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EU > Austria > Linz

Working life

Linz, AT (View on map)

Austria can pride itself in having one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe. The current figure is as low as 5%, although that figure doesn`t mean that everybody is happy about what they are doing, or about how the Austrian system works. Here`s some quick insights on working life in Austria:

Daniela (27):

..gets more money for being unemployed than she earned while having a job
Many Austrians are still young when they are first confronted with work. By the age of 18, Austrian boys will be invoked to serve in the army for six months or to spend a year doing civil service. Students in higher education will invariably complete multiple internships, while those who do not pursue further studies after secondary school are likely to engage in combined work-and-study programs. Students can count on government support, but will often have small jobs on the side to make their lives a little more comfortable: as a postman, as a waiter, in shops, on construction sites or by testing new medicines.

With the exception of start-ups in information technology, most companies in Austria operate in rather formal environments. Only direct colleagues will call each other by their first name, while all others use Sir or Madam, followed by any applicable titles and a last name, combined with `Sie`, the formal form of you.`

`Omitting the title when talking to a superiour is only allowed when that person invites you to`, Thomas (21) tells me. Even in business correspondence with external companies, you would first look up which titles your intended recipient has. Which is not particularly difficult, because everybody specifies his or her titles on business cards, in e-mail signatures and on websites. Sometimes, you can get away with only mentioning the highest, but many people will appreciate if you use all of them. I think there can be up to five in a row, which sometimes happens with doctors or university professors.`

Thomas was early to leave school and already has four years of working experience as network and security engineer. `I did a part of my studies while already working. I still have two years ahead of me. When I graduate, I will also be able to collect a title, or I may have to buy it. You can`t buy it without graduating, but you don`t always automatically get it. They may cost between 100 and 300 euros. The system is about to change in the coming years though. Austria is converting to the Bologna system, so we will soon have Bachelors and Masters instead of Magister and other country-specific titles. Unlike other countries, we will still put these titles in front of our names. Yes, it does sometimes seem like the titles are more important than who the person is. That`s how things work in Austria.`

Finding jobs
Apart from the titles, potential employers also like to be well-informed about their future employees. Application letters are still mostly sent by post, as they are often expected to include copies of the latest diplomas, graduation marks, reference letters, a photo and a CV which has been signed by the owner. Most jobs can be found on the internet or in newspapers, although Tangila (22) thinks that people who need to consult official applications are already one step behind. `It`s important to know the right people, and to be the first to know about a vacancy. And it`s also good to check whether you have the same political preference as your future employer. It`s not the most important of all, but it`s a plus if you can somehow underline that you share the prevailing political viewpoints within the company. Especially if you work for bigger and partly state-owned companies like VOEST, a big steel manufacturer`, she says. `My current job is only a part-time one, simply because I need to pay for my studies. I work in a bar for 24 hours a week. I need the money to pay for my flat and my car. When I complete my studies, I don`t think it will be too difficult to find a job. I am studying socio-economics and would like to start working for an non-government organisation, preferably at their controlling department.`

Karin (30) studied psychology, but for now has a job as a social worker, providing training for unemployed people. `I would like to work as a psychologist, but there are hardly any vacancies for a job that corresponds to the level of my studies. `It`s very difficult to open up a private medical cabinet`, confirms Georg (33), himself a neurologist. It all depends on whether you manage to conclude a contract with the healthcare insurance companies. Private healthcare is not very well-developed in Austria. Only patients who are prepared to pay a lot of money will have themselves treated in private institution, but such is the exception rather than the rule. If you have no contract with the health care system, it means that patients themselves have to pay for the care, which in most cases they will not like to do.`

Daniela (27, photo) also finds it difficult to find a job as a psychologist: `I graduated two years ago and have only been able to do temporary jobs in the meantime. I worked at the university for 10 months to replace a woman who was on study leave. I am now applying for other jobs, but without much success. The good thing is that I actually get more money now than when I used to work. On top of my unemployment payout, I am allowed to earn 350 euros a month by doing small jobs. I recently helped a school do reading tests with pupils. The unemployment service is not pushing me to apply for jobs. They looked up if they had any vacancy in their system, but they didn`t. I told them that I would search for myself and that was OK. Anyway, the best is if I do find a job soon, simply because it`s more stable to have a fixed job and earn a normal monthly salary.`

Edin (22), born in Bosnia but holding an Austrian passport, is working as an electrician. `I am not too fond of my job, because I keep having to travel to lots of different countries to work in factories. I install and repair robotics systems and I have to go to wherever my company has sold their machinery: Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Croatia and Italy. I have to work long hours, sometimes more than 40 hours in a row, depending on the project. I definitely wouldn`t changing companies and work a little less.`

Nicole (23) is waiting for her new studies to start. In the meantime, she helps companies test new products. `I used to try and interview people by phone, but I didn`t really like it. I now get to test them in the streets, during events or simply with friends and family as user panels. In this way, I have already been testing cigarettes, yoghurt, chicken wings and all sorts of sauces. I studies nutrition before, but I didn`t like how much of that was simply learning chemistry. I am waiting for the next school year to start doing physiotherapy. I would like to start out working in a hospital, then later open my own clinic`, Nicole says.

Susanne (28) would like to find stable employment as a singer. `I now do small things, but it`s not enough to make a living. I moved back to my parents because life on my own became too expensive. I now consider changing styles and so some more solo performance in commercial-type jazz music, rather than the opera music I actually prefer singing. Getting government grants is not easy for artists. They much rather sponsor specific projects rather than individual people.`

At the bank
`Life-time employment is no longer a real objective for young people`, says Thomas (28), who works at the administration department of an Austrian bank. `Only old people will have the specific ambition of completing their career within the company where they have worked all of their lives. Young people are likely to change employers every five years. Too much job-hopping is not appreciated. Someone who only stays with a company for two years will not get away with that if he does that too often. Thomas explains that Austrian employers, especially big firms, may provide their employees with external training and education in an attempt to enhance their workers` commitment to the company.

`Banks serve as a good example of the somewhat old-fashioned organisation style within Austrian companies`, Thomas says. `Me and my colleagues sit around a four-desk isle in a room that hosts 30 other colleagues. The manager has a separate office, with his name and titles marked on the door. At this very moment, the bank is trying to modernize the working atmosphere by convincing managers to keep their doors open rather than closed, which used to be the norm. I guess that obtaining a private office is one of the most persistent career wishes of Austrians. It`s a confirmation that you have achieved something in your professional life.`

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