Austrian Government Aims to Increase Skilled Immigration and Address Labor Shortages

PeopleOther ♦ Published: July 18, 2023; 15:31 ♦ (Vindobona)

The Austrian government, led by Economy and Labor Minister Martin Kocher, plans to attract a minimum of 15,000 skilled workers from non-EU countries to Austria annually by 2027 through the Red White Red card (Rot-Weiß-Rot Karte) program.

Austria has a flexible immigration system in the form of the Red-White-Red Card. Following personal and labor market policy criteria, qualified workers from third countries and their family members can immigrate to Austria permanently. / Picture: © Pedro Szekely from Los Angeles, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

In a joint press release, the Ministry announced its intention to develop comprehensive strategies in collaboration with Social Minister Johannes Rauch and representatives from trade unions and employers to combat the personnel shortage.

With 118,566 open positions in Austria in June, according to the Austrian Public Employment Service (AMS), many businesses across various industries have been struggling with acute labor shortages for an extended period. The Ministry of Social Affairs predicts a need for approximately 76,000 additional employees in the care sector alone by 2030.

The demand for workers from EU member states, who are not recruited through the Red White Red Card program, remains high. The government plans to increase efforts to facilitate placements through the European Job Network EURES. The goal is to gradually raise the number of recruits through this network to 2,000 individuals per year.

The reform of the Red White Red Card, which came into effect in October 2022, has received positive feedback from Minister Kocher, who tweeted that approximately 3,800 cards were issued in the first half of the year, representing a 47% increase compared to the same period in the previous year.

Encouragement and criticism

The proposal to increase the number of skilled workers entering Austria has been met with support from the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKO), the Federation of Austrian Industries (IV), and the Tourism State Secretariat. WKO Secretary General Karlheinz Kopf and IV Secretary General Christoph Neumayer called for swift implementation of measures, highlighting the significance of the Red White Red Card for the tourism sector.

However, the Austrian Chamber of Labour (AK) and the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) expressed criticism, stating that the Red White Red Card is not a "cure-all" and that businesses must create better working conditions to attract workers, according to AK President Renate Anderl.

The government's commitment to qualified immigration has also garnered support from the WKO and IV. Secretary General Kopf emphasized the need for faster processing times and digitization of procedures, suggesting the introduction of a job search visa for potential Red White Red Card candidates to facilitate pre-employment opportunities.

The WKO Secretary-General, therefore, demands, among other things, free access to the labor market for EU accession candidates from the Balkans or at least the introduction of a Western Balkans quota, as Germany also has.

The government's plan to increase skilled immigration was welcomed by IV Secretary General Neumayer, who stressed the importance of positioning Austria as an attractive destination for qualified workers.

As Austria faces significant labor and skills shortages, a comprehensive national strategy is required to address these challenges. The government's commitment to increasing qualified immigration and engaging with social partners marks an important step toward securing future growth and prosperity for the country.