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Harald Mahrer: Economic Chamber Has 8 Million Members

Published: May 25, 2018; 12:15 · (Vindobona)

In his inaugural speech, the new President of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, Mahrer, calls for more leeway for companies and the further development of the social partnership into a partnership for the future and announces an education offensive.

Harald Mahrer: "The WKO actually has 8 million members" / Picture: © WKO Austrian Chamber of Commerce

"We are all in the same boat: entrepreneurs as well as their employees and their families. Anyone who beats the companies will therefore always hit their employees and the whole country. In reality, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber has 8 million members," stressed the new president of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKÖ), Harald Mahrer, in his inaugural address to the delegates of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber and called for "a new way of thinking about the economy".

In order to meet challenges such as ever tougher international competition, the shift of economic weight towards Asia, especially China, and digitization, there must be a "new, much broader understanding of the economy". "We need a new consensus on the importance of the economy for our social success. We need more freedom for companies," said Mahrer. "Economic freedom is the main driver of growth, prosperity and employment."

Mahrer clearly rejected "horror propaganda", for example on the subject of flexible working hours. "The time of atrocity propaganda must come to an end. Nobody in this country has to work 12 hours a day or 60 hours a week. And overtime will of course be compensated. Everything else is wrong!"

"New understanding of our role as an Economic Chamber"

A new understanding of business also requires a "new understanding of our role as an economic chamber," said Mahrer. He emphasized three points: The Chamber of Commerce must and will continue to represent the entire breadth of the economy: "We do not distinguish between large and small, regional and international, analogue and digital, between small business enterprises or international export companies. The economy is indivisible." The Chamber of Commerce must also be represented at all levels - from the district, state and federal levels to the EU office in Brussels and a strong network abroad.

Secondly, the Chamber of Commerce must, more than ever before, demand "excellence" in its own services. Existing services must therefore be continued and expanded. And last but not least, innovation and creativity are the key factors for the success of companies. "It's about innovation, research, development and education, education, education."

Advancing vocational training in Austria

Against this background, the WKO will take a three-digit million amount into its hands in order to advance vocational training in Austria through an "education investment package". Mahrer announced that a plan will be drawn up by autumn to develop dual training - supplemented by a digital factor - into "trial training. "This benefits the whole country - the young through new opportunities, the elderly through secure jobs."

Mahrer expressed his satisfaction with the government's commitment to reforms together with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. The economic and location policy course is set in the right direction with the government program, now it is a matter of implementation. "We will support the government where this is important. And we will demand it where it is necessary." With regard to concrete goals, the new President of the Chamber of Commerce mentioned in particular a relief of companies and employees with regard to taxes and duties, a rapid flexibilisation of working hours as well as a bureaucratic relief. "We will not judge the government by how many new laws it passes, but by how many regulations it abolishes. Free the companies and their employees from regulatory waste, it is up to us," said Mahrer to the loud applause of the economic delegates. In any case, the WKÖ itself will be a strong reform partner of the government.

Developing social partnership into a partnership for the future

Mahrer made a clear commitment to social partnership, but this must be developed into a partnership for the future - "without entrepreneurial bashing, without bazaar trade, but with a view to looking beyond one's own nose and with the goal of solving the big questions. I invite everyone to such a future partnership!"

At a time when much is changing, the economy is taking responsibility for the companies, their employees and the country, Mahrer concluded: "It is up to us to do more together. For our location and for our country. We, the economy, we look at Austria!"

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