Working in Austria
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Find out how to get a job and work in Austria
Austria combines a healthy economy with very high living standards, making it an interesting option for expats. InterNations GO! has compiled this guide on working in the republic in the Alps to help you make the most of your expat experience.
Employment in Austria
At a Glance:
- Tourism plays a very important part in Austria’s economy, and the Alps are its main attraction; around 70% of all employees work in Austria’s service sector.
- The most common work permit expats need is either the Red-White-Red Card which is valid for twelve months, the EU Blue Card which is valid for 24 months, or the long-term work permit.
- If you’re employed by an Austrian company, you’re immediately covered by public health insurance. Everyone who is insured automatically receives an e-card that you need to bring every time you visit a doctor.
- For business meetings and negotiations, always make sure to be punctual and accurate. You will also be expected to back up your statements with facts and figures.
For many people, Austria is primarily a holiday destination. Winter sports fanatics from all over the world come to Austria for a skiing vacation, while others come to enjoy hiking in the Alps during the summertime. Thousands of tourists flock to places like Vienna and Salzburg every year — some love it so much, they decide to relocate to the country in the Alps.
Most expats 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 Economic Climate in Austria
With almost 620,000 employees in 2015, tourism is a significant source of income and employment. As mentioned above, the Alps are 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), that is the motor of Austria’s economy. The majority of the workforce is active in this sector, generating over 70% of the GDP. Apart from tourism, trade and banking are the other main areas of interest.
The secondary sector employs 27% of the national workforce and accounts for roughly 33% of the GDP. While the mining industry has lost a lot of its importance in recent years, there are still a lot of jobs in environmental technology, logistics, and automotive production. Austrian employees are known to be loyal to their company, and this contributes to the country’s high productivity and GDP growth.
Organic Farming is the Future
Despite the fact that 87% of Austria’s surface is agricultural, mountainous, or forested land, only 1% of the working population is employed in the agricultural sector. The reason may be that there is comparatively little industrial farming. However, about 17% of the agricultural enterprises and farmers in Austria specialize in organic produce — they are one of the top producers of organically grown food in the EU.
Austria is known for having some of the world’s most unique wine regions. More and more people are working in the wine business, making it one of the country’s most important agricultural exports. Austrian wines are particularly popular in Germany, Switzerland, the USA, and the Netherlands
A Permit for Every Situation
Apart from Croatian nationals, EU citizens enjoy free labor market access. If you’re relocating to Austria from outside of the EU, you can consult our article on moving to Austria for a more in-depth explanation about the different work permits for expats.
Depending on your situation, these are the most important permits for expats:
- the Red-White-Red Card, which is valid for twelve months and requires the passing of language module 1
- the EU Blue Card, which is valid for 24 months and requires no language test
- the long-term work permit, which you can apply for after five years of legally working in Austria and successfully having passed the language test module 2It 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.
If a foreign employer is temporarily transferring an employee to Austria, they require a specific permit depending on where the company is registered and 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. 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), that is valid for four months.
For further information with regards to residence and work permits, please visit the Austrian Migration Portal of the Federal Government.
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The Business Environment in Austria
Einkommensteuer and Taxation Agreements
If, during the tax year, your principal residence has been in Austria, you are required to pay Einkommensteuer: Taxes on all income earned during that period. This applies to income from Austrian and non-Austrian sources. Income taxes are deducted at source if you are employed in Austria. As a freelancer or self-employed person in Austria, you are expected to file a declaration of your annual income after every financial year.
Double taxation agreements are in place between Austria and its neighboring states, all EU member states and several other countries. For nationals of the concerned countries, this means that they are not subject to Austrian income tax if their principal residence during this time was in their country of origin, and vice versa. Please consult the website of the Austrian Ministry of Finance for a detailed list of all double taxation agreements.
What Does Your Krankenversicherung Cover?
Like income tax, social security contributions are deducted at source from every employee’s salary. They are paid by the employer and the employee, and rates depend on the income and individual situation of the employee.
Social security mainly includes:
- health insurance (including maternity protection)
- accident insurance, which covers accidents at the workplace, vocational illness and its consequences
- old-age pension benefits
- unemployment insurance, e.g. unemployment benefits or social welfare
Austria has social security agreements with all EU countries and some other nations that ensure you don’t lose your entitlement to social security benefits when moving from one country to another. For a list of these agreements with explanations (in German), please visit the website of the Federal Ministry for Labor, Social Welfare and Consumer Protection.
Working Hours, Maternity Leave, and Women’s Rights
People working in Austria benefit from fair working conditions and employee protection. A standard working day consists of eight hours (within 24 hours), adding up to 40 hours per week for full-time employees. You may take 25 days of paid vacation per year, in addition to several official public holidays.
Female employees are obliged to take maternity leave for the final eight weeks of their pregnancy and the first eight weeks following the birth of their child. During this period, they receive a monthly allowance (“Wochengeld”) corresponding to their average net salary during the three months prior to their maternity leave. In addition, both parents (only one at a time) are entitled to so-called Elternkarenz, i.e. unpaid maternity or paternity leave which can be taken during the first 24 months of the child’s life. During this time, they enjoy protection against redundancy and their employer is obliged to take them back in the same or equivalent position. Additionally, the parent who is on leave is entitled to apply for a childcare allowance.
As in most European countries, you should never be discriminated against because of your gender. On average, however, men still earn a higher salary than women with the same qualifications, and the majority of top management posts are occupied by men. Recently, many Austrian companies have strengthened their efforts to increase the number of female employees in top management positions, and better protection of women’s rights is a priority of Austria’s foreign policy.
Handshake vs. Kuβ die Hand
Business relations tend to be quite formal: rank and titles are important, and people should always be addressed by their correct title followed by their last name. Make sure to use the formal “Sie” rather than the informal “Du” for the word “you”, unless you are explicitly invited to do otherwise. Punctuality and accuracy have a higher value than in some other cultures, so you should turn up for meetings in good time and be well-prepared. Similar to their day-to-day communication, Austrians tend to be direct and you will be expected to back up your statements with facts and figures.
At the first meeting, it’ s important that you greet each other with a short, firm handshake, while maintaining eye contact. However, foreign business women should not feel offended or belittled if their male Austrian business partner — especially if he is an older gentleman — prefers a “Küß’ die Hand” to a handshake when greeting a lady. This is the traditional Austrian way, and as a rather conservative country, people tend to honor their traditions. Expat men, however, are not expected to use this handshake.