Unemployment, the absence of jobs for persons able and willing to work. A distinction is usually made with regard to the causes of unemployment, i.e. ( 1) seasonal unemployment in individual industries (such as construction, tourism); (2) cyclical unemployment; (3) structural unemployment as a consequence of changes in economic structure (e.g. company shutdowns, technological change); (4) frictional unemployment as a consequence of staff turnover in the labour market. In 1998 the number of unemployed persons in Austria came to 237,794 (annual average), which meant an unemployment rate of 7,2 to 4.5 %. Seasonal and structural aspects are particularly important in Austria, which also explains the east-west differences in unemployment figures, which are comparatively low in the western provinces and high in the east.
In the 1970s, at a time when unemployment increased rapidly in neighbouring countries in the wake of the economic downturn after the first petroleum crisis of 1973, Austrian economic policies focused on maintaining full employment, and it was only from 1982 onwards that the situation in Austria became comparable with international developments. Currently, Austria's unemployment rate is the third lowest in the European Union, after Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Financially, unemployed persons enjoy a measure of security owing to Unemployment Insurance; strategies for the fight against unemployment are formulated within the scope of Austria's Labour Market Policy.
In the 19th century, unemployment was already the cause of major migration and emigration movements within and out of Austria. After 1918 First Republic jobless figures increased rapidly, reaching 185,000 in 1919, exceeding 244,000 (11 %) in 1926 and mounting to an all-time high of 557,000 (21,7 % annual average) in 1933, including more than 100,000 individuals no longer entitled to unemployment relief. Despite various measures to prevent individuals from holding more than one job, short-time work and employment programmes (labour conscription, assistance to "productive" unemployed persons), it was impossible to reduce unemployment significantly (1937: 464,000), which proved one factor that contributed to the success of National Socialism.
Literature#D. Stiefel, Arbeitslosigkeit, 1979; R. Buchegger, Arbeitslosigkeit. Oekonomische und soziologische Perspektiven, 1990; C. Stelzer-Orthofer (ed.), Strategien gegen Arbeitslosigkeit, 1998.