Long-term joblessness down as EE labour barrier vanishes

The number of people failing to find a job for a long time is in decline, new figures show.Social Democratic (SPÖ) Labour Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer said today (Mon) that 5,037 of all of last month’s jobseekers had been out of work for more than a year. The minister pointed out that this number was 30.2 per cent lower than in April 2010.Hundstorfer added that the overall unemployment rate decreased for a 14th time compared to the same month of the previous year in April. He said 236,304 people living in Austria had no job last month. Around 5.4 per cent more people were unemployed in April 2010. This means Austria continues to have one of the lowest jobless rates among European Union (EU) member states with 4.3 per cent. Austria has been neck and neck with the Netherlands in this regard over the past few months.Job market figures also show that Vienna (plus 6.1 per cent) was the only Austrian province which was hit by a rise in unemployment last month, while Vorarlberg (minus 20.2 per cent) registered the strongest drop. Companies across Austria offered 36,025 open positions last month, up by 15.7 per cent compared to the same month of the previous year.Hundstorfer argued these figures would confirm that Austria has managed the crisis comparably well. Alliance for the Future (BZÖ) MP Robert Lugar criticised that measures introduced by the government coalition of SPÖ and the People’s Party (ÖVP) to strengthen the federal economy turned out to be very expensive. Greens official Birgit Schatz attacked the SPÖ-ÖVP administration for investing too little into education programmes. She stressed that a high number of people were still forced to do part-time work.Freedom Party (FPÖ) boss Heinz-Christian Strache warned of an influx of criminals and attempts to carry out wage dumping as the Austrian job market opened to Eastern European (EE) countries which joined the EU in 2004 yesterday.The liberalisation means people from Hungary, Slovakia and eight other countries which became members of the EU that year must not be disadvantaged in any way against Austrian jobseekers when they apply for positions in the country. Strache claimed the government would put Austrians at risk by failing to press for an extension of the restrictions, while economic experts stressed that there will be more positive aspects for everyone.Labour market analysts stressed that many firms in both Austria and EE were desperate for highly-skilled staff. They also emphasised that countries bordering Austria in the east were doing comparably well and that these circumstances will force only a few thousand people to leave to seek new opportunities in Austria. Referring to a study, Hundstorfer said he expected an additional 20,000 to 25,000 jobseekers in Austria from EE from this month.Tens of thousands of people from EE are already working in Austria. Foreign companies face fines of up to 50,000 Euros if they are caught paying salaries below admitted levels to their staff when doing business in Austria under a new decree passed by the federal parliament in a reaction to the change of job market rules. Businesses which employ workers without registering them with insurance companies and Austrian labour authorities will be penalised as well.