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Recruiting Immigrant Workers: Austria 2014

image of Recruiting Immigrant Workers: Austria 2014

Austria has low levels of labour migration from non-EU/EFTA countries. At the same time, intra-EU free mobility has grown significantly and since 2011, overall migration for employment is above the OECD average. It recently reformed its labour migration system, making it more ready to accept labour migrants where they are needed, especially in medium-skilled occupations in which there were limited admission possibilities previously. This publication analyses the reform and the Austrian labour migration management system in international comparison.

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Evolution of Austria's labour migration policy

Labour migration policy in Austria was long associated with the guestworker scheme of the 1960s. Following the first oil crisis in the early 1970s, official recruitment was curtailed but the guestworker model continued to provide the overarching steering mechanism for immigration. The early 1990s marked a turning point. Against the backdrop of sizeable inflows of humanitarian migrants, the guest-worker regime was replaced by a general quota on foreign employment and a system of annual numerical limits for residence titles. Migration from non-EU/EFTA countries was limited to family members, seasonal labour and so-called key workers, that is, persons holding special skills that were deemed necessary on the Austrian labour market. Following the accession of the EU-8 countries in 2004, transitional arrangements were implemented to protect the Austrian labour market with exemptions being granted to EU-8 nationals in shortage occupations. In 2011, in light of looming demographic challenges, a major reform of the Austrian legal framework for labour migration, the so-called Red-White-Red (RWR)-Card, replaced previous regulations based on numerical limits by a points-based admission scheme, making the system more transparent and ready to accept labour migrants where they are needed, including in medium-skilled occupations in which there were limited admission possibilities previously. The reform coincided with the implementation of the EU Blue Card and the full opening of the labour market for the countries which joined the European Union in 2004, making its effect difficult to assess.

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