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In February 2021 (during the COVID-19 pandemic), the Austrian unemployment rate for young people under 25 amounted to 11.0% (among the lowest in the EU). In order to complement the already existing measures aimed at fostering the employment of young people, an interministerial COVID-19 taskforce on youth employment was set up.
Well-tried measures against youth unemployment in Austria include the guarantee of an apprenticeship placement and subsidies in order to encourage employers to train young people as apprentices.
Training Guarantee (Ausbildungsgarantie bis 25)
This guaranteeoriginally ensured everyone up to 18 years and socially disadvantaged youth, slow learners and education dropouts up to 24 years an apprenticeship position. Since 2017, the training guarantee has been established up to the age of 25. The Public Employment Service (Arbeitsmarktservice, AMS) has also been focusing more on education and training as the key to sustainable labour market integration. The target group is young jobseekers who are between 19 and 24 years old and have only completed compulsory schooling (approx. 43 percent of all unemployed in this age group). If someone is not able to find an apprenticeship position in a company, he or she can enter into an apprenticeship programme in a supra-company apprenticeship training entity. This form of apprenticeship, including its final exam, corresponds completely to that of a company-based apprenticeship. The 'Training Guarantee until 25' is a package of successfully implemented qualification measures such as intensive training for skilled workers, supra-company apprenticeship training, work foundations or qualification close to the workplace. These measures give young adults in Austria the opportunity to obtain a subsequent vocational qualification in order to gain a sustainable foothold in the labour market.
As of December 2013, there were approximately 9 000 students enrolled in the supra-company apprenticeship training, which corresponds to 7.6% of all apprentices. 92.4% of all apprentices complete their apprenticeship training in a company. In 2018, a total of around 11,400 people (37% women) received additional support through the programme. The disbursements in this regard amounted to around 73 million euros.
Supporting providers of trainee- and apprenticeships
Enterprises and education facilities which are entitled to train apprentices, according to the professional training law (Berufsausbildungsgesetz, BAG) or the regional and forest professional training law (Land- und forstwirtschaftliches Berufsausbildungsgesetz, LFBAG) respectively, can apply for financial support.
The support is paid out as a monthly subsidy towards the costs of the apprenticeship education across the board. The aid is granted in each case for one practical training year. It can be granted for a maximum of 3 years. For participants in an apprenticeship education with an extended apprenticeship or part qualification, the aid can be granted for the whole apprenticeship. The support is bound to a consultation between Public Employment Service (Arbeitsmarktservice, AMS) and the enterprise or education facility with regard to the supporting person. On regional level, different support conditions may be in place.
Promoted is the apprenticeship education of
- girls/women in occupations with a low share of women (€400 for the company and €453 for the education facility)
- apprenticeship seekers who are disadvantaged in the job market (€400 for the company and €453 for the education facility)
- participants in a teaching education with an extended apprenticeship or part qualification (€400 for the company and €453 for the education facility)
- adults (over 18-year-olds) or early school leavers whose occupation problems can be solved by an apprenticeship education (€900 for both the company and the education facility for adults with higher apprenticeship compensation/supplementary wages)
Interministerial COVID-19 taskforce on apprenticeship training
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a joint taskforce on youth employment entitled 'Ensuring apprenticeship training for all young people' ("Lehrausbildung für alle Jugendlichen sichern" ) was set up by the Federal Ministries of Labour (in German), Digital and Economic Affairs (in German), Education, Science and Research and Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection. The collaboration aims to provide young people who have completed compulsory schooling with an in-company, inter-company or school-based training place in order to close the gap of open places (in June 2020: a demand of 7.673 apprenticeship positions, with vacancies of only 4.962 ammounts to a lack of around 2.700 positions for young people) that the pandemic has created. In a first step, 1.000 additional training positions were created.
Campaign for the Future of Young People (against long-term unemployment)
For young people, a period of six months without work is already considered to be long-term unemployment. Avoiding this situation is another important objective of labour market policy. With the Campaign for the Future of Young People, the federal government promised to provide all young unemployed persons between 19 and 24 years with a job offer, a targeted training course or a subsidised job within a period of six months. The campaign is part of the Austrian Youth Guarantee. According to theyouth guarantee implementation plan '§38a AMSG ensures that every unemployed up to 25 is either offered an employment position or the possibility to pursue a further education or an integration programme (as e.g. subsidised employment)'.
By October 2015, this labour market policy priority had enabled around 48 800 young people previously registered as unemployed with the AMS to begin a training course. Around 78 700 young people were able to take on a job. By 2017, 53.8% of young people took up an offer within four months and an estimated proportion of 89.2% of NEETs was reached with all Youth Guarantee programmes.
In addition to these measures aiming at integrating young people into the labour market as employees, a business start-up programme for unemployed was set up. The programme aims at supporting unemployed workers in their efforts to enter self-employment. Taking up self-employment can help these workers create permanent jobs which ensure economic survival on the one hand, and increase the number of job openings on the other, as newly established businesses might expand and create jobs filled from the ranks of the unemployed. Approximately 5% of all participants are less than 25 years old.
The key objectives of Training Guarantee (Ausbildungsgarantie) are providing VET to all young people, offering additional apprenticeship positions, helping them to complete apprenticeships or changing to a company for continuing the training respectively. The target groups are registered apprenticeship-seekers who completed compulsory schooling and are unable to find suitable company-based training slots despite enhanced placement efforts, or who dropped out of an apprenticeship; young people up to the age of 18, socially disadvantaged youth, slow learners, and increasingly also education dropouts and young adults (19 to 24 years of age). The responsible authorities for this initiative, in place since 2008, are the AMS, BMASK, BMWFW and the provinces. The yearly allocated budget is 175 000 000 €.
The key objective ofbonus for companies which take up apprentices from supra company training entities by introducing a lump-sum subsidy of 1 000 Euro that is paid to every employer taking on an apprentice of a supra-company training entity. This shall increase the possibility to change from supra-company apprenticeship to a regular apprenticeship position. The responsible authorities for this initiative, in place since 2013, are the BMBWF, BMSGPK, WKO and LST.
The flexibility of the job market is an important aim. The needs of employees and employers have to be taken into consideration and balanced, which is ensured by the social partnership. A successful flexicurity strategy is based on a well-balanced relation between flexibility and protection against social risks.
In general, employment contracts and laws forsee the same degree of flexibility and security for young people as they do for other employees (Arbeitsschutz - Allgemeines). Specific youth protection provisions exist (e.g. restrictive working hours), furthermore apprentices are subject to special provisions such as unfair dismissal protection (FAQ zur Beschäftigung von Kindern und Jugendlichen). Temporary contracts are available, as long as they don't amount to chain contracts. Flexitime agreements (Gleitzeitvereinbarungen) and arrangements on working from home can be made in employment contracts. Contracts often include a probationary period of up to one month, which enables both parties to a termination at any time and without giving reasons. On the other hand, the security of employees is highly valued in Austria and the employee protection legislation is pronounced. Moreover, young job-seekers receive tailored support between jobs (e.g. Youth Coaching, Training Guarantee).
Advancement of early intervention
The consultation spectrum of the Public Employment Service (Arbeitsmarktservice, AMS)is further developed by early consultation of the enterprises, especially regarding prevention of unemployment. People shall be activated to claim services of the AMS prior to their forthcoming job loss (early jobless announcements). The preventive labour market policy shall sentsitise employees and employers for the initiative and the use of the self-service offer of the AMS. Unemployed people have to be supported in their change readiness in reflects of a life-accompanying learning.
Youth needs chances and perspectives. Hence, a stable, future-proof, freely elective choice of career is important. The cooperation between the employment department, the education department and schools has the aim, to extensively offer and develop the occupational orientation for youth. Young people and their parents have to be informed on occupational fields and the linked chances and possibilities. Special attention has to be paid to the specific support of young women and girls with a choice and graduation of promising professional training.
Protection of the Work-life Balance
Apprentices are subject to specific working hour and youth protection regulations. They are entitled to paid holidays amounting to thirty working days per annum. Flexibility in working time arrangements and the possibility to telework, as for all employees, have to be agreed upon by both parties of the employment contract.
According to the Children and Youth Employment Act (Kinder und Jugendlichen-Beschäftigungsgesetz), special rules apply. Within this law, persons up to the completion of 18 years are defined as youth, if they have already completed compulsory schooling and reached the age of 15.
Sunday work and working days
Young peoplehave to get off every other Sunday. Special restrictions apply for apprentices. Young people have to get 2 consecutive days off each week.
Maximum working hours
The regular working hours are 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week respectively. Extra hours are only allowed for young people older than 16 years in the frame of 30 minutes per day and only for final papers/works.
Breaks and daily rest
With working hours higher than 4.5 a break of at least 30 minutes is compulsory. The daily rest has to be at least 12 hours.
Young people younger than 16 years are not allowed to work between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Young people above are allowed to work until 11 p.m., but only after a medical examination (each year).
- The time necessary for the vocational school is to be given, the apprentice's compensation must be paid.
- Time at vocational schools is to be regarded as working time.
Young people can demand at least 2 weeks.
Promoting Gender Equality
Labour market integration policies and programmes for women include testing and analysing their skills, mentoring programmes, networking with and for girls, or women in crafts and engineering. Women into crafts, engineering and technology' (Frauen in die Technik, FiT) is a programme to encourage young women to enter skills training in non-traditional occupations where women make up less than 40% of the workforce. It contributes to opening up technical career paths to a larger number of women. It provides young women with career orientation and counselling in such fields as well as with internship opportunities in technical workspaces.
In 2018, the Federal Government used a budget of 921 million euros for labour market policy for young people (Arbeitsmarktförderung: Jugendliche und Junge Erwachsene). Of this,
- 620 million euros were implemented through subsidies and grants from the Public Employment Service
- more than 200 million euros went to the promotion of apprenticeship places in companies
- 100 million euros were available for the various offers of the Social Ministry Service
In the 2018/2019 training year, around 11,700 young people were trained in courses of supra-company apprenticeship training within the framework of an originally planned total budget of around 191 millioneuros (Public Employment Service and financing contributions of the Länder). In 2018, a total of around 11,400 people received additional support through the programme 'Training guarantee until 25', the payments in this regard amounted to around 73 million euros.
Looking at previous years, in 2012 €430 000 000 were spent on active labour market policy for young people. An additional € 160m were spent on subsidies for the apprenticeship system and €24 000 000 on measures for young people of the federal social office. Thus, in sum €610 000 000 are spent to integrate young people into the labour market. Defining the budget on implementing this comprehensive strategy is, however, difficult as it also concerns gradual reforms in the educational system, where no separately listed costs are available.
In 2015, the federal government had a budget of €796 000 000 available to spend on labour market policy for young people. Of this, a sum of €575 000 000 was used in the form of subsidies and benefits distributed via the Public Employment Service. €169 000 000 was used to promote apprenticeships in companies. €52 000 000 was available for corresponding programmes run by the Ministry of Social Affairs.
In the period 2014-2020, further funds were available for particular developments. For the further development of the quality-focused subsidies and supporting-instruments within the apprenticeship system (including different measures) approximately € 170 000 000 per year were made available for employers (for approximately 125 000 apprentices). For Future for the Youth (aktion zukunft jugend), National Funds, including co-funding amounted to € 142 000 000 (for qualification and employment measures, 2013). For employment of job seekers €20 109 397 were available in the period in 2014-2020 for the offers and measures from the ESF and national funds. Moreover, more than €284 000 000 Euro were available for e.g. NEBA-measures between 2014 and 2020 from the ESF.
The Austrian labour market policy has for many decades been a forerunner and model for comprehensive, innovative and high-quality work with the aim of full employment. Benchmarks and standards guarantee a high-class level and make achievements measurable and comparable. The available resources have to be invested in sensible and high-quality measures for the labour market. These measures have to be evaluated.
The Public Employment Service (Arbeitsmarktservice, AMS) makes sure that a best practice exchange is realised in a transparent way. Its duties are the further development of quality standards and the pursuit of the objectives of the Austrian labour market policy. The AMS has to adjust and further develop the observation indicators. Impact monitoring shows that reintegration is one of the major key facts for success. For different target groups, the reintegration quote will be diverse. Hence, the AMS has to fix integration quotes for the labour market-political measures in vote with the results of the evaluation research.
To give an exapmle, for the assessment of the initiative of further development of the quality-focused subsidies and supporting-instruments within the apprenticeship system (including different measures), statistics on apprenticeships from the AMS and on apprenticeship training-subsidies from data warehouse DHW were evaluated.
Support measures at vocational schools for students at risk (Verminderung der Drop-Out-Rate an kaufmännischen Schulen) are monitored at school level.