Wifo expert calls for new state social aid system

Vienna think tank the Institute for Economic Research (Wifo) has called for a new state social aid system with “productive elements.”Wifo expert Alois Guger said today (Thurs) social infrastructure providing for care of the aged and children was more important than financial aid to individuals.Vienna Social Democratic (SPÖ) social councillor Sonja Wehsely added that provision of social services was more important than financial support. Investments in education and care had been playing an ever more important role in prevention of poverty, she claimed.Farther west, Tyrol provincial SPÖ social councillor Gerhard Reheis said some 60,000 people in the province were receiving some form of social assistance at an annual cost of 343 million Euros. He said there were 16,000 people in Innsbruck threatened by poverty.SPÖ Social Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer said the problem of poverty was worse in Tyrol than in other Austrian provinces. “It is often worse to be poor in the countryside where there is less social assistance available and life is more anonymous than in a city.”He added that “debt counselling is perfect when people are in need of it but the question is what can be done for them before they reach that position.”Innsbruck SPÖ city councillor Marie-Luise Pokorny-Reitter said “the theme of poverty is often taboo.”Tyrol provincial SPÖ MP Gabi Schiessling added that many people were addicted to gambling and shopping and went bankrupt.Overall, the number of recipients of social assistance in Austria rose by 8.7 per cent year on year to 98,893 in 2009, the social ministry reported on Tuesday this week. The rate of increase varied between three and 20 per cent among the provinces.Hundstorfer said the increase needed to be seen in relative terms since there had been just as large a rise in 2007 during better economic times.He also noted that the number of long-term unemployed, which had been 34,601 at the beginning of 2009, had risen to 43,094 as of 1 January 2010. He said young people and those in their peak earning years had been most affected by long-term unemployment.