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Employment in Vienna

At a Glance:

  • Vienna has a well-developed economy and although most jobs are found in the service sector, the marginal sector still plays an important part in terms of turnover.
  • The city has reacted accordingly to its international appeal by founding an Expat Center which serves as a contact point for expats who are looking for advice and support.
  • Several factors determine which permit you require and it is advised you familiarize yourself with the different permits before you move to Austria’s capital.
  • Every employee receives mandatory health insurance, insurance against work-related accidents and illnesses, and pays into a pension fund from the day of their first paycheck.
  • Although most businessmen make use German, you will most likely come across the Wienerisch dialect, which is unique yet widely popular in the city.

The Economy of a Wealthy Region

Vienna, which constitutes both a city and its own federal state, contributes some 25% of Austria’s gross national product. It is also  in the top 10 of the wealthiest regions in Europe. As is typical for the Western industrialized world today, most jobs in Vienna are found in the service sector. Roughly one third of these employees earn a living in trade, real estate, leasing and business services. Overall, the majority of revenue generated in Vienna (approximately 85%) is made within the tertiary sector.

But working in Vienna does not automatically imply leaving nature behind. While agriculture is a rather marginal sector in terms of turnover, its importance to the city is fairly large. More than 650 agricultural businesses are currently based within Vienna’s city limits. The agricultural sector was allotted about 3,000ha of Vienna’s municipal area. The most common crops are grain, potatoes and other vegetables. The sprawling vineyards on the outskirts of the city show that the city has a long tradition in the wine business.

Vienna’s Strong Service Sector

Vienna is home to many historic sites and unparalleled works of art. Its beauty is often compared to places such as Paris, Berlin or Rome. Thus, Vienna profits considerably from the crowds of tourists that visit the city throughout the year. Not only does this benefit those working in Vienna’s many tourist hotspots, but it also helps establish and consolidate its reputation as a metropolis.

Vienna’s large media sector, with its numerous national and local newspapers, radio stations and TV channels, is also a popular career choice for many people. The big international media conglomerates have subsidiaries here, and, of course, many correspondents from major news agencies are present in the city.

In its function as an economic driving force and renowned metropolis, Vienna is a major hub in Europe, boasting branches and headquarters of countless multinational corporations. Many expats working in Vienna are employed at one of these companies. Nearly every Austrian bank and large national company has its headquarters in the city. Most companies in the Global 500 are represented here as well. Companies from the eastern regions of Europe value Vienna for its strategically favorable position between Central and Eastern Europe.

Expat Opportunities in a Growing Economy

The overall economic trend of the past few years has shown considerable annual growth. While Vienna has also suffered from the global financial crisis, the consequences have been comparably mild. The city still offers career opportunities to expats in virtually any line of work and business. This makes working in Vienna a prestigious, lucrative and sensible decision. If you are thinking of making the step abroad to Austria’s capital, you can find assistance at one of the many relocation providers located in the city. These consulting businesses offer valuable help and are often hired by larger companies. The city itself is also well aware of its international appeal, and it has reacted accordingly. A newly founded center for expats serves as a contact point and offers advice on different aspects of expat life. Please see our article on living in Vienna for further information.

Vienna: Employment and Work Permits

First Things First: Finding a Job

You can approach the task of finding employment in Vienna in the same manner as in other places. Several internet portals such as Jobrapido, Jobs in Vienna or Monster are highly popular sources of classifieds from all business sectors and with all salary levels. Many companies also advertise leading employment positions in local newspapers and their online editions. A highly recommended source for high-profile jobs in Vienna and, in fact, all the German-speaking regions of Europe, is the web page of the weekly Die Zeit.

The Public Employment Service (AMS) has job listings as well. It offers advice and help for job-seekers at their many offices in Vienna. These services are in German only, though. If you are looking for similar services in English or other European languages, consult the pages of EURES, a European agency which works closely with its Austrian equivalent.

Do You Need a Work Permit?

Before you can start working in Vienna, there are a number of bureaucratic steps to take for getting an Austrian work permit. The following factors, among others, determine which work permit you require:

  • your country of origin or permanent residence
  • your occupation / line of work
  • your qualifications
  • the period of time you will be working in Vienna

In accordance with EU regulations, people originating from or permanently settled in an EU country don’t have to apply for work permits. This also applies to Swiss citizens.

Austria requires expats to provide evidence of basic German language skills prior to relocation. You can acquire a course certificate or language diploma from many acknowledged institutions such as the Goethe Institut or the Austrian Integration Fund. Please consult your local language institute for your options.

Get the Permit that Fits Your Needs

Generally speaking, finding a job will come the easiest if you are highly qualified or have an employment contract before coming to Austria. If you do not already have a contract, Austria provides another option: the country offers special six-month job-seeker visas for people who’d like to actively look for jobs in the country. This also gives you a chance to familiarize yourself with your future city of residence.

After the application process of about two months, you are free to explore the Viennese job market. If your job hunt has been successful, please consider that you now need to apply for a regular work permit.

Highly skilled professionals should apply for a Red-White-Red Card or an EU Blue card. These two include both a work permit and a settlement permit. However, the latter is of limited duration. Acquiring one of these will probably involve the least amount of paperwork and provide the quickest start to working in Vienna. Despite the rather complicated regulations, your future employer should help you make the paperwork as easy as possible.

However, there are many exceptions and special regulations you might wish to familiarize yourself with. It is highly recommended to visit the pages on migration affairs of the Austrian Federal Government to find out which option is right for you.

Doing Business in Vienna

Social Security: Don’t Worry, You Are Covered!

As per the Austrian social security regulations, every employee receives mandatory health insurance, insurance against work-related accidents and illnesses, and pays into a pension fund from the day of their first paycheck.

The public health insurance plan covers doctor’s appointments and basic hospital visits. Medication can be obtained with a prescription for a small fee. Additional insurance coverage is optional. You will be issued a free E-card with your health insurance, which acts as proof of insurance and provides healthcare in all of Europe. Please see our article about living in Vienna for further information on healthcare and insurance. In general, anybody working in Vienna is covered for many of life’s eventualities.

Austria has international social security agreements with numerous countries: The money you pay into the Austrian pension fund can be transferred into the pension fund of your home country when your time as an expat is over. Please refer to this list to find out if this applies to your country of origin.

Do You Speak Wienerisch?

In Vienna, one of the first characteristics you will come across is the famous Wienerisch dialect. While this dialect is quite unique and widely popular in the city, most businesspeople will make use of standard German.

A good command of English and other European languages, such as French or Italian, is a great asset in Austria’s business world. You can expect most professionals to have a grasp of at least one foreign language. English, for example, is taught in Austrian schools from fifth grade. However, to achieve higher levels of success, confidence, and enjoyment, you should have advanced German skills.

Upgrade Your Language Skills

As Vienna has proven to be desirable for many people from around the world, the city offers high-quality German classes in order to help them settle in. There are also a number of private institutions which can assist you in becoming proficient in the new language.

Furthermore, other expats who have already become fluent in German might offer their help through newspaper ads or via internet. The homepage of the Vienna City Administration includes an overview of the various possibilities for language learning.

Business Culture: Between Etiquette and Small Talk

Although the Viennese are known throughout Austria and the German-speaking world for their blunt, but cordial conduct, you should refrain from such frankness when starting your new job. Business etiquette tends to be rather reserved and conservative.

Physical contact during greetings and in other situations is to be avoided, with the exception of handshakes. Punctuality, seriousness and reliability are crucial factors in the Austrian business environment, and should be demonstrated consistently. Too jovial behavior might be regarded as unprofessional.

Your leisure time will, of course, be a lot less governed by rules, and the Viennese are generally open towards different cultures and ways of life. Nonetheless, you should stick to small talk and discussions of popular pastimes. It is critical that you avoid political and historical topics from 20th-century history as much as possible; older generations in particular might easily be offended.

Please be also aware of the many cultural differences between Austria and Germany. Austria is a nation with its very own identity, and comparing it to Germany (or viewing it as an “appendix” of sorts) will be regarded as offensive and disrespectful.

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  • Fernando Achutegui

    InterNations events and forums have provided me with an extensive network of business and personal contacts in Vienna.

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    The group of InterNations expats in Vienna is so open and friendly that it was very easy to make friends.

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