the Austrian contractor must apply for a foreign placement permit (Entsendebewilligung). It is valid for 4 months. When it comes to work permits in general, those are tied to the respective residence permit as well as the passing of a language test which is anchored within the “Integration Agreement”. The most important permits are the Red-White-Red Card, which is valid for 12 months and requires the passing of language module 1, the EU Blue Card, which is valid for 24 months and requires no language test, and finally the long-term work permit. After five years of legally working in Austria and successfully having passed the language test module 2, foreigners may apply for a long-term work permit. It is valid for five years and allows you to take up work anywhere in the country. Foreign spouses and children of applicants may also apply. For further information with regards to residence and work permits, please visit the Austrian Migration Portal of the Federal Government.
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