An ambitious social policy with a special focus on
protecting the weakest of society, e.g. in housing policy,
has old traditions in Austria. But in the early 1900s, the
country was characterized by major social gaps and tensions
that contributed to the downfall of the First Republic.
During the post-World War II reconstruction, widespread
cooperation and consensus between trade unions and
employers' organizations was developed to counteract such
social conflicts. This led to the emergence of a
comprehensive system of cooperation organizations on
economic and social issues, which is referred to as the
Sozialpartnerschaft. The most important organization
within the framework of the Sozialpartnerschaft is die
Paritätische Kommission which regulates wages and
prices. This highly institutionalized collaboration has had
a major influence on the construction of the public social
welfare system and has contributed to an almost unique work
peace. High degree of organization and the close relations
between the trade union movement and the dominant political
parties have been important prerequisites for this system. Visit AbbreviationFinder to see the definitions of AUS and acronym for Austria.
The public welfare system includes: subsidized health
care, compulsory old-age pension, accident, sickness and
unemployment insurance and various forms of family support
and other social support. The social security system is
financed through contributions from employers and employees
and government contributions and is jointly administered by
employers' and trade unions. There is no actual employer
association. Employers have compulsory membership in the
Bundeskammer der gewerblichen Wirtschaft (about the
"Federal Economics Chamber "). Among the employees,
there is only one Central Organization Österreichischer
Gewerkschaftsbund (ÖGB), which includes workers and
officials in both private and public service.
The retirement age is 60 years for women and 65 years for
men. Paid parental leave covers the child's first two years
and can be shared between parents since 1990. Full leave in
the second year can be replaced by a longer period of
reduced working hours. Public childcare is limited to
part-time preschool from the age of three. Child allowances
are paid up to the age of 19, to completed education or a
maximum of 25 years of age.
In addition to the public welfare system, most employers
also have extensive benefits for their employees.
In May 2013, the Philippine Foreign Minister announced
that the country was considering withdrawing its
peacekeeping forces from the Golan Heights after being
attacked by both Syrian rebel forces and Israeli forces. In
June, Austria withdrew its troop contingent after it had
been in Golan for more than 40 years as a buffer between
Syria and the occupying power of Israel.
In the September 2013 parliamentary elections, both
parties went back a bit. The Social Democracy SPÖ went 2.4%
back to 26.8% and ÖVP went back 2% to 24%. In contrast, the
Freedom Party rose 3% to 20.5% and the Greens rose 2% to
12.4%. Two new parties stormed into Parliament: the
Euro-skeptic and right-wing populist Team Stronach gained
5.7% and the liberal NEOS gained 5%. Haider's BZÖ, on the
other hand, smoked out of parliament as it declined 7.2% and
landed below 3.5% below the threshold.
Despite the decline, SPÖ and ÖVP continued to have a
majority in parliament. The ÖVP, however, considered forming
government with FPÖ and a smaller party, but in October
nevertheless entered into negotiations with SPÖ.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees from Asia - most
Syrians - traveled through the country in 2015, and many
sought asylum. By the end of November, 85,500 had sought
asylum in Austria. Almost a quadruple from the same period
in 2014, where 23,861 had applied for asylum. Authorities
were unable to secure the many refugees properly, and
thousands more had to sleep under the open sky - many of
them children. Many refugees were abused by the police
without the intervention of the authorities, and at the end
of the year, the government tightened the refugee
legislation by introducing a temporary asylum scheme and
restricting access to family reunification. Both violations
of the UN Refugee Convention.
The first round of the April 2016 presidential election
was won by Norbert Hofer of the right-wing FPÖ with 35.1% of
the vote. The Greens Alexander Van der Bellen came in second
with 21.3%. The Social Democrats' Rudolf Hundstorfer had to
settle for 11.3% and a fourth place. The second round of
elections in May was narrowly won by Van der Bellen with
50.3% of the vote. However, the FPÖ appealed to the
Constitutional Court and complained about the election. On
July 1, the court handed down a historic ruling invalidating
the election. Acc. the court had had irregularities in 14
out of 117 electoral districts, which had resulted in 77,000
votes being incorrectly counted (though without any real
election fraud). The presidential election between the two
candidates therefore had to go until October. When President
Heinz Fischer resigned in July, the three members of the
State Council - from the country's three largest parties -
were temporarily assigned to the presidential office.
SPÖ's election defeat in April triggered strong criticism
in the party against the chancellor and party leader Fayman.
He therefore decided in May to step down. New party leader
and chancellor became Christian Kern.
In December, presidential elections were again held. This
time Van der Bellen won with 53.8% of the vote against FPÖ's
Norbert Hofer who got 46.2%. Van der Bellen was inaugurated
as president in January.
The country moved politically sharply to the right during
2016. In April, parliament passed emergency procedures the
government could apply to curb the refugee influx. In
violation of the Refugee Convention, border police were
given the right to decide whether an occupant was entitled
to asylum, and therefore also the possibility of arbitrarily
rejecting the occupant. Already in January, Parliament had
passed a ceiling of 37,500 refugees for 2016. This should be
compared with the 81,000 who in 2015 sought asylum in the
country. The fascist violence against refugees and
immigrants in the country increased rapidly. In June, a
refugee center in Altenfelden was set on fire, and the
Ministry of the Interior stated that until then there had
been as many attacks on refugees and immigrants as in the
whole of 2015.