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Austria: Generous support for families

Austria's benefits for families are very generous in Europe, accounting for 2.8% (2012 and 2013) of the country's GDP compared to the EU average of 2.4% in 2012. According to the latest Eurostat data, the fertility rate is, as in many other European countries too, low at 1.4 children per woman in 2013. The employment rate of women with children less than 6 years of age is high (69.5% in 2014) and above the Lisbon target of 60%, but many women work part-time (46.9% in 2014).


Reconciliation of work and family life is a policy priority and Austria furthers it with financial and non-financial measures.

A mix of benefits supports families

Austria has a wide range of financial benefits - which are paid by the Family Burden Equalisation Fund - and non-financial measures. The main financial benefits are family allowance and childcare allowance.

Family allowance  is not means-tested and is paid to families with dependent children. Increased benefits are available to families with two and more children. Special support is available for severely disabled children and for families with three or more children whose taxable annual income does not exceed €55,000. Family allowance was increased by 4% in 2014 and by 1.9% in January 2016. It will also be increased by 1.9% on 1 January 2018.
Childcare allowance (Kinderbetreuungsgeld) is granted for children born from 1 January 2002. Since 2010 parents have had the choice between two schemes (offering a total of five options) of childcare allowance: flat-rate childcare allowance (four options) that they can claim whether or not they were employed prior to the birth of the child and an income-related childcare allowance. The latter is designed to give parents who earn more the opportunity to withdraw from the labour market for a limited period of time to look after their children. According to information provided by the Austrian government, the number of fathers who receive the allowance has increased since the new system was introduced. Payment of full childcare allowance is linked to five medical examinations during pregnancy and five check-ups of the child. These examinations are free of charge.

In addition to financial benefits, Austria also provides an established system of parental leave regulations. Maternity leave starts eight weeks before the expected birth date and lasts for a further eight weeks afterwards (12 weeks in the case of multiple births or a caesarean birth). During this time pregnant workers are compensated at a level corresponding to their average earnings in the three last months before starting their leave. This compensation is funded by the Family Equalisation Fund (70%) and the health insurance fund (30%). Parental leave, during which time the parent is protected from termination of the employment contract, can be claimed until the day the child turns two. Part of this leave can be left to be taken later, but without special protection against dismissal and notice.

Improved childcare services

According to national statistics (2014) 25.9% of children under the age of three (17% in 2013 according to Eurostat), 94% of children under the age of six and 97,9 % of children at the age of five are enrolled in formal childcare (including day-care givers and children attending school already).
Since 2009 the federal government spent €70 million annually on pre-school education free of charge for all five-year-olds. In 2010 pre-school education became compulsory.

To improve the reconciliation of work and family life the Austrian government invested € 390 million towards the expansion of childcare services from 2008 to 2017. In addition, the regional governments (Länder) spent an extra €250 million on the expansion of childcare. More than 47,000 places for children up to the age of six were created till 2014 as a result of this measure.

Opening hours were increased as well. 62% of children below the age of three and 42% of children between three and compulsory school age attending day care are cared for in institutions with opening hours of more than 45 hours per week and 47 weeks per year. Only 5% of all day-care-centres are closing at noon and about 1% of day-care-centres offering whole-day-care are having a break at noon.

Since 2009 the costs for qualified childcare are deductable from the calculation basis for income tax up to the amount of €2,300 per year and per child up to the age of ten years.

Government initiatives promote reconciliation

Besides legislative measures there are also a number of societal and awareness-raising measures designed to support mothers and fathers in their jobs. Known as best practices are the Audit schemes: especially the "Family-friendly Municipality Audit", initiated to support municipalities to further develop their child- and family-friendliness and the ‘Family and Work Audit’ scheme, which was implemented to help companies create a family-friendly environment.
To meet special needs of further different target-groups, the 'University and Family Audit' was introduced in 2011, the ‘Work and Family Audit’ for the Health and Care Sector and the ‘Audit Work and Family compact’ for small and medium-sized businesses were introduced in 2013.

Another measure in this field is the State Award ‘Companies for Families’, formerly named ‘Most Family-Friendly Enterprise’, which was introduced in 2010 and takes place every second year. Enterprises with innovative efforts to create family-friendly work environments can apply for the Award.
The ‘Family and Work Management Pty Ltd Corporation’ launched in 2014 a central platform with summer child care services. In 2015 the platform was extended and it now provides an offer of all-the-year child care services. This year about 900 projects were added. It also includes an application that allows searching for suitable care services in an easily and flexible way with a smartphone. The Charta ‘Reconciliation of family and work’ which was completed and signed in 2012 as a public commitment to the relevance of family-friendly measures in companies and organizations was evaluated in 2015 to give an overview of family-friendly measures, which were started or established by the signing institutions. Building on the Charta, the network ‘Companies for Families’ was launched by the Federal Ministry of Families and Youth in March 2015 as a platform for companies and communities. At the centre of attention is the better reconciling of family and work and family-friendly measures in working life and living as well as raising awareness for these issues in public. Some further main aims are that the partners are role models and motivation for other companies and communities and to be good examples for family-friendly measures well-known in the public.

Strategies towards Youth-Participation

In 2012 and 2013 new strategies towards children's rights to participate were introduced. Pursuant to Regulation 495 of 1 January 2013, authorities involved in the drafting of laws are obliged to carry out an impact assessment of possible (positive or negative) effects on children and young people. To this effect, civil servants preparing draft legislation are meant to ‘step into the shoes’ of children and young people in order to ensure that the Constitutional Law on Children's Rights (2011) and the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child are implemented to the full extent.

The Austrian Youth Strategy is an ongoing and dynamic process to develop and empower ‘youth in all policies’. It defines three core scopes: 1. Employment & Education, 2. Participation & Commitment, 3. Quality of Life & Community. For each of these strategic objectives are defined. The development and implementation of measures to achieve the aims is the joint responsibility of all stakeholders – political, in the administration and in civil society. The guiding principle of all actions is the active inclusion of young people. On the one hand this is facilitated indirectly through the continuing involvement of the Austrian National Youth Council as well as additional national networks of youth work and youth information. On the other hand the Austrian Youth Strategy is also based on research and surveys using specific methods so that the needs and concerns of young people can flow directly into the development process. Since 2014 young people can express their opinions continually through new participation models.  On the online-platform ‘Giving Young people a bigger voice’ results of participation processes all across Austria are collected and clustered thematically as well as regionally. This process increases the outspread of single claims. It provides decision-makers with information on young people’s needs and opinions.

Furthermore, the Federal Ministry of Families and Youth develops a ‘better life index’ for young people in a participatory process together with them. Based on a survey as a first step, young people are invited to further discuss specific aspects on an online platform. They have the possibility to exchange views, express their opinions and to frame their own suggestions. All these elements will be taken into account in further developing the Austrian Youth Strategy.

The information in the country profile was last updated in December 2015.

Strategies towards Youth-Participation

In 2012 and 2013 new strategies towards children's rights to participate were introduced. Pursuant to Regulation 495 of 1 January 2013, authorities involved in the drafting of laws are obliged to carry out an impact assessment of possible (positive or negative) effects on children and young people. To this effect, civil servants preparing draft legislation are meant to ‘step into the shoes’ of children and young people in order to ensure that the Constitutional Law on Children's Rights (2011) and the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child are implemented to the full extent.

The Austrian Youth Strategy is an ongoing and dynamic process to develop and empower ‘youth in all policies’. It defines three core scopes: 1. Employment & Education, 2. Participation & Commitment, 3. Quality of Life & Community. For each of these strategic objectives are defined. The development and implementation of measures to achieve the aims is the joint responsibility of all stakeholders – political, in the administration and in civil society. The guiding principle of all actions is the active inclusion of young people. On the one hand this is facilitated indirectly through the continuing involvement of the Austrian National Youth Council as well as additional national networks of youth work and youth information. On the other hand the Austrian Youth Strategy is also based on research and surveys using specific methods so that the needs and concerns of young people can flow directly into the development process. Since 2014 young people can express their opinions continually through new participation models.  On the online-platform ‘Giving Young people a bigger voice’ results of participation processes all across Austria are collected and clustered thematically as well as regionally. This process increases the outspread of single claims. It provides decision-makers with information on young people’s needs and opinions.

Furthermore, the Federal Ministry of Families and Youth develops a ‘better life index’ for young people in a participatory process together with them. Based on a survey as a first step, young people are invited to further discuss specific aspects on an online platform. They have the possibility to exchange views, express their opinions and to frame their own suggestions. All these elements will be taken into account in further developing the Austrian Youth Strategy.