Living Conditions in AustriaAs a landlocked nation, Austria works closely with other countries in the European Union (EU) on different issues. Therefore, Austria has a well-developed economy that is closely tied to Germany and other powerful EU nations. Austria is a confederation of nine autonomous states with sound industrial and agricultural economic sectors. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Austria.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Austria

  1. Wealth Gap: There is a rising wealth gap in Austria. Between 1990 and 2011, the share of the economy that the poorest 20 percent held dropped by 47 percent while the share that the richest 1 percent held rose by 16 percent. Experts believe that the biggest factor in the rising wealth gap is an increasing education gap between the rich and the poor. In Austria, children with college-educated parents are 2.5 times more likely to attend college themselves. Increased postsecondary education leads to higher wages as citizens earn 5.4 percent more money with each additional year of schooling past what their country mandates.
  2. Gender Inequality: Gender differences are evident in Austrian society. While women tend to have more education, they still earn 23.4 percent less per hour than their male counterparts. Women also tend to own less property than men. On average, a single, male household holds 40 percent more wealth than a single, female household. One of the main reasons driving this economic inequality is the Austrian welfare system, which helps promote traditionalist values through its benefit programs.
  3. The Welfare System: Austria has an extensive, two-tiered welfare system. The first tier covers personal insurance for employed citizens during instances of sickness, accident, sudden unemployment and parental leave. The second tier provides for those who are struggling with employment and offers federal, provincial and municipal benefits. There are a few benefits that are accessible to the entire population including family allowance and child tax credit, childcare allowance and health insurance. A family receives the family allowance based upon the number and age of children as well as a family’s income.
  4. Health Care: Austria has a socialized health care system. The current system covers 99 percent of citizens and accounts for 7 percent of the country’s GDP. Many citizens gain insurance through their employers, but these plans identify 25 percent of citizens as co-dependents. Furthermore, access to medical care is widespread and easily available. Currently, there are 64,000 hospital beds that span across 267 different hospitals. One of the main benefits accessible to all is the Patient Safety Guide, which informs citizens of standard procedures before visits, allowing visits to doctors to be as productive as possible.
  5. Religion: Religion plays a major role in living conditions in Austria. Austria has acknowledged religious freedom as a right since the Patents of Tolerance signed in 1871. Today, the Austrian legal system qualifies itself as religiously-neutral and churches have a great deal of autonomy when dealing with internal affairs. Because of their autonomy, churches receive funding through required member’s fees. Also, the right of an individual to choose his or her own religion remains sacred. At the age of 14, citizens can choose a Church, or none at all, without parental notification or consent. As a whole, Austria is a very religious nation as 88 percent identify themselves as a member of a church (compared to 77 percent in the United States). According to 2011 statistics, 64 percent of Austrian identify as Roman Catholic, making it the largest church in the country.
  6. Education: Austrians have access to free public education. Currently, the government mandates nine years of schooling for every child and schools offer vocational and university tracks. The university tracks lead to an additional one to four years of education at a secondary or post-secondary school. All funding for the schools, at any level, comes from the Federal Ministry of Education. However, even with education opportunities, Austria still lacks in literacy scores when compared to the rest of the EU. Only 13 percent of young adults (ages 25 to 34) have achieved high scores on the Survey of Adult Skills. The reason behind this is most likely the low graduation rate among those attending secondary or post-secondary universities and colleges. While 83 percent of young citizens attend some sort of secondary education, only 38.9 percent will actually graduate. Furthermore, of those pursuing secondary education, 76 percent attend vocational schools.
  7. Water: All Austrians have access to clean water, which helps greatly with living conditions in Austria. Austria ties with 21 other countries for first in the Environmental Performance Index for water and sanitation. One hundred percent of citizens have access to improved water sources — those that have protection from outside contamination. Fifty percent of water comes from springs while the other 50 percent is from various groundwater sources. One of the main reasons for Austria’s success in this category is its adoption of the EU Water Framework Directive, which helps to set specific environmental goals regarding surface water, analyzing characteristics of river basins and the effect human activity has on water sources. All of this work has helped Austria prevent its water from becoming contaminated.
  8. Poverty Rate: Poverty rates are low but impact children the most. Only 4 percent of Austrians live below the poverty line, which is measured as half of the median household revenue of the population. Less than 1 percent of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day, meaning the majority of citizens live comfortably in Austria. However, children are the most at-risk for poverty. Around 9 percent of children live in households that fall below the poverty line. Additionally, these children are the most at-risk for bullying in schools. Many (17.5 percent) children from poor households report that others have bullied them because of their family’s income level.
  9. Crime: Crime rates remain low in Austria. As of 2016, the murder rate in Austria was 0.7 per 100,000 inhabitants. The rape rate stood at 9.7 per 100,000 inhabitants. The total number of homicides in 2016 was 57. For comparison, there were 57 in Slovakia, 65 in the Czech Republic, 202 in Turkey and 17,250 in the U.S.
  10. Cost of Living: The cost of living in Austria remains relatively low. Compared to the United States, it is 1.87 percent more expensive to live in Austria. However, rent is roughly 30 percent cheaper in Austria. In comparison to the EU, Austria falls somewhere in the middle. The average salary is roughly 1,900 euros per month, which ranks in the top 10 of all the EU. Common items and transportation prices are also middling in comparison to the EU. For example, a bottle of water tends to cost 2.09 euros, which is in the middle of the 1.20 to 2.50 EU range. Local transportation, like buses and taxies, costs roughly 2.40 euros. This is toward the higher end of the 2.20-2.50 EU range, but still not incredibly expensive.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Austria give an insight into what life is like for its citizens. Those who live in Austria have easy access to health along with a wide variety of social benefits. As a whole, Austria is a stable nation with a strong economy and a healthy population.

– Andrew Edwards
Photo: Flickr