Going for Growth 2021 – Austria


COVID-19 risks reinforcing long-standing vulnerabilities in the labour market such as digital skill gaps, diverging career trajectories between men and women, an elevated rate of long-term unemployed and subpar integration of migrants. Addressing these issues is crucial for a more inclusive recovery, facing demographic change and the sustainability of social security systems.

Performance prior to the COVID-19 crisis

austria-economy austria-Inequality austria-environment

Economy: Percentage gap with respect to the population-weighted average of the highest 18 OECD countries in terms of GDP per capita (in constant 2015 PPPs).

Inequality: The Gini coefficient for disposable income measures the extent to which the distribution of disposable income among households deviates from perfect equal distribution. A value of zero represents perfect equality and a value of 100 extreme inequality.

Environment: Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions include emissions or removals from land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF). A high exposure to air pollution refers to above 10 μg/m3 of PM2.5.

Source: Economy: OECD, National Accounts, Productivity and Labour Force Statistics Databases; Inequality: OECD, Income Distribution Database and World Bank, World Development Indicators Database; Environment: OECD, Environment Database and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Database.

Growth needs to better rely on skills across the population

Austria is adapting to the global digitalisation frontier at a slower pace than in comparable countries (Panel A). Upskilling the population across all ages in digital technologies and a better provision of ultra-high speed internet should be key priorities to boost adoption rates. This requires raising the quantity and quality of life-long learning programmes, for example by involving employer organisations more directly in the design and administration. Targeted government support for the low-skilled and elderly workers would help to address their relatively low participation in further education and training. In addition, reducing remaining barriers to digital trade and investment while fostering the provision of private venture and equity capital would accelerate the diffusion of ICT technologies.

With a projected decline in the working-age population, Austria needs to make most of the existing talent pool. Facilitating full-time labour force participation of both parents, for example by granting a legal entitlement for high-quality child care and full-day schooling in the entire country, would help to address gender inequalities in the labour market (Panel B). It would also contribute to counteracting the shrinking of the working-age population. Reducing the implicit taxation of shifting from part-time to full-time employment would further boost female full-time employment.

The integration of migrants, including their families and children, lags behind countries with similar migrant inflows and has likely been further set-back by the pandemic. Educational outcomes need improving and delinking from socio-economic backgrounds. To this end, German language learning needs much stronger emphasis, and integration policies need better coordination between the federal, Länder and municipal governments.

Vulnerabilities and areas for reform

  1. Positive values indicate skill shortage (while negative values point to skill surplus).

  2. 2018 or latest year available. The gender wage gap is unadjusted and is defined as the difference between median earnings of men and women relative to median earnings of men. Data refer to full-time employees and to self-employed.

High share of long-term unemployed and low average effective retirement age risk being amplified as a result of COVID-19. Pension benefits remain generous in international comparison. Reducing incentives to leaving early from the labour force is crucial, and should be done by prompt adjustments of relevant parameters for the calculation of pension benefits and contributions, in line with demographic and other structural developments.

To enhance competition, productivity growth and job creation in the recovery barriers to competition in professional services and retail trade should be reduced.

Austria: Summary of Going for Growth priorities and recommendations

Austria Summary of Going for Growth priorities and recommendations

Recent progress on structural reforms

There has been some progress in personal income taxes and digitalisation. In terms of equality of opportunities and the pension system, progress has been weak. The government streamlined digital skills across all layers of education and advanced a number of other reforms pertaining to digitalisation. A reform of the income tax system addressing high labour tax wedges is scheduled to continue in 2021 and 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic may give the necessary momentum to tackle low development of financial markets for risk capital and regulatory barriers in the services sector.


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