New Dynamics on the Labor Market and with the Red-White-Red Card: Austria Relies on the Influx of Skilled Workers

More+Work & Careers ♦ Published: March 19, 2024; 17:40 ♦ (Vindobona)

At a meeting of the interministerial Skilled Workers Strategy Committee, decisive measures to speed up the procedures for the Red-White-Red Card were discussed. The aim is to combat the shortage of skilled workers in Austria through more efficient recruitment of internationally skilled workers and to increase the location's attractiveness.

The government's latest plans include doubling the number of red-white-red cards and halving the processing times. / Picture: ©

Austria's Federal Minister of Labor and Economy Martin Kocher announced that the processes for issuing the Red-White-Red Card will be significantly accelerated by the introduction of a pre-check register for professional qualifications in shortage occupations. This measure should not only relieve the AMS but also help skilled workers and companies achieve greater security and shorter waiting times. "Doubling the number of Red-White-Red Cards issued over the next few years will make an important contribution to meeting the high demand for skilled workers," says Kocher.

The tourism industry, in which 20 percent of employees already come from third countries, will particularly benefit from the new regulation. State Secretary Susanne Kraus-Winkler and Provincial Councillor for Economic Affairs Markus Achleitner emphasized the importance of the pre-check register for the competitiveness of the sector. "The faster and more transparent procedures are a decisive step towards counteracting the shortage of skilled workers," explained Kraus-Winkler.

Business lobbies praises steps

The Federation of Austrian Industries also welcomed the initiative to recruit skilled workers. Secretary General Christoph Neumayer emphasized that qualified immigration plays a central role in a competitive industrial location. "The complete digitalization of the Red-White-Red Card procedure would help to make the location more attractive and speed up the process," said Neumayer.

The Austrian Business Federation sees the doubling of Red-White-Red Cards as an important step against the labor shortage. Secretary General Kurt Egger emphasized the need to make the Austrian labor market more attractive for international skilled workers.

Trade unions critical

The government's latest plans to double the number of Red-White-Red Cards and halve the processing times have met with sharp criticism from the vida trade union. Chairman Roman Hebenstreit warns of the negative effects of this policy on the Austrian labor market and the working conditions of the domestic population.

According to Hebenstreit, these plans will not lead to a solution to the shortage of skilled workers, but will instead exacerbate the problems in the labor market. "Tying foreign workers to individual employers weakens their position and makes them vulnerable to blackmail," said the union chairman. This practice is particularly problematic in times of rising unemployment figures and stagnating wages.

The current labor market data underlines the urgency of the situation: a rising unemployment rate among men, persistent youth unemployment, and a significant increase in unemployment among academics signal an alarming development. "These figures pose a direct threat to social peace and economic stability in Austria," warns Hebenstreit.

The trade union vida emphasizes the importance of a fair wage policy and criticizes the government for its measures, which are putting further pressure on the labor market. The government's proposed cuts to unemployment benefits and the recruitment of "wage slaves" from abroad are seen as counterproductive steps that will not solve the problems in the labor market, but rather exacerbate them.

Given the current mass strikes in various sectors, vida is making it clear that workers are prepared to fight for their rights and an improvement in working conditions. "We stand in solidarity with all those suffering from unfair wages and poor working conditions and call on the government to rethink its policies and take measures that will benefit workers," concluded Hebenstreit.

Austrian Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy

Federation of Austrian Industries

Austrian Business Federation

Austrian Federation of Trade Unions