Warm weather lowers jobless rate

The latest labour statistic has dished up good and bad news for Austria’s lawmakers and employees.

Around 360,500 people had no job last month, according to Statistik Austria. The agency said yesterday (Mon) this was a decline of 0.8 per cent compared to December 2010. It pointed out that the number of people sitting re-education courses organised by the Labour Market Service (AMS) in cooperation with the labour minister of Social Democrat (SPÖ) Rudolf Hundstorfer dropped by nine per cent.

The domestic construction industry benefited from the extraordinarily mild weather in the country’s lowlands. High temperatures and a lack of snow enabled firms to keep operating instead of reporting their staff as unemployed throughout winter. A worrying aspect of the December labour figures is that the number of jobless women soared by 4.1 per cent.

Labour Chamber (AK) officials appealed to the SPÖ-People’s Party (ÖVP) coalition to intensify their attempts to lower the unemployment rate of women and elderly people. Four of Austria’s nine provinces registered jobless rate rises in December compared to the same month of 2010. Capital city Vienna was once more hit by the most dramatic increase (plus 4.8 per cent). Salzburg did badly in fighting unemployment as well as the region’s rate shot up by 1.6 per cent. Vorarlberg recorded the most significant unemployment rate decline from December 2010 to the same month in 2011 at 6.9 per cent.

AMS boss Johannes Kopf said one of the most positive news the latest unemployment statistic held was the 19 per cent decline of the number of long-term jobless people. He admitted room for improvement considering figures for young people (plus 1.8 per cent), women, immigrants and simple labourers. Representatives of Austria’s industrial sector suggested launching a new initiative against the lack of high-skilled employees of various branches.

Austria’s economic condition is challenged by the high number of people retiring before the regular pension age. Men quit at an average age of 58.9 years instead of 65 while women stop working when they turn 57.5. The regular pension age for women employed in Austria is 60. Women working in the public sector must work until aged 65. Another aspect harming Austria’s competitiveness is the decreasing quality of education, according to a string of experts. Education sector researchers appealed to the SPÖ-ÖVP coalition to sharply raise its spending on schools of all kind and the country’s universities.

Austria registered 3.3 million employed citizens in December, 1.9 per cent more than in December 2010. The country is doing better than any other European Union (EU) member considering the overall unemployment rate. Around 4.1 per cent of people living in the small alpine country were out of work in October, according to Eurostat. The European Commission’s (EC) statistics authority said Luxembourg took second place at 4.7 per cent, followed by the Netherlands with an unemployment rate of 4.8 per cent.

Germany, the continent’s most powerful economy, was fourth in October at 5.5 per cent. Debt-stricken Belgium claimed fifth place (6.6 per cent) ahead of Finland (7.5 per cent) which is praised for its excellent education system. Sweden (7.5 per cent) and Denmark (7.7 per cent) – which currently heads the European Council – have relatively low jobless rates as well. Spain struggled the most at 22.8 per cent. The southern country’s youth unemployment rate is even twice as high.