“Brunnenmarkt”, street market in Vienna’s 16th district

After the disasters of the first half of the 20th century, First World War, Great Depression, Second World War, disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austro-Fascism and Nazi regime, holocaust and ethnic cleansing, Vienna, the former 2-million multi-ethnic capital of a 50-million peoples’ empire, had turned into a provincial town, capital of a 7-million country, with a decreasing, rather homogenous population. Since the middle of the 1960s the lack of much needed workforce at the times of the economic boom years led to a change of attitude towards labour migration in Austria. The census of 1961 registered 7,074,000 inhabitants in Austria; 102,000 of them foreigners, most of them German citizens, the lowest number ever.

In 1961 the first recruitments abroad for the construction industry took place. Of the agreed 7,300 persons only 1,800 arrived, mostly from Italy. In 1962 a recruitment agreement with Spain under the fascist regime of Franco was unsuccessful. Between 1962 and 1964 37,000 “guest workers” were invited annually, but those numbers of migratory workers never arrived in Austria. Austria did not seem to be an attractive destination at that time. Finally in 1964 a recruitment agreement was signed with Turkey and an official Austrian recruitment office was opened in Istanbul, which was closed nearly 30 years later in 1993. In 1966 such a recruitment agreement was signed with Yugoslavia, too, together with a social agreement that regulated the claims of the workers with respect to health, accident and pension insurance. An official Austrian recruitment office was opened in Belgrade. In 1969 a similar social agreement was negotiated with Turkey. In general, recruitment offices were of minor importance because most migrants entered Austria via tourist visa and their stay was later legalised after they had worked here for some time. The status of these migratory workers was precarious, as the two following examples show: In 1965 Yugoslav workers at the company Iso-Span in Obertrum, Salzburg, went on strike because they received lower wages than agreed. As a consequence the strikers were taken in custody pending deportation. The same happened in 1966, when Yugoslav workers in a construction company in Admont, Styria, went on strike.

Political crises in neighbouring countries also had an effect on migratory movements in Austria. When the dissatisfaction of the Hungarian population with the Soviet domination culminated in the Hungarian revolution of 1956, approximately 180,000 Hungarians fled to Austria and took residence here temporarily. In 1968 160,000 Czech and Slovak refugees settled in Austria for some time due to the revolution in Prague that was crushed by the Soviets as well. After the military coup-d’état In Turkey in 1980 – one of several coup-d’ètats there – the Turkish refugees in Austria received “guest worker” status and that’s why their exact number is not known. When in 1980 martial law was imposed on Poland, more than 35,000 Polish refugees came to Austria, most of which remained here permanently. When in 1991 the war in Yugoslavia started Austria welcomed approximately 90,000 refugees from ex-Yugoslavia over the next four years.

In 1970 the annual number of guest workers who were invited to Austria nearly reached 100,000. The census of 1971 registered a slightly rising population of 7,492,000 inhabitants, 212,000 of which foreign citizens. 138,000 of these were employed – 92,000 in production industries. Yugoslav citizens constituted the largest group of guest workers. Overall 605,500 people in Austria were born abroad. In the mid-seventies the employment of guest workers reached its peak with 156,000 in 1973 and 162,789 in 1974. The pressure from the Austrian trade unions against this massive influx of foreign workers was increasing, yet the Chamber of Commerce defended the recruitment abroad.

The oil price shock in December 1973 led to the first recession in Austria since the end of World War II and led to restrictions when guest workers wanted to re-enter the country after a holiday at home. This measure was designed to “export” unemployment to the countries of origin. Furthermore the abuse of tourist visa was now sanctioned and no longer tolerated. Only employment contracts via the official recruitment offices in the home countries of the guest workers were accepted. It is assumed that at that time approximately 40,000 foreign workers were illegally employed in Austria on the basis of tourist visa. According to the Turkish labour office 38,000 mostly male workers were sent to Austria until 1978. Around that time family reunification set in. In order to keep a check on foreign workers a new residence law was passed in 1972 that stipulated that a foreign worker’s certificate of registration was to be stamped with an “A” for alien and this information was to be passed on to the immigration authorities – the aliens branch of the police, but not all the Austrian authorities complied with these new rules. Furthermore, in 1974 the passports of foreign workers, when they left Austria, were stamped with an “A” as well, if they were to be allowed to enter Austria again to take on a job. There was no legal basis for this administrative practice, but it was continued until 1988. In 1976 the Foreign Labour Law was introduced and it stated that foreign workers could only remain in Austria as long as they were needed as workers. This resulted in protests against the passing of this law in Vienna, whereby on one of the speakers at the demonstration, Erol Sever, an exclusion order was imposed.

With the coming down of the Iron Curtain in 1989, the fear of foreign workers inundating the Austrian labour market was exploited by populist politicians. At the same time the term “guest worker” was replaced by the term “foreign worker”. In 1995 Austria joined the European Union and in 2002 the restrictions that had been imposed on foreigners in 1992 with respect to self-employment were lifted in the wake of a WTO decision. This facilitated the founding of businesses in Austria for foreign citizens. With the accession of 10 new EU members in 2004 and two more in 2007 a transition period set in in Austria that protected the Austrian labour market from the influx of workers from the new EU accession countries.

Austria, like most European countries, still does not regard itself as an immigration country, such as Canada, Australia or the USA. Nevertheless hundred thousands of persons have settled in Austria, Germany and Switzerland over the last decades, some of them are citizens of their new home country and their children and grandchildren were born and raised here. This means that at least from a social point of view Austria, Germany and Switzerland are immigration countries. Austria was the first European country that in the 1990s clearly stipulated how many foreign citizens on the basis of which status could annually enter Austria and how many of them could settle here permanently. In this way Austria fulfiled important criteria for an immigration country with respect to the share of foreigners living and working in Austria and the annual quotas for regulating new immigration. The term “guest worker”, which was introduced in the 1960s, was later replaced by the term “migrant”, but the term “immigrant” was rarely used because in immigration countries immigrants are quickly integrated and equality and non-discrimination are central to such countries. In Austria an immigrant can only receive Austrian citizenship automatically if one parent is Austrian and not when the person is born here, which means that annually many children are born in Austria with an alien status. Only in the 1990s it was realised that those “guest workers” and their families would not return to their home countries when they were no longer needed, as was the assumption in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time the term “integration” started to be widely discussed, but the interpretation of the term was as follows: only someone who has assimilated is regarded as integrated, otherwise the person would be legally discriminated against as before. In Austria integration is not a reciprocal process in reality:” integration is the prerequisite for integration”.

The Austrian state tried to control migration and adapt it to economic and political demands. Until the early 1970s the fear of emigration of Austrians dictated the policy of the Austrian authorities. At that time around 50,000 Austrians worked in Germany alone and the number of foreign workers in Austria was not even half as high. When the Austrian employers demanded more workers, it was a decision of the representatives of employers and employees to recruit workers abroad on the basis of a temporary permit of residence. The trade unions and the Chamber of Commerce further agreed that from 1966 on foreign workers had to have special identity card which evidenced the employer and the place of work so that a change of jobs was made impossible or very difficult for the foreign workers because this special ID also figured as a health card. Additionally it was negotiated that in case of a staff reduction the foreign workers would be made redundant first. The alien branch of the police was and is the body that has to execute governmental regulatory measures regarding immigration; for instance in 1983 the Austrian Trade Union Congress decided to end labour migration completely due to the recession and as a consequence the alien branch of the police deported 15 to 20 foreign workers weekly. Over the decades the regulatory maze with respect to immigration has confused everybody, starting with the migrant families up to the employers, and the police. Rules and regulations stipulating who, how many, with which documents, under which conditions, with how much money, for how long, with which rights foreigners were allowed to work in Austria, be unified with the family, change the place of work, kept and keep changing. Even who is legally and who is illegally here remains variable. This insecure legal condition promotes a process of “illegalisation”. Since Austria joined the Schengen agreement, a tendency towards “Europeanising” migratory regulation has been visible. In compensating the abolishing of border controls inside the Schengen area, a new mechanism of control and supervision was created that was more flexible than the ”old” border controls. The frontier has not disappeared but has shifted inwards and outwards to neighbouring countries. So any discussion about regulating migratory movements that is associated with border controls rests on the myth of the existence of a sovereign national state that con control its territory. But in reality national controls of migratory movements have been denationalised and the tasks have been passed on to local levels on the one hand, such as federal states and districts, and to the EU on the other hand – or they have even been privatised.

The first attempts at self-organisation of the guest workers started in the 1970s. Associations and newspapers were founded, such as the Serbo-Croatian associations “Jedinstvo” and “Pozarevac” and the magazine “Naz List” in Vienna, issued by the Austrian Chamber of Commerce. In 1980 an umbrella organisation for all Yugoslav associations was formed which counted 120 members in 1981. Due to the wars in Yugoslavia the Yugoslav associations and clubs split up in the 1990s depending on whether the majority of their leaders or members were Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Slovenian, Kosovo-Albanian or Macedonian. The club “Jedinstvo”(Unity), founded in 1970, is one of the few that still exists in Vienna. The first Turkish paper “Yanki” was published in Vienna in 1972 and the “Workers’ Union from Turkey” was founded in Vienna in 1973. In 1980 the first “Austrian-Turkish Friendship Association” was established and in 1982 a Turkish people’s culture house was founded, named “Halk Kültür Dernegi”. In the 1980s several associations to assist Turkish women were set up in Vienna, for example “Learning together – Birlikte Ögrenelim” (1983) or “Association of Turkish Women” (1989). In 1977 the Islamic Centre Vienna was built, funded by Saudi-Arabia, followed by the legal acceptance and equalisation of Islam in Austria and the reestablishment of the Islamic religious community in 1979, based on the respective Austro-Hungarian law. Four years later Islamic religious instruction was offered at Austrian schools and in 2004 Austria’s first Islamic cemetery was built in Vienna. In 1979 the “Association of Egyptians for Culture and Social Affairs” was established as an initiative of mostly Egyptian newspaper sellers and in 1987 the “Association of Newspaper Sellers” was founded in Vienna. In 2003 Vienna granted the voting right to migrants on district level and issued the district journals in Serbo-Croatian and Turkish. Already in 2001 several candidates with migratory background were voted into district councils and the city council of Vienna.

The trigger for self-organisation of the guest workers in the 1970s was the precarious social situation. They were not included in the Austrian society because they were seen as “guests” that would return home as soon as they were no longer needed. The repeated demand to “return” to their home countries prevented them from settling down in Austria. Consequently, the guest workers resorted to forms of self-organisation to further the process of taking roots in the new country. This country was a nation state to which the guest workers posed a huge challenge because Austria was geared towards a homogenous population and assimilation. The self-organisation of the migrants was a means to empower the guest workers and give them a greater say in the social struggles of this nation state. Migration as such is never the action of a single asocial individual, but the project of a whole social and / or family group. This network takes on the responsibility for a continued migration and seems to be victorious over all attempts at nationalistic and nation states’ regulatory measures to stem migration. The growing number of migrants points to the inability of designing coherent and functioning state regulatory measures. Migrants within their networks devise strategies for self-determination, such as finding jobs and accommodation, obtaining a health insurance, marrying a local, adoption and organising the right contacts. The outcome of this process is a form of toying with the predominant state power and developing specific mechanisms to deal with the prevailing order. In principle every nation state has a nationalistic and racist tendency that structurally excludes foreigners systematically from participating in all social areas. As we have seen, it took many years until trade union participation on the work place was made possible and voting rights on local levels were granted to foreign workers.

There are two forms of self-organisation of migrants: first, defensive organisations and second, participatory organisations. Defensive organisations concentrate on maintaining cultural identity, language and ethnicity – they are inward bound and defensive. These organisations are linked to relatives, communities in the home country, domestic religious, political and social associations. Ethnic media and ethnic economies develop from such defensive self-organisations. Religious communities, political parties and ethnic media in the host country aim at the preservation of the socio-political conditions of the home country. Ethnic networks are created to exchange information about mechanisms in the new country and about keeping up contacts with the home country, for example establishing functioning bus connections to the remotest villages in the countries of origin. These networks have always been used for political agitation as well. Ethnic economies are a second important pillar of defensive self-organisations because they serve the special needs of the migrants in the host country which are not satisfied by the local economy, such as Turkish groceries, ethnic bars and restaurants, special travel agents, loan offices or funeral services. Furthermore, these ethnic economies are sometimes established because the foreign workers have been squeezed out of the regular labour market. These young businesses are often founded with very little capital and supported by the family network. Another form of defensive self-organisation are ethnic associations that were set up since the 1970s, in which approximately 50 per cent of migrants were actively involved. In the 1990s these associations were no longer politically and culturally attractive for the second generation of migrants because they had not considerably contributed to an improvement of the social status of foreign workers and their families. What’s more, the views, interests and way of life of the mostly male leaders of the first generation of these associations did not meet the cultural demands of the younger generation.

Since the end of the 1990s participatory self-organisations were established in Austria, which partly replaced older defensive organisations. These organisational forms try to achieve political solutions for problems that migrants are facing. The following characteristics differentiate them from defensive organisations: participatory self-organisations are ethnically inhomogeneous; they demand an active part in the political discussion of the country and do not just resort to lobbying. They are characterised by flat hierarchies, are more internationally oriented and show a high degree of political commitment to achieve equality. They refuse allegiance, which is common in defensive organisations with clear contextual and structural guidelines, differentiated rules for acceptance in the club and for exclusion from it. Meetings in defensive organisations take place regularly, for example the annual sporting games of the Yugoslav sports associations until the dissolution of Yugoslavia.

Of greatest interest for the migratory self-organisations was the question of family reunion and continued migration from the region of origin. Due to the strong resistance of the nation state and several Austrian political decision makers, support could only be found from civil society partners in the country of origin and in the host country. One important stepping stone in this direction was participation in trade union representation. Stakeholders in the host country as well as in the countries of origin have tried to use these new participatory self-organisations for their own interests in order to strengthen their position of power. The participatory organisations concentrated more on questions of power than on questions of identity. In this way the new activists started a dialogue with the society of the host country which enabled them to criticise certain aspects of this society. These activists refused to be misused by organisations which claim to speak for migrants, but do not include them in their decision-making processes. They furthermore distance themselves from the leaders of defensive organisations who were entangled in the opaque maze of political structures, trade unions and parties through their lobbying activities and were no longer trustworthy. Since the 1990s participatory self-organisations have been focussing on outward bound political actions.

Originally guest workers were viewed as male migrant labour in Austria and women were treated as their appendage. In 1971 only 37 per cent of Yugoslav and 13 per cent of Turkish people living in Austria were women. They were only seen in the context of family reunion which made them dependent on their husbands in public opinion. This attitude persisted and exacerbated the financial and migratory dependence of foreign women on their husbands in Austria. The social inequality of migrants had especially negative consequences for women. In the 1960s and 70s the textile and clothing industry employed a large portion of the female guest workers. The qualifications they had acquired in their home countries were not accredited here and they were mostly employed in so-called female occupations, such as cleaning. These jobs were badly paid, subject to flexible working hours that did not correspond with child care facilities’ opening hours. Even well-educated female migrants were and are sometimes still placed in unskilled jobs by the Austrian job centres. This practice results in a huge income gap between male and female foreign workers and in a poverty trap for single mothers. In the beginning the new arrivals resorted to well-known traditional patterns of life in their home countries and they were thereby viewed as backward, fundamentalist and uneducated, but also among female foreign workers more modern and flexible ways of life abound nowadays and no fixed and explicit identity can be ascribed to them. Since the 1990s there has been a massive rise in demand for household personnel, child minders and old age carers. All these jobs are badly paid and regarded as female occupation. As more women in industrialised countries work, they need to pay for support in these areas and in this way a “global chain of care” has developed. As foreign women come to care for children and the elderly in Austria, they leave behind their families in-say-Slovakia, which then have to get support from women in the Ukraine, etc. This labour market development increases the wealth gap between men and women and between locals and migrants. The assignment of low paid household and caring jobs to female migrants has led to a splitting and ethnicity of the labour market, which results in low prestige, a bad image, low pay and a low social status for those who work in these fields.

Initially the rights of guest workers in the firms that employed them were restricted. In 1970 the trade unions and the employers’ representatives agreed that guest workers could be appointed as “spokespeople” in their companies, but they were of minor importance. Finally in 1974 the active voting right for trade union representation was granted to guest workers. The representation of foreign workers at the work place and their involvement in trade union affairs was very weak in the first decades after the recruitment campaigns had started. The guest workers were welcome as members of trade unions; in fact especially Yugoslavia wanted their workers abroad to be members of the local trade unions, which facilitated the cooperation between Yugoslav and Austrian trade unions. At the beginning of the 1970s the first translator and interpreter for Serbo-Croatian was employed at the Austrian Trade Union Congress. Although the Austrian trade union movement generously supported ethnic culture and sports clubs financially, their attitude towards foreign workers was ambiguous because their priority was the protection of the jobs of the Austrian workers. The very restrictive Austrian Aliens Acts were strongly supported by the trade unions and the guest worker migration was regarded as a strictly temporary phenomenon. Until 1992 the Austrian citizenship was a precondition for gaining employment at the trade unions and the passive voting right for migrants at trade union elections was only granted in 2006. How many foreign workers were members of Austrian trade unions cannot be verified because the trade unions did not officially register the nationality of their members. In 1998 the “Federation of Democratic Workers’ Associations” DIDF was founded, which was a partner organisation of the German DIDF that had already been established in 1980, and combined all Austrian migrant associations. This organisation’s aim was to make the public aware of current questions of labour, education and racism and the legal position of foreign workers in Austria. The 1st of May celebrations were an important event to demonstrate solidarity of migrant workers. The association ATIGF “Federation of Workers and Youth from Turkey in Austria” was founded in 1986 and campaigned for equal rights and against racism, but it also tried to promote democracy in Turkey and to raise public awareness for the plight of political prisoners in Turkey. Some of the members of ATIGF had come as political refugees to Austria in the 1970s and 1980s.

Housing is one of the most important needs of daily life. At the start of the guest worker migration reports of squalid conditions, exorbitant rents, a lack of privacy, overcrowded quarters and discrimination on the housing market abounded. The lack of family-friendly housing possibilities induced many guest workers to delay family reunion and bring their children and spouses to Austria several years later. For decades the access to social housing was strictly limited to Austrian citizens, which led to the fact that migrant workers had to find accommodation on the private housing market. The Foreigner Employment Act of 1975 stipulated that a work permit was only granted when accommodation customary in the respective region was provided, which was usually defined in square meters and differed from federal state to federal state in Austria. In that way this legal clause was often used to deny family reunion because accommodation customary in the region was not existent. Some migrants were lucky to get an employment as care taker of a block of flats which went along with a free service accommodation. In this way migrants could escape precarious housing conditions and that’s why an employment as care taker was much in demand, especially when fewer Austrians took on this job because of the low prestige, low income and sometimes grubby service flats. In the 1970s the media reported about the abysmal living conditions of guest workers in company flats and on the private housing market. At that time the Yugoslav government put pressure on the Austrian government to induce employers to ameliorate the housing situation of the Yugoslav workers, who were recruited in Yugoslavia and invited to come to Austria to work.

A central issue was and is language knowledge. Acquiring a certain level of German language knowledge is not only a precondition for integration on the labour market and in Austrian society; it is more and more linked to the right of receiving social support. This topic was not on the agenda in the 1960s because no one believed that these guest workers would stay in the host country. Therefore no German courses were offered, there was no translation service available in governmental or social institutions. That was when several migrants started to act as interpreters without any professional training. The teaching of the mother tongue of the children of migrants at schools was initially seen as chance to pave the way for those children to return to their home countries. Only around the year 2000 bi- or multilingualism of migrants was seen as an asset for the migrants as well as for society as a whole. The ability to quickly change between language uses is seen as a creative skill, even if there still seems to be a hierarchical gradient between the different languages. Yet there are some who believe the priority of the German language has to be strengthened at school and that the use of the mother tongue should be forbidden, also during breaks. In the first years of worker migration the learning of the German language was usually triggered by the personal interest of the migrant because no interpreters were available at governmental or social offices or at hospitals and surgeries. Usually the children, who learned German more quickly at school, acted as interpreters for their parents and other family members. Since the 1980s German courses were offered by counselling services for migrants. Around the year 2000 the acquisition of German language skills has become a duty of the migrant that is demanded by the state and a failure to perform is sanctioned by a refusal of a work permit, family reunion or citizenship. In the late 1970s the Vienna city council and the Trade Union Congress decided to employ the services of translators and interpreters on a permanent basis, but in companies translation activities were usually taken over by workers who had been staying in Austria longer than others. This often led to a conflict of interest between these workers, their colleagues and the employers. Some of them exploited their position of power with the employers at the expense of their fellow workers. The lack of German language knowledge also led to precarious situations in migrant households in the first decades of migration, when door-to-door sellers exploited the situation and made the people sign contracts they did not understand, by which they bought magazines, products etc. they did not want and did not need and the costs then overwhelmed them. Counselling services then tried to solve the situation for the affected families and to annul the contracts. In 1971 the city of Vienna together with the Trade Union Congress, the Chamber of Labour and the Chamber of Commerce and other institutions founded the “Immigrants Fund” to assist newly arriving guest workers in Serbo-Croatian and Turkish language with counselling in bureaucratic matters and the provision of all sorts of information material. The counsellors also offered free legal advice and helped with access to affordable housing.

Sports activities, especially football was not only an important leisure time activity from the beginning of the migratory movement, they also acted as a platform for social contacts. The first informal guest worker football clubs developed into permanent structures and the limited access of foreigners to Austrian professional football clubs in the first decades facilitated the establishment of migrant football leagues: the “Yugo League” in the 1970s and the “Turkish League” in the 1980s, promoted by the owners of Turkish bars. In 1989 33 teams played in the Vienna “Yugo League”, but in 1991 there were only 17 left due to the wars in Ex-Yugoslavia. The “Turkish League” was dissolved in 1989. In addition, also other sports were promoted, as the annual “Yugoslav Workers’ Sports Games” in Austria proved. A successful sports career often went along with social recognition and for some with a social advancement that would not have been possible in the political or cultural field at that time. Successful sportsmen and –women became stars in their home countries and in their host country. Not just sports, but also the promotion of culture and education strengthened the identity of the guest workers in the host country. In 1975 the Yugoslav adult education centre, the “New Belgrade Worker’s University”, opened a branch in Vienna and later in some other federal states of Austria. It was located in the 3rd district of Vienna and offered education and training for Yugoslav workers from completing compulsory school education to skilled work trainings and Serbo-Croatian language classes. It was a place for self-organisation, too, and offered premises for music and folklore events. The university was closed after the Balkans wars in the 1990s.

Labour migration is a capitalist economic phenomenon. Workers are recruited abroad to serve the economy in two ways: first quantitatively, in order to compensate the lack of workers in a given economy and second, qualitatively in order to reduce the wage costs. From the point of view of the employer and the state the migrant worker is a substitute worker. In order to maintain this concept, a legal structure has to be introduced that allows for an increase in the number of foreign workers in times of an economic boom and for a reduction of the numbers in times of a recession. For the migrant workers who are subject to these conditions, this means insecurity. To overcome this insecurity and the discrimination at the workplace, some of the migrants started small sole trader businesses or family partnerships. The demand for ethnic food and ethnic bars and restaurants offered new opportunities in the 1970s in Vienna. In 1985 Hüseyin Ünal, for example, opened a small grocery “Aksoy” in the 10th district of Vienna. He had come to Vienna from Turkey at the age of 18 with just basic schooling and worked as an unskilled worker in the construction industry. His decision to start his own business was a difficult one, but the demand for Turkish products among the foreign workers was rising. In the 1990s his family business was the first to offer Halal-slaughtered meat and nowadays his business has turned into one of the biggest Turkish supermarkets in Austria, “Etsan”. Two of the famous Turkish restaurants in Vienna, “Kent” and “Etap”, started small, too, at the “Brunnenmarkt”, an open-air market in the 16th district of Vienna. In 1960 the couple Lazovic established the restaurant “Beograd” in the 4th district of Vienna which over the years developed into a cultural meeting point in the city. In the 1970s they opened a disco in the cellar of the same house. Dragoslav Weinfurter, who had come to Vienna in 1969 with his parents, had spent many evenings in this disco and after completing his apprenticeship and master as a mechanic, he could not take over a mechanic’s shop. While working as a taxi driver, he still dreamed of owning his own café. In 2005 he finally took over the restaurant “Beograd” and kept the distinct Balkan flair together with Balkan live bands. Meanwhile the importance of the migrant economy has grown significantly in Vienna. Migrant entrepreneurs are organised in the Chamber of Commerce and voice their opinions and demands there. By the way, migrant remittances to their home countries still play an important role in the economies of these countries.

The share of foreign citizens living in Vienna increased from below 2 per cent in 1961 to just below 20 per cent in 2007. At that time Austria had together with Ireland and Spain the second highest share of foreigners in the EU, only Switzerland (not in the EU), Luxemburg, Cyprus and the Baltic states had a larger share of foreign citizens living on their territory. In Cyprus the Turkish citizens and in the Baltic states the Russian citizens living there explain this high proportion of foreigners in these areas. By 2017 the share of foreigners living in Vienna had increased to 28.6 per cent, the percentage of people born abroad was 35 per cent and the estimated amount of Viennese citizens with migratory background was approximately 49 per cent. In primary schools in Vienna the share of children whose mother tongue is not German has risen dramatically, too: in the school year 2011/12 it was and 53.9 per cent in Vienna and 24.8 per cent in the whole of Austria. In comparison, the share of children with a mother tongue other than German in secondary education in the school year 2007/8 varied between 10 per cent in commercial and technical colleges, BHS in Austria, and 8 per cent in grammar schools, AHS in Austria. In 2006 the share of foreign students at Austrian universities was 15.6 per cent, the fourth highest in Europe after the UK, Luxemburg and Switzerland – all these three countries attract lots of foreign students to their mostly private universities. In Austria the influx of foreign students to state universities is due to favourable accession criteria that lured many German students to Austria who did not get a study place at home, namely 30 per cent in the study year 2007/8. 14 per cent of foreign students came from Italy because the German speaking minority in Southern Tyrol traditionally studies in Austria; 23 per cent came from other EU or EFTA states, 12 per cent from Ex-Yugoslavia (except Slovenia) and 5 per cent from Turkey.

The youth unemployment rate in Austria in 2007 was 8.6 per cent, among Austrian citizens it was 7.4 per cent, but for young people from Ex-Yugoslavia it was 15.1 per cent and from Turkey 18.4 per cent. This statistic shows that the highly differentiated Austrian school system left many children of foreign workers behind. The highest achieved educational level of the working population in Austria in 2007 shows a similar picture: Austrians with a tertiary education made up 18 per cent, as compared to 6 per cent of workers from Ex-Yugoslavia and 5 per cent from Turkey. The Austrian working population with a secondary education constituted 66 per cent, as compared to 54 per cent from Ex-Yugoslavia and 27 per cent from Turkey. Those with only compulsory education made up 16 per cent among Austrians, 40 per cent among Ex-Yugoslavians and 68 per cent among Turks. Consequently, the conclusion can be drawn that in the first decade of 2000 workers from Ex-Yugoslavia were faring better on the Austrian labour market than Turkish workers due to their higher educational levels. The data of 2016 show slight changes in the educational levels of workers on the Austrian labour market: The share of Austrian population with tertiary education constituted 17 per cent, Ex-Yugoslavians 7 per cent and Turks 4 per cent. So the numbers remained more or less stable with respect to university education. Here migrants from the “old” EU/EFTA countries with 40 per cent and the new EU accession countries of 2004/07/13 with 23 per cent fared much better than even Austrians. Regarding secondary education, we can see that 72 per cent of Austrians, 60 per cent of Ex-Yugoslavians, and 35 per cent of Turks have completed colleges of some form; this means a significant increase overall, but especially the figures for the new accession countries with 65 per cent compared to the old EU/EFTA countries with 56 per cent are encouraging. Unfortunately the data for the Turkish community with the by far highest proportion of workers that have only completed compulsory education with 61 per cent is bad news for their employability in the future. That is also the reason why the unemployment rate in 2016 of the Turkish population in Austria was the highest (apart from citizens of the rest of the world, which was higher) with 19.9 per cent, compared to 14.3 for citizens from Ex-Yugoslavia, 10.3 for citizens from the new EU accession countries, 8 per cent for Austrians and 7.7. for old EU /EFTA countries’ citizens.

Another interesting aspect is the proportion of the Austrian population with migratory background registered in 2016. In total the largest part came from Ex-Yugoslavia with 525,000, followed by 465,000 from the new EU accession countries of 2004/07 and then by Turkey with 272,000. A differentiation between first and second generation immigrants shows the following picture: First generation immigrants from Ex-Yugoslavia comprise 372,000 compared to second generation 153,000, while first generation immigrants from Turkey make up 153,000 as compared to 119,000 second generation and first generation new EU accession countries 2004/07 count 361,000 as compared to 104,000 second generation. Due to their more recent arrival in Austria their share of second generation immigrants is much lower than the one for Ex-Yugoslavia and Turkey from where people have been arriving since the 1960s. In 2017 (1st January) 49.5 per cent of the foreign residential population in Austria were EU /EFTA nationals, namely 664,729 people. Of the 50.5 per cent third country nationals (677,201) 118,454 came from Serbia, 116,838 from Turkey and 94,611 from Bosnia Herzegovina. The proportion of nationals from EU/EFTA countries can be divided as follows: The by far largest number came from Germany to Austria, namely 181,618, followed by Romania 92,095, Croatia 73,334, Hungary 70,584, Poland 60,079, Slovakia 38,094, Italy 27,290, Bulgaria 24,923, Slovenia 17,312 and the Czech Republic 12,629. An interesting aspect is also the distribution of the employment rate of men and women among the different groups on the Austrian labour market: in total 75 per cent of men and 68 per cent of women were employed in Austria. The share of men without migration background constituted 77 per cent and of women 71 per cent; yet with migration background a shift can be discerned of 69 per cent for men and only 58 per cent for women. Among those the proportion for new EU accession countries is more favourable with 75 per cent for men and 67 per cent for women.

In qualitative interviews twenty students with migratory background studying at universities of applied sciences in Vienna in the study year 2017/18 were asked about their family background and their professional plans for the future. The families of these young students originated in many different areas; many came from Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Croatia, Poland, Turkey, fewer from Iran and Pakistan. Most of those emigrating from Ex-Yugoslavia had fled the Balkans wars in the 1990s, some of the Turkish or Ex-Yugoslav students originate from guest worker families that were invited to Austria in the 1960s and 1970s, which means that the father and / or mother was already born in Austria. Some of the parents or grandparents are of different ethnic backgrounds, for example Serbian of Hungarian ethnicity or Serbian of Romanian ethnicity, which might have induced them to leave a nationalistic environment. Furthermore several families are from minority groups that are disadvantaged and discriminated against in their home country, or even persecuted, such as Muslims in Serbia, Yazidis in Turkey or Christian Armenians in Iran. Some families moved abroad together, in other cases the father went first and the wife and children followed later. In some cases young people, especially from the new EU accession countries, migrated on their own to study in Austria. It is interesting to see that especially people from minority backgrounds in their country of origin or people who fled the war in Ex-Yugoslavia have a migratory history in the family. In this case the family network is not just limited to Austria, but relatives can be found in Germany, the United States, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, Switzerland and Canada. Some of them even emigrated already after the end of World War II. It is obvious that disadvantaged minorities like the Armenians and the Yazidis have established a dense worldwide family network abroad. But some of the students’ relatives also work and live in other parts of Austria, such as Linz.

So the students’ families came to Austria either as guest workers or because of war, persecution and the dire economic conditions at home. In case of the guest worker migration, the men came first to Austria, but in the other cases it was families that came together, or even women who came first or alone, especially from Ex-Yugoslavia and the new EU accession countries. As already mentioned before, in some cases the young students are the first in their families to arrive in Austria. All of the students mentioned that they or their families came to Austria to find jobs, better living conditions and better education opportunities, all in all a better future for themselves and the young generation. In one case the brother was the first to come to Austria to study and then the whole family followed. Some families have been here for more than 40 or 30 years, but there are also instances where grandparents or parents returned to the country of origin and the children remained in Austria or the whole family had returned from Germany to Bosnia after the war, but realised that it was impossible for them to make a living there and offer a promising future for their children, so they emigrated again and this time to Austria. Especially the grandparents sometimes consider returning to the home country, for instance Turkey, after retirement because “the weather is better there”. Yet one father returned to Serbia in order to establish a business there, while the young remain in Austria.

The next interesting point is to see what the professions of the parents or grandparents were in their home countries. The grandparents were often unskilled workers or farmers before they moved to Austria. Some of the parents were low-skilled workers such as construction workers, but others held skilled jobs such as worker in the automotive industry, driving instructor, radio host, policeman and policewoman, border patrol, plumber, tailor and seamstress, head cook, metal worker, office staff, shop assistant, engineer, teacher, others were independent business people running, for instance, a coffee shop, restaurant or other enterprises at home. Some of the women were housewives or cleaners in their home countries and some parents came to Austria as students or had just completed their studies at home. What job opportunities were now open for these parents who arrived as foreign workers in Austria? Many of the women work as cleaners in Austria now, some of them getting a qualification while working, for instance as an accountant, or as waitresses and store managers in chain stores or supermarkets. A few got their qualifications accredited and work for example as nurses or hair dressers. The men work as lorry drivers, construction workers, metal workers, car body painters and taxi drivers and computer engineers. Several fathers have already established their own enterprises here in Austria, often together with a family partner, for instance a restaurant or food stand, a dry cleaner or a transport company. Most of them are family enterprises where many members of the family work or help out. The older brothers and sisters of these students mostly hold highly qualified jobs, for instance at the United Nations, as business administrator, computer engineer, technician, programmer or dental assistant. Many of the parents have already improved the living conditions of their families with a lot of hard work and resilience and by that have climbed the social ladder. Thanks to their commitment, flexibility and entrepreneurship the future really looks bright for their children.  In fact, what are now the career plans of these young students? They, of course, all want to complete their studies and graduate, many even aim for a Master’s degree. The professional areas they would like to work in after their graduation are international banking, insurance, human resources, accounting and auditing, supply chain management and logistics. Nearly all of them want to stay in the European Union. Some of them have already clear career plans like working for Turkish Airlines or the Emirates or LKW Walter, a logistics firm, because they have done internships there or are already working part time. Several students want to set up their own enterprise, alone or with a family partner, or take a chance with a start-up. They are open, creative and flexible and will take up a job anywhere they can find an interesting and well-paying one, be it in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia or elsewhere.

This analysis shows that despite many deficiencies integration does work in Vienna and young people with a migratory background do have a chance to advance in society and realise the dreams of their parents of climbing the social ladder and improving their chances of advancing professionally. In Austria we unfortunately do have a problem with racism and right-wing populism, but Austria should never permit leaving the discussion about and criticism of integration to these groups. It is important to devise a successful integration policy in the middle of society and not focus on the outdated left-right positions. This issue is much too important for such political provincialism, especially for the young generation, the education of the young and their future opportunities in Austrian society to have a better life, a more rewarding job than their parents devoid of social discrimination. There are four areas that people migrating to Austria might have difficulties with: patriarchal structures at home and equality, freedom of opinion, anti-Semitism in their countries of origin and the freedom of religion and its limits. To those who come, it must be crystal clear that there are inviolable rights in Austria and Europe that have to be accepted by those who want to stay here and these are first, the equality and independence of every individual that cannot be restricted by patriarchal hierarchies, second, unrestricted freedom of opinion and freedom of speech, third, an unconditional rejection of any form of anti-Semitism and fourth, the freedom of religion as long as it does not interfere with the rights and duties of the state in the spirit of European Enlightenment and does not violate human rights. This has to be clearly communicated and is not negotiable. Religious criticism, for example, must be possible in a Western society because it was the criticism of the Church and its structures that led to Enlightenment and democracy, the foundation of modern European values. People who want to live here because they yearn for a life in safety, enjoy some wealth and the achievements of a welfare state have to be made aware that this is not available without accepting also those European values mentioned above. The state and the society of Austria owes this to all those people who migrate to this country in order to be able to live these values and they need to be protected from fundamentalism, racism, anti-Semitism and patriarchal and dictatorial structures. It is necessary to achieve this clarity in communication and also in action. It goes against European principles and values, for example to allow Muslim institutions in Austria to be financed by fundamentalist foreign states, which then agitate against European values in Austria. In the past Austrian and Viennese authorities have been too ambiguous about what is acceptable and desirable in our society and what is not. This does not assist integration, but prevents it by creating isolated sealed off ethnic communities, which cannot participate and advance in the Austrian society. Clarity is key – and appropriate sanctions. If, for example, the teaching in religious kindergartens and schools does not comply with these European values, public funds have to be withdrawn immediately. In conclusion it can be said that the key to successful integration of migrants is education, education, education.


20 qualitative interviews with students with migratory background at universities of applied sciences in Vienna in the study year 2017/18

Hakan Gürses, Cornelia Kogoj, Sylvia Mattl (ed.), Gastarbaijteri. 40 Jahre Arbeitsmigration, Wien 2004

Arif Akkilic, Vida Bakondy, Ljubomir Bratic, Regina Wonisch (ed.), Schere, Topf, Papier. Objekte zur Migrationsgeschichte, Wien 2016

Integration Report 2017, Austria 2017

Statistical Yearbook 2017, Austria 2017