Sozialpolitische Studienreihe

Studienreihe Bd 26 Summary Part 1

While income inequality in Austria is relatively low compared to many other OECD countries, social mobility lags behind. Socio-economic outcomes carry over strongly from one generation to the next: more than elsewhere, fathers’ earnings are a strong predictor of the earnings of their prime-age children. This reflects strong persistence across generations in occupational and educational outcomes, particularly for women and migrants. Relative income positions also tend to strongly persist over people’s lives, in particular at the top and bottom. Meanwhile, the middle-income group is polarising, with downward risks rising for the lower middle. Longer-term earnings trajectories (over 15 years) display marked gender differences, with women facing weaker chances of moving up and greater risks of sliding down.

This report identifies policies that promote or hamper social mobility in four domains. First, good-quality early childhood education and care can be a catalyst for upward mobility. Participation rates have significantly risen over the last decade, but still lag those in many OECD countries. Further investment is needed to improve quality and status of formal childcare. Second, tackling low educational mobility in Austria requires ensuring a successful school-to-work transition. Austria provides targeted support for those who struggle, but it could improve funding for disadvantaged schools and consider the appropriateness of “tracking” students at such a young age. Third, reducing gender inequality in the labour market would greatly improve social mobility. This requires raising incentives for a more equal sharing of family and work responsibilities in the areas of taxation, parental leave and family and care benefits. Fourth, the Austrian tax and benefit system so far generally provides comparatively adequate protection against income shocks. The high concentration of household wealth, combined with the absence of inheritance taxation, however implies that inequalities of opportunity remain large.