Jobless rate shrinks as EE jobseeker barrier set to expire

Austria has registered a significant decline in unemployment.Official figures presented today (Fri) show that fewer than 253,000 people were out of work last month, down by 5.2 per cent compared to March 2010. This development means that the federal jobless rate shrank for the 13th month in a row.The federal labour ministry of Social Democrat (SPÖ) Rudolf Hundstorfer also announced that the number of unfilled vacancies across the country currently ranged around 33,000. This is a year on year increase of nearly 5,000 vacancies.Austria had the lowest or second-lowest unemployment rate in the European Union (EU) with around five per cent in 2010. Only the Netherlands did better in some months among all 27 EU member states.News that the Austrian jobless rate is in decline comes after the government coalition of SPÖ and the People’s Party (ÖVP) passed a new anti-wage dumping decree. The law means firms paying staff less than the Austrian minimum wage face fines of up to 50,000 Euros. Enterprises which are caught employing workers illegally must brace themselves for penalties and legal consequences as well.The regulation is seen as an attempt to put Austrian jobseekers’ minds at rest as the country’s labour market opens for citizens from all but two EU members next month. People from eight EU member countries from Eastern Europe (EE) as well as Malta and Cyprus must not be confronted with any additional obstacles when seeking work in Austria.The Austrian government successfully applied for a seven-year barrier when the 10 countries – including Poland, Slovenia and Hungary – joined the EU in 2004. Restrictions and special requirements for people from Romania and Bulgaria, who joined the EU three years later, will remain in place until 2013.Hundstorfer said he expected between 20,000 and 25,000 people from the 10 affected EU states to come to Austria seeking work as from 1 May. The minister also revealed that a special group of investigators has been set up to check work conditions at firms doing business in Austria. Especially the activities of foreign building and engineering companies coming to the country from EE to offer their services will be investigated closely, according to reports.