Poverty Rate in Austria

Austria is a nation with nearly 8.7 million citizens that lies in the center of Europe. In 2015, Austria was deemed one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Because of this large statistic, only four percent of the population fall beneath the poverty line. Consequently, the poverty rate in Austria very small.

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the poverty rate is the ratio of the number of people whose earnings fall below the poverty line. The poverty line is half the median household revenue of the total population. The World Factbook shows poverty is on the minor end of the spectrum in Austria but, despite low percentages, continues to exist.

Children 17 years old and younger are most affected. A 2016 OECD report shows that 9.1 percent of Austrian children live in a household with a disposable income of less than half of the Austrian median income. This number was seven percent in 2007. It is also interesting to note that among children living in Austria, 17.5 percent say that they have been bullied in the last two months. This is the second highest share in the OECD area.

In an evaluation of Austria’s well-being for 2016, the country performed close to the OECD average. Austrian households have higher net adjusted disposable income and experience lower work insecurity.

However, The Economic Survey of Austria of 2017 shows Austria is struggling to adjust towards digitalization. Digital transformation is altering the relationship between the wealthy and the poor. Well-educated people are adjusting quickly to global trends in technology, while older generations, the less educated and immigrants are falling behind. This creates unequal opportunity within the country and raises questions about those on the lower end entering the future workforce.

While Austria continues to struggle with growing child poverty rates and the digital era, 94.4 percent of Austrians are satisfied with the quality of water and air in the region. In regard to support, 92.5 percent of Austrians report having friends or relatives that they can rely on in times of trouble.

Based on economic status and results of well-being, the poverty rate in Austria can be drastically reduced. A possible solution to Austria’s largest problems could be an increase in the state budget for welfare assistance. The State could also create support structures for children being bullied or coming into school systems from low-income families. Equal opportunity and digital training must also be available for anyone entering the workforce so that older generations, the less educated and immigrants don’t get left behind.

Emilee Wessel

Photo: Flickr

Knight FoundationOn Jan. 26, the Knight Foundation announced the winners of its annual contest, the Knight News Challenge on Data.

The challenge, which was inaugurated in 2007 amid the disruption that the digital age brought to  journalism and news generally, grants select winners a share of $3 million.

Knight News Challenge winners can receive substantial funding to carry out their projects, said Anusha Alikhan, Knight Foundation Communications Director in an email.

“For example, eight of the Knight News Challenge on Data winners received investments of $237,589 to $470,000,” she said. “Nine early-stage ideas received $35,000 each through the Knight Prototype Fund, which helps innovators take media and information projects from idea to demo.”

This year’s challenge was the most competitive to date, capping at 1,060 submissions.

“The project unlocks information about how data can be used for community problem solving,” said Nina Zenni, the foundation’s Media Innovative Associate. “It makes data easier to interact with.”

Among the 17 winners this January was mRelief’s Documents Empowerment Project, a project that helps low-income users prove eligibility for public benefits programs. The project was established in September 2014 by a Chicago-based, all female software development team. It received $250,000 as a winner of the Knight News Challenge on Data.

mRelief began as a medium through which those eligible for public assistance – including food stamps, free public transit and family health care – could bypass long lines and receive fast information about whether they qualify for state and nation-wide welfare programs.

Through a series of questions, the web application determines a user’s eligibility, local resources and the next steps to take in procuring the provided public benefits. Since its founding, mRelief says that its tool has reduced eligibility determination time by 75 percent.

The project has also evolved to include a wide variety of programs, partnering with the Chicago Public Library and Catholic Charities and expanding to a larger user base.

Through a partnership with Purple Binder, an application that refers low-income communities to local services like food pantries or homeless shelters, mRelief was able to extend its reach beyond those who qualify for welfare benefits. mRelief is now accessible in a number of Chicago-based community centers, having created an eligibility tool capable of multi-program screening.

The mRelief project previously received funding from Knight Foundation as part of its Knight Prototype Fund in May 2015.  During its prototype stage, the mRelief board participated in a Knight Foundation-sponsored human-centered design workshop, becoming familiar with a wider user base to understand its needs.

They found, for example, that 54 percent of Illinois residents are not smartphone users, and would therefore not benefit from a smartphone application. Hence the creation of the SMS-functionality, allowing non-smart phone users to type “hello” to a number and fill out a text-delivered questionnaire.

This modernization of public assistance allows underprivileged populations streamlined access to welfare benefits within the area — in this case, the greater Chicago area. How such data usage could expand to an international level, however, remains on the horizon.

The Knight News Challenge on Data supports ideas that make data work for individuals and communities. A growing number of applicants begets a growing number of entrepreneurial projects seeking to merge data usage for increased impact.

As Jonathan Sotsky, Knight Foundation Director of Strategy and Assessment, writes: “Data provides an opportunity for fundraisers to allocate resources to the most effective nonprofits and increase the impact of programs they support.”

If this were to happen on an international level, it might change the landscape of global philanthropy for the better.

Nora Harless

Sources: The Knight News Challenge on Data, The Knight Foundation, mRelief
Photo: StockMedia