AMS reports rise in joblessness

Unemployment in Austria is increasing, new figures show.

The Austrian Labour Market Service (AMS) said yesterday (Tues) 321,800 people had no job last month, 6.7 per cent more than in April 2011. This figure considers jobless people attending education courses and traineeships organised by the AMS. Their number climbed by seven per cent to nearly 70,000.

AMS head Johannes Kopf identified reducing long-term unemployment as his chief priority for this year. Kopf told radio station Ö1 that the AMS would spend more on programmes for people who struggled to find work for a long time. Social Democratic (SPÖ) Labour Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer announced his party agreed with the People’s Party (ÖVP) about spending an additional 20 million Euros on social labour initiatives.

The minister explained that jobless people were working in community organisations, non-profit restaurants and similar institutions to prepare people out of work who had been out of work for a long time for upcoming challenges. The coalition’s decision to invest more comes just weeks after it controversially announced plans to freeze the budget of the AMS.

Statistics show that especially elderly and handicapped people struggle to find work in Austria these days. The chances of immigrants and poorly-skilled residents of the country of all age groups are low too, AMS research reveals. The number of people aged 50 and above who had no work shot up by 10.6 per cent from April of last year to the same month of 2012 to 57,900. Almost 39,000 Austrians and people living in the country who are aged between 15 and 24 were out of work and education last month, 4.5 per cent more than in April 2011.

Hundstorfer linked the negative developments on the domestic labour market with the weak condition of the European economy. He claimed yesterday that several firms were struggling if the value of orders declined because of austerity packages in important export partner countries like Italy and Hungary. With a rate of 4.2 per cent, Austria had the lowest share of unemployed residents among all of the European Union’s (EU) member countries in March 2012.

The AMS published the latest jobless rate figures just a few days after former Institute for Economic Research (WIFO) boss Helmut Kramer labelled claims that later retirement necessarily caused a rise in unemployment. Kramer said such allegations were only a “myth”. He explained that investigations in many other countries showed that a higher pension age would not automatically mean an increase of youth joblessness.

The Austrian government is pressurised to lower the average pension age in the coming years to avoid a further spiralling of public health expenses. Austrian law says that men must work until 65. Labour regulations include a regular retirement age of 60 for women. Official figures disclose that men quit at the age of 58.9 instead. The average retirement age of Austrian women is 57.7.