Immigration and Integration Issues in Austria

Today, Austria is counting 8,038 million inhabitants, of whom 8.8 percent are foreign residents. A rising share of foreigners is born in Austria. Currently 20 percent of the total foreign resident population has been born in Austria. Austria is thus amongst the leading western industrialized immigration countries. The first 15 years after WWII were marked by massive flows of people coming to Austria (refugees) and moving away (emigration of nationals and refugees). At the onset of full employment in the early 1960s, Austria adopted a guest worker program tailored after the Swiss and German model − to compensate for the continued loss of labour, in the main highly skilled, at that stage to western European countries, particularly Germany, Switzerland and France, a result of social security agreements and the fact that Austria was at the lower end of wages in Europe (similar levels as in Italy and Spain, which explains why Austria did not manage to attract guest workers from these regions in spite of treaties with these countries). Major source countries before the 1960s were the former regions of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, from the 1960s till today the region of former Yugoslavia and Turkey, since the late 1980s increasingly from CEECs and since the mid 1990s more and more from EU countries. Austria is thus a country of both immigration and emigration. Today as in the 1960s, immigration flows more than compensate emigration flows. Over time, many foreigners became Austrian citizens − in the 1990s usually after 10 years of residence in Austria, in the 1980s and before often much sooner. Vienna, for example, pursued an active integration policy by granting citizenship after 4 to 5 years of legal employment in Austria. Between 1991 and 2002 238,300 foreigners took up Austrian citizenship, about two thirds from the traditional recruitment areas of migrant workers, the region of former Yugoslavia (70,800, 29.7 percent) and Turkey (71,100, 29.8 percent). In contrast − over the period 1980 to 1990 96,600 foreigners were naturalized, of whom 25 percent from the above countries of origin.

 Then Germans and citizens of the former ‘Eastern Block’ were the main contenders.

In 2002 36,400 foreigners adopted the Austrian citizenship. A major part of the new Austrian citizens were former so-called ‘guest workers’, e.g., Turks (12,600 or 35 percent); the large number of persons from former Yugoslavia (11,300, 31 percent) is the result of the naturalization of former refugees as well as foreign workers. The third large component of naturalizations concerns citizens from Central and Eastern Europe (4,000, 11 percent), of whom many arrived after the fall of the Iron Curtain. The naturalization rate (naturalisations in percent of foreign population) increased continually from 1997 to 2002 − from 2.3 to 5.1 percent. It is basically citizens of non-EU-countries, who adopt the Austrian citizenship, because it enables them not only to move freely within Austria but also within the EU.

2 thoughts on “Immigration and Integration Issues in Austria

  1. I´m from Austria too and, coincidentally, my mother is from the former Yugoslavia.
    She immigrated in the 1970s. Today she is austrian citizen.
    Sometimes we talk about what her brought there and if she feels “austrian” today.
    She told me that it was very easy for her to leave her country behind and start a new life in Austria thanks the good working conditions.
    After a german course she got offered a job in the hospital as a magistrate. After this she never thought of going back.
    But she also told me that times changed.
    The new immigrants from today have more difficulties to integrate, because Austria is not totally supporting them. There no german courses offered like in the past.
    This again provoke that foreign people don´t get in touch with many austrians. They don´t learn the language properly. They won´t find a job soon. They actually fall through the cracks. Then of course just want to hang out with other people from their country.
    I´m not sure if the austrian government is aware of that. But they should. Because sooner or later it might cause serious troubles, if there are too many foreign unemployed people, and the austrians might get angry and xenophobic.

  2. In my opinion 20 percent is a huge number of the total foreign resident population which were born in Austria. So, it is absolutely correct that Austria is amongst the leading western industrialized immigration countries. I totally agree that today as in the 1960s, immigration flows more than compensate emigration flows. I am from Austria too and so I have a little insight. In my opinion the integration of foreigners is important, but only if the show the will to work and when they are willing to integrate themselves to Austria.


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