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Famously known as the birthplace of classical music, Austria boasts picturesque mountainscapes and a world-class quality of life, which have served to attract expats from all over the globe. As a result, the Austrian society has become incredibly diverse and is home to people of many nationalities.
Below is some useful info about diversity and inclusion in Austria.
Accessibility in Austria
While the level of accessibility varies between different provinces, Austria is known for being a largely accessible country with modern infrastructure for all to enjoy. The country is a world leader in the protection of people with disabilities and was one of the first countries to ratify the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008.
Originally enacted in 2006, the Austria Equal Treatment Act was amended in 2016 to ensure that all existing public buildings are accessible to all. As such, there are approximately 400 accessible train stations in Austria, while almost 100 offer mobility aids for wheelchair users. The state-owned public transport provider, ÖBB, also provides significant travel discounts to people with temporary or permanent disabilities.
Vienna, Austria’s capital, has low-floor buses and trams, while another major Austrian city, Salzburg, won the European Commission’s 2011 Access City Award. Assistance is typically available, and service animals are allowed free of charge on public trains and buses.
LGBTQ+ in Austria
Homosexuality was legalised in 1971 in Austria. The country is considered a more conservative European nation, but still leads the OECD as a member country with the most provisions to protect the LGBTQ+ community against discrimination. In 2009, Austria passed landmark legislation allowing legal gender change for individuals who identify as transgender.
Austria’s legislation also allows its LGBTQ+ community to start families since a historic judgement by the European Court of Human Rights that enabled stepchild adoption for same-sex partners in 2013. This catapulted the Constitutional Court of Austria’s decision in 2015 to legislate full joint adoption for same-sex couples.
While the country may have been ahead of the pack in 1971, Austria only legalised same-sex marriage and lifted the ban on gay men donating blood in 2019, symbolising the country's lack of progress in the decades before. Be that as it may, conversion therapy is still not banned in Austria.
The 2023 Spartacus Gay Travel Index ranks Austria at a noteworthy 13th for the tolerance and acceptance of LGBTQ+ travellers out of 202 countries surveyed worldwide. This is down from 4th in 2019 and 5th in 2021 respectively. Although Austria has made strides in LGBTQ+ protections, there is still some work for the country to do.
Still, the LGBTQ+ social scene in major cities such as Vienna is inclusive and lively, with a fair few gay bars sprinkled across the city. There are also many organisations and annual events celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in Austria. LGBTQ+ individuals moving to the Austrian countryside may encounter discrimination, but the locals are generally accepting and tolerant.
Events to attend
Ski Pride Kaprun (April)
One of the biggest events on the LGBT+ social calendar, Ski Pride Kaprun takes place in the ski town of Zell am See. The four-day event provides a safe space for gay men who are also winter sports enthusiasts to engage in their favourite sports while also partying with their community.
Pride Events (June to August)
The CSD Bregenz Pride Week and Linz Pride both take place in June, while the Pink Lake Festival in August is another popular event for the LGBTQ+ community.
Transition International Queer and Minorities Film Festival (November)
This film festival uses storytelling to bring to the fore the realities of being a migrant, a person of colour, disabled or transgender in Austria.
Gender equality in Austria
Gender equality in Austria is legislated by the country’s constitution, and women are entitled to the same rights as men. Austria’s Directorate General for Women and Equality, which is under the country’s Federal Chancellery, has developed several national and regional programmes to drive gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting with the mission of reducing the glaring gender disparities in the country. Austria scored a reasonable 68.8 for gender equality out of an ideal 100 in the 2022 European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) Index, similar to Germany.
Nevertheless, Austria’s society still holds many traditional views when it comes to gender roles, with women remaining responsible for much of the housework and childcare. This has in turn affected the employment of women in the formal sector. While there is a high rate of female employment rate in the country, most women are employed in low-paying and part-time positions.
The gender pay gap in Austria is also among the highest in Europe and currently stands at over 18 percent. Professional work in Austria also remains segregated, with women being relegated to traditional care-based careers such as teaching, healthcare and social work.
Austria allows expectant mothers to take eight weeks of leave before their due date and after childbirth. This can be extended to 12 weeks in the case of birthing complications, multiple births or birth by Caesarean section. Women in Austria are also entitled to a maternity allowance and both parents can apply for parental leave and receive kinderbetreuungsgeld (childcare payments) from their health insurance provider. Fathers are entitled to one month of leave after the birth of their child, after which parental leave comes into effect.
Austria offers many protections for women and has worked towards gender mainstreaming for the past two decades. Still, more work needs to be done to drive gender equality in Austria.
Women in leadership in Austria
The representation of women in leadership in Austria is lacking. According to the European Women on Boards’ 2021 Gender Diversity Index, Austria lags far behind on gender diversity. The country placed 15th out of 19 countries surveyed, and was at the bottom in the category of women at the executive level.
Women only had a 32 percent share of board seats in Austria, compared to 41 percent in Norway, which leads the EU as the country with the best gender diversity on its corporate boards. Nonetheless, Austria's score of 0.45 is up from the country’s 2019 score of 0.43, signifying an improvement in its gender diversity.
The EU adopted a new law in November 2022 requiring all listed corporations in its member states to have 40 percent of non-executive directors on their boards be women by 2026. Austria has instituted dissuasive penalties such as fines to encourage companies operating in the country to achieve the quotas.
Additionally, the representation of women in Austria’s parliament has gradually increased over the last two decades and currently stands at 40 percent, with 74 of the 183 seats occupied by women. While women remain significantly underrepresented in key decision-making roles in Austria, the country is making progress in reducing gender disparities.
Mental health awareness in Austria
Mental health awareness is an especially important subject for expats, who face an elevated risk of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and sleeping difficulties. Therefore, it is even more crucial for expats with existing mental health disorders to familiarise themselves with mental health support structures in Austria.
Austria’s society still has fairly conservative views on mental health and seeking help, particularly among the older generation. This often discourages individuals from speaking with mental health professionals, further reinforcing the stigma and exacerbating mental health issues in the country.
Fortunately, expats working in Austria are eligible for public health insurance, which typically covers psychiatrist and psychologist fees for up to 40 visits a year. Most expats moving to Austria will not have to invest in private insurance, but those who choose to will find that there are shorter waiting times for accessing mental healthcare services.
There are also non-profits and organisations that offer free therapy and emergency mental healthcare services, such as Lichtblickhof, Austrian Green Cross and Austrian Red Cross.
Unconscious bias training in Austria
The concept of unconscious bias is an implicit set of social stereotypes an individual carries about groups of people different to themselves. These stereotypes are not purposefully adopted but rather develop subtly over time, and people tend to hold these unconscious biases about groups they never or rarely come into contact with. As a result, they're frequently inaccurate and based on assumptions.
Unconscious bias can greatly affect workplace dynamics and have an impact on the opportunities available to certain groups of people, which could affect a company’s talent acquisition and turnover rates.
A 2021 survey by Statistics Austria found that 8 percent of migrant employees in the country felt discriminated against in their current workplace. There were also more than 1,400 incidents of racism reported in 2022, according to the annual report by the human rights group Civil Courage and Anti-Racism Work (ZARA).
Some companies, especially multinational corporations, have started offering unconscious bias training to assist their employees with recognising and ultimately overcoming their biases. There are also online resources that can be used to improve one’s recognition of unconscious bias in themselves and others.
Diversification in the workplace in Austria
Ranked 2022’s best city to live in the world, Vienna and Austria as a whole have attracted expats from all over the world owing to their scenic landscapes, thriving economy and excellent social programmes. More than 17 percent of Austria’s population is expats and the country supports multiculturalism.
The workplace in Austria is somewhat diverse, and most multinational corporations boast employees of many nationalities and languages. While most Austrians consider themselves open-minded and accepting, expats from Middle Eastern and African countries as well as women may experience some prejudice.
There are unfortunately elements of Islamophobia in Austria, as the country has banned people from wearing a veil covering their full face. Another law banning school children under 10 from wearing headscarves was struck down by the country’s constitutional court in 2020.
Companies in Austria are, however, beginning to prioritise diversity management and recognise its value, which includes enhanced team collaboration and staff retention.
Safety in Austria
Boasting one of the lowest crime rates in the world, Austria is an incredibly safe place to live. Violent crime such as murder rarely occurs in the country, and most expats report feeling safe in Austria. That said, petty crimes such as pickpocketing and purse snatching are fairly common in the major cities and around public transport hubs, while there have been a fair few reports of house break-ins, particularly in the affluent areas. Expats should remain vigilant and keep their valuables out of sight to avoid falling victim to pickpockets.
Calendar initiatives in Austria
4 February – World Cancer Day
8 March – International Women’s Day
24 March – World TB Day
2 April – World Autism Awareness Day
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
June – Pride Month
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
8 October –World Mental Health Day
14 November – World Diabetes Day
16 November – International Day for Tolerance
1 December – World AIDS Day