Colleagues with a nationality other than Austrian often work in systemically relevant sectors such as care, cleaning, retail or delivery services. They make up one fifth of all workers and make a significant contribution to the country’s economic success. – Nothing works without her. Your work deserves respect and recognition. Nevertheless, they are often disadvantaged and earn significantly less than many Austrians. How do we make our working world fair?
Respect for an important contribution to society
Employees with other citizenships are more likely to have a university degree and more likely to have completed compulsory schooling than those with Austrian citizenship. They often work below their qualifications. In Austria, the recognition of educational qualifications obtained abroad is regulated in an extremely complex manner and resembles a hurdle race.
Women with other nationalities are often employed in care, cleaning and trade – they often even make up the majority of employees in these sectors. Mostly men work in the parcel and delivery services. Employees with other nationalities are disproportionately often employed as workers and twice as often as temporary workers. Women in particular are affected by poverty despite employment – 21 percent state that they cannot live on their income (or their pension will not be sufficient).
Worse position of colleagues with other nationalities and discrimination in the working world
The assessment “Colleagues with nationalities other than Austrian on the labor market (2022)’ by SORA on the employment situation, job satisfaction and discrimination at work shows many aspects of disadvantage. Five of these are described below. It also contains strong references to discrimination based on origin. 24 percent of those surveyed with other nationalities state that they receive a lower income than their colleagues with Austrian nationality, despite the same professional position and tasks.
Obvious explanations for the disadvantages shown are:
- poorer framework conditions in the sectors in which employees with a migration background are overrepresented (indirect discrimination) and
- direct discrimination against people with a migration background.
(1) Under pressure at work: job insecurity
The jobs of colleagues with other nationalities are characterized by a high level of pressure: Employers often follow the principle of “hire and fire”, pay below average wages, expect heavy workloads and unhealthy working conditions. In addition, the social standing of the professions exercised is lower.
Colleagues with other nationalities are often the first to lose their jobs in a downturn – for example because they often work in jobs with poorer security due to a lack of recognition of their training and uncertain residence status. The comparatively lower job security is also evident in the unemployment figures: The Unemployment rate among employees with Austrian citizenship is significantly lower than that of colleagues with other nationalities.
(2) Wage and social security fraud business model
In all sectors, colleagues with other nationalities earn less than colleagues with Austrian nationality. The fact that the income is not enough to live on (working poor) is more than twice as common among employees with other nationalities than among those with Austrian (as also the working climate index of the AK Upper Austria proves).
In addition to direct discrimination (see point 4), they also find work more frequently in sectors in which employers sometimes work systematically with wage and social security fraud; especially the construction industry. Companies in these sectors have made the exploitation of the socially and legally insecure position of colleagues with nationalities other than Austrian a practical business model. Employers seem to be taking advantage of the insecure residency situation. In addition to the employees affected, the general public bears the damage (wage and social dumping, unfair competition, insolvency costs).
(3) Unhealthy workplaces
Every fifth employee with a nationality other than Austrian is affected by unhealthy working conditions – twice as often as those with Austrian nationality. The Risk of accidents and injuries at work is half higher for colleagues with other nationalities than for colleagues with Austrian nationality.
(4) Failure to comply with labor law
It is alarming that a fifth of colleagues with citizenships other than Austrian state that Labor law not respected becomes. This is twice as common as for employees with Austrian nationality.
The experiences from the AK employment law advice show that they are often not paid overtime or overtime. Currently, however, employers only have to pay what should have been paid anyway. Penalties for companies have not been increased, but have even been reduced. The abolition of the cumulation principle, according to which a fine was to be paid for every employee affected by wage dumping, has the effect of a lump sum for fraud. No matter how many colleagues a company betrays, the range of penalties now always remains the same. However, those affected rarely assert their rights for fear of losing their job.
(5) Disadvantage in further education and advancement
are colleagues with nationalities other than Austrian less often satisfied with the opportunities for further vocational training (46 vs. 61 percent) and the promotion and development opportunities in the company (40 vs. 53 percent). Temporary workers, among whom people with a migration background are overrepresented, often work in the same company for years without being part of the core workforce. Co-determination and participation in further training are almost impossible.
“Because I feel like an Austrian” – desire for Austrian citizenship
Some of the colleagues without Austrian citizenship were born in Austria or have been living in the country for years to decades. The connection to Austria is often much more pronounced than to the country of citizenship. 39 percent of the people living here with other citizenships are striving to acquire Austrian citizenship. Almost every second person who was born in the country states this wish. your main motivations for this are:
1) that they feel as Austrians,
2) their right of residence becomes more secure
3) Right to vote (see study on citizenship acquisition).
However, it is difficult to obtain citizenship Austria has one of the most restrictive citizenship laws in the world. For people with low incomes, which unfortunately often occur in many systemically important professions, it is almost impossible to meet the income requirements.
In Austria, 1.5 million people or 18 percent of the resident population do not have Austrian citizenship. This includes every fifth child born in the country – 250,000 children and young people are “natively born foreigners”. The naturalization rate in Austria is only 0.6 percent.
Democracy-political problem – the voice of the workers is getting quieter and quieter
Colleagues who decide to stay in Austria permanently find it increasingly difficult to obtain Austrian citizenship – and thus the right to vote. The systematic exclusion of ever-larger sections of the population is reminiscent of the monarchy’s class voting rights: one fifth of Austria’s employees are generally not allowed to take part in elections to the National Council and state parliaments. The voice of the employees does not have the weight in the National Council and in the formation of the government that corresponds to their contribution to economic success, the importance of their achievements in the country where they live.
What can be done to improve our working environment for employees with other nationalities:
- Facilitating the recognition of foreign educational qualifications
- Get out of the temporary work trap: After six months of being hired out, temporary workers should be taken on by the main company
- Effective penalties for companies in the event of wage cuts and social security tax fraud
- general contractor liability for wages
- Fairer access to citizenship
Measures are aimed at those sectors in which colleagues with other nationalities are often employed. The recognition of educational qualifications and better access to citizenship improve their position in the labor market!