Starting with the recognition of their protection status, refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection have free access to the labour market. To be successfully integrated in the labour market, however, many obstacles have to be overcome. This includes language barriers, lack of qualifications and/or lack of proof thereof. The budget for language courses was increased significantly and, in most federal provinces, language courses are already offered during the asylum procedures, albeit in limited amounts. Funding for language courses has furthermore been largely reduced in 2019 and has not been increased under the newly introduced government in 2020. While the federal states still offer classes to asylum-seekers originating from Syria, other nationals are regarded as not having enough prospects of obtaining a positive decision upon their asylum procedure.
There have been some improvements through targeted assessment of qualifications and facilitated recognition of work experience. The Act on Recognition and Evaluation entered into force on 12 July 2016 and accelerates the procedure for the recognition of education and professional qualifications obtained outside Austria. This decision aims at facilitating access to the labour market for refugees. Refugees or asylum seekers could also apply for recognition of their academic and professional qualifications, even if they cannot provide the documents as proof.
A study conducted in 2016-2017 involving 1,200 beneficiaries of international protection found group-specific differences in the integration to the labour market. Despite the shortage of skilled workers in Austria, former technicians seem to have had very little chances of finding work. The mismatch between qualifications and employment is high: more than 75% of respondents worked in a field, which did not or only partially fit with their academic background. 25% of respondents had participated in a competence check by the AMS, but participation in the check and value courses had no direct impact on the integration of their previous work experience; the potential effects of these recent measures are only expected to be made visible in the medium term.
Austria has set up a number of counselling and contact points, as well as an information portal (AST). In Vienna, however, all beneficiaries now undergo a competency evaluation. Where recognised beforehand, highly qualified persons in regulated profession e.g. doctors are sent to “Check In Plus” immediately to receive assistance in the recognition process.
Beneficiaries have to consult the Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF) after they have received the protection status. The ÖIF places these persons to language courses and courses on Austrian values. They have to register with the job centre and can then take part in job-related assistance measures, if their language proficiency is sufficient, or in language-related assistance measures. Surveys of the job centres found that 10% of the persons with protection status can be integrated into the labour market within the first year.
On the other hand, since September 2017, beneficiaries of international protection who are able to work but cannot secure employment are required to complete a one-year standardised integration programme focusing on language acquisition, career orientation and vocational qualification (see Social Welfare).
As of 31 March 2018, a total of 18,845 beneficiaries of international protection received support from the Public Employment Service (AMS) as part of the so-called integration year. This was introduced in September 2017 and concerned people who had received the refugee status or the subsidiary protection in Austria since 1 January 2015. The programme was abolished by the government in 2019, however. More precisely, it decided in April 2019 that financial support for the purpose of the so-called “integration year” should no longer be provided and that persons currently participating to the programme will no longer receive support as of 1 May 2020. This will seriously limit the integration process of beneficiaries of protection.
The imbalanced distribution of supply and demand within Austria also presents a challenge to integration into the labour market. Many persons with protection status relocate into urban centres, especially Vienna, where the unemployment rate is also higher than in the western federal provinces. There is a great demand for workers in the tourism regions of the West. In the public debate, the tense situation of the Austrian labour market is one area, which militates for the closing of borders.
In July 2019, the director of the Labour Market Service stated that 40% of the total recognised refugees in 2016 found employment, and that 35% of recognised refugees in 2017 also found employment. In total, around 9% of all persons registered as unemployed were asylum status holders, and 20% of all unemployed beneficiaries of international protection under 25 years are residing in Vienna.
At the end of December 2020, 35,632 (beneficiaries of the Labour Market Service (AMS) were registered as unemployed, compared to 31,137 in 2019. Out of them, 24,026 were seeking work and 11,606 were completing trainings (compared to 20,688 and 10,449 in 2019 respectively). Refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection were heavily affected by the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic on the labour market. An expert council of the Federal Chancellery reported that around 36,000 beneficiaries of international protection were seeking a job in August 2020.