Economic Context

Austria is a country of SMEs: Almost half of the working population is employed in companies with less than 50 people and 87.1% of all companies have 1 to 9 employees. More than a third of the population hold an apprenticeship as highest formal qualification. Unemployment rate is still modest (6.2% in June 2016) but increasing. Youth unemployment is one of the lowest in Europe (10.6%). Three quarters of all people are working in the service sector.

Working Population

Austria’s workforce shows a number of 4,148,400 employees in 2015 with a total population of 8.6 million. Both numbers have been increasing steadily in the last years. 70.9% of all women and 80.1% of all men in the age group 15 to 64 years held a job. The numbers of females holding a job  have increased stronger than those of the men. ( )

Latest numbers show an increasing unemployment rate: in June 2016 Eurostat data are 6.2% for Austria, EU-28 decreased to 8.6% ( Youth unemployment (15 to 24 years) was 10.6% in 2015, tendency also increasing. Nevertheless, the employment rate of 15- to 24-year-olds was far above the EU-28 average (52.1% compared to 32.5%) in 2014. This is mainly due to the diversity of vocational education and training (VET) programmes on the upper secondary level, which meet the requirements of the economy.

Sectors of the economy – how well does the VET offer mirror the sectors of economic activity:

Today the Austrian economy is dominated by services: Around 70% of the gross value added comes from the so-called “tertiary” sector, almost 30% comes from the “secondary” sector (production), and less than 2% comes from agriculture and forestry (the “primary” sector). 74% of the labour force is engaged in the service sector (; in 1980 only about half were.

The VET programmes offered in Austria have reacted to this structural change. Curricula of existing programmes have been updated and adjusted, new programmes focussing on “service” fields have been introduced.

Labour market structure and development – skills levels of the population

In 2013 35% of the population held an apprenticeship qualification as their highest completed programme (cf. Fig. 1). 14.7% had acquired an upper secondary school-leaving certificate, 15.7% held a university-level degree. Tendency goes continuously to higher educational levels.

Fig. 1: Austrian population by highest educational attainment in 2013.

Österreich Country Context

Source: Statistic Austria (

There are clear connections between unemployment rates and the educational attainment. In 2013 only 3.5% of the workforce with a tertiary qualification was unemployed. The unemployment rate of those with compulsory education as the highest level of attainment was 10.0%.

The relatively low unemployment rate of Austrian youth (10.3%) compared to the EU average (21.9% in 2014) is mainly due to the vocational programmes at the upper secondary level. They are well accepted by young people and the labour market. In addition, many publicly funded youth labour market policy programmes exist (such as the Training Guarantee up to the age of 18).

Business environment, the relative importance of SMEs

In 2012 there were 314,855 enterprises in Austria (cf. Fig. 2), 327,993 in 2014. These companies employed more than 2.5 million people. The distribution of employees by company size shows the huge importance of SMEs in the Austrian economy. The vast majority (87.1%) of companies employ between one and nine people. Overall, about 17% of the workforce is employed in micro enterprises. Only 0.4% of the Austrian enterprises are large companies, but 37% of all employees work in these.

Fig. 2: Companies by size categories in 2012

Österreich Economic Context

Source: Statistics Austria (retrieved on 16.6.2015)

Regional differences

Even if Austria is a relatively small country there are differences between the nine provinces: in terms of urban/rural characteristics, educational attainment, sectoral characteristics of the economy and the (un)employment rate. Especially Vienna, which is the capital city and the largest province with 1.8 million people at the same time “is different” in many circumstances.

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