Sozialpolitische Studienreihe


This report written by the Research and Counselling Centre for Labour (FORBA) is a follow-up to a study published in 2010 (Eichmann et al. 2010). Just like four years ago, the focus of this analysis is to use secondary analyses of the existing data to provide a detailed but still clear overview of the essential structures of working and employment conditions in Austria. The most prominent turning point in recent years was the financial and economic crisis which began in 2008. In what respect can consequences for the workforce – apart from the known figures on economic growth or unemployment – be observed here? In the assessment of the empirical data, corresponding effects are considered in all chapters, in particular in the form of time comparisons with manifestations of certain characteristics, e.g. the status of employment or extent of autonomy at the workplace.

On account of considerable vagueness in the use of the term “working conditions”, the procedure follows the standard practice (and also the structure of the previous study) of referring directly to central combinations of characteristics of gainful employment. The report is divided into seven chapters of different content and provides differentiated descriptions of 1. Forms of employment, 2. Working hours (and compatibility of gainful employment and private life), 3. Income, 4. Work organisation (and co-determination), 5. Workloads and health hazards, 6. Further education and training and 7. Job satisfaction. The focus of the analyses of individual characteristics is aimed at certain peculiarities, distributions and (as far as possible) at changes over time. All chapters also contain European comparative data for the classification of Austria in the EU context. In a summary (chapter 8) the gathered results are presented again in the form of generalising statements on the development of the individual aspects of working conditions in Austria and in the EU comparison. It must be pointed out that, on account of the selected topics, essentially the workforce and their job-related conditions are analysed as part of this report. Key influencing factors such as institutions of the Austrian labour market or of the broader category of the welfare state system, however, are not part of the analyses or are analysed only marginally.

The documentation and interpretation of the most relevant sample surveys on the raised subject areas makes up the main part of this study. While the reproduction of as representative as possible findings is suitable for providing a good overview of key structures of working conditions, it should be revealed that presenting quantitative results on the Austrian workforce often hides the fact that underneath average and mean values for all respondents there is a decidedly heterogeneous employment landscape with, in some cases, large differences between individual (sub-)branches, occupational groups, forms of employment, business types and federal provinces. Overview reports like this one are exposed to criticism in that the variety of unequal/heterogeneous working environments (unavoidably) takes a back seat compared with a simplistic view of average values. The research team is trying to balance out this shortcoming and also the general surplus of quantitative material in the report by presenting interesting results in the form of “boxes” in all chapters, which, in particular, contain qualitative case study material from various occupational fields.

As empirical material, mainly those representative data sets were used with which, comparatively, the most reliable statements can be made for the overall Austrian employment landscape – or those survey programmes which are carried out repeatedly on the basis of preferably identical indicators to be able to record changes over time. Needing emphasis in this respect are the quarterly microcensus labour force survey of Statistics Austria (AKE) and the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) which is carried out every five years by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound). The characteristics of these two data sets and also of a number of other relevant survey programmes are described in Annex 1. In addition to this, in Annex 2 around 40 EWCS variables on working conditions are presented; the longitudinal comparison (1995 to 2010) has been arranged here so that as well as the changes over time for Austria a contrast with the average of the EU-15 and also a comparison of genders are provided.[1]

Overall the explanations in the seven chapters of this report are around 50 % longer than in the previous study. For this reason alone, it was not just a matter of bringing the data up to date, i.e. with material from 2012 or, if available, from 2013. In contrast, the follow-up study was designed in a way that, despite a largely identical structure, more than 90 % of the respective texts were newly written. From the previous study only those text parts were adopted for which there is no new empirical data material or where they are passages to explain certain terms and theoretical concepts.

[1] International comparative data in this report are mainly geared towards the EU-15, i.e. the “old” EU states. This is due in particular to the prosperity level comparable with Austria, which is (still) clearly lower for many of the new EU states. Nevertheless many findings are used for comparison with the EU-27 or EU-28.