There is good news: unemployment rates are falling. 393,500 people are currently registered with the Public Employment Service (AMS), 75,000 are in training. This means that there are 12,200 fewer unemployed compared to the previous week. For the first time since November 2020, the number is below 400,000. There are also around 480,000 advance registrations for short-time work, these numbers remain constant.
“But the labor market is currently divided into two parts,” said Labor Minister Martin Kocher (ÖVP) on Tuesday at a press conference in the Federal Chancellery. On the one hand there are closed sectors such as gastronomy and the hotel industry, on the other hand there are – open – branches of industry, some of which are even flourishing. The labor minister expects a recovery if there is no new lockdown.
In addition to a cautious trend towards light at the end of the tunnel, there is also bad news. Austria has a major problem on the labor market, which is now clearly visible due to the Corona crisis: Despite record unemployment, there is a high shortage of skilled workers. Why is that?
“40 percent of the unemployed have just finished compulsory schooling”
There is a shortage of skilled workers when the ratio of the unemployed skilled worker to the vacancy per occupation is 1.5 or lower, according to the agreement of the social partners. In February 56 professions were affected. Including roofers, opticians, qualified nurses or qualified engineers for data processing.
For the director of EcoAustria, Monika Köppl-Turyna, there are three reasons for this development: low mobility, poor education, many well-educated mothers who stay at home or work part-time.
“Many Austrians are very reluctant to move out of their district,” says the economist. “Not to mention moving to another state.” Increasing digitization and the expansion of the new 5G generation of mobile communications could dampen the negative effects.
“Many Austrians are reluctant to move away from their district”
Furthermore, many unemployed are not the people who fit the advertised positions. This is mainly due to their low qualifications. “40 percent of the unemployed have just completed compulsory schooling,” says Köppl-Turyna. “Only five percent have a university degree.” It would therefore be important to have a focus on education. Greater promotion of dual training and digital skills. The economist suggests – like AMS boss Johannes Kopf – an apprenticeship for adults and makes companies responsible. These should increasingly focus on further training.
A third reason for the shortage of skilled workers concerns family life at home. 73.6 percent of women with children under 15 work part-time, compared to only 5.8 percent for men. In 17.5 percent of families, only the man is gainfully employed. “These include many well-trained women who are at home or work part-time,” says Köppl-Turyna. She therefore calls for a massive expansion of childcare.
Training for the unemployed
The government recently pumped 700 million euros into the so-called Corona job offensive. Focus: training and further education for over 100,000 unemployed.
For this purpose, the AMS offices in the federal states surveyed the regional labor requirements of companies. Qualifications in trade, gastronomy, office and subject-specific language training are planned for 49,000 unemployed. 17,400 people are to receive training in electronics-digital technology. There is also a company founding group and qualifications for metal professions, nursing, social and support professions. There should also be training in the areas of the environment, wood, and agriculture and forestry.
The corona crisis accelerated digital developments and widened the gap between people in work and people without a job. If you were unemployed in the past year, you may find it difficult to use terms like zoom and teams.
“Digital skills can be learned quickly when you are in the world of work”
“Digital skills can be learned quickly when you are in the working world,” says Julia Bock-Schappelwein, economist at the Austrian Institute for Economic Research (Wifo). “Those who are outside of the world of work have a harder time.” People who do not have a job run the risk of being left behind. Bock-Schappelwein can imagine that companies are increasingly hiring people who do not have the required skills.
Economics minister Margarete Schramböck (ÖVP) can take a lot from this idea: On Tuesday the minister announced a digital qualification offensive worth 7.6 million euros. Companies are to use the funding to train their employees. “Corona has made the need for digitization and qualification of employees even more visible,” says Schramböck.
A first step that many have to follow in order to remedy the shortage of skilled workers.