Cracker: Austria needs holistic strategy to combat shortage of skilled workers (PK0473/05/16/2024)

Vienna (PK) – In its “inventory of the shortage of skilled workers”, the Court of Auditors recommends developing an overall strategy based on a solid database. The members of Parliament discussed and unanimously approved the audit committee’s report in the National Council meeting held today.

In the view of the Court of Auditors, the Red-White-Red Card (RWR Card) can best promote the desired immigration of qualified workers from third countries. What is needed is to simplify the system and make it more flexible, Auditor General Markit Cracker said in a report on the red-white-red card. Like this report, a critical audit report on the Austrian location agency Austria Business Agency (ABA) was unanimously agreed by MPs.

MPs from the ÖVP and the Green Party stressed that the central government has already implemented a number of improvements in line with the recommendations of the court of auditors. For speakers in the SPÖ, FPÖ and NEOS ranks, these steps did not go far enough. Fundamental disagreements emerged over the question of how Austria should handle immigration and what the actual level of integration of immigrants into the labor market was.

The Auditor’s Court does not have data on shortage of skilled workers

The Court of Auditors found in a report on the topic that the shortage of skilled workers not only disadvantages the affected companies but also reduces the overall economic performance of the society. According to him, an overall strategy with integrated measures is still missing, as well as a solid database for a more accurate analysis of occupations, regional distribution and volume of work. Court of Auditors recommends making both.

According to the Court of Auditors, the recruitment of qualified personnel from third countries, for example through the red-white-red card, is fundamentally suitable for overcoming the shortage of skilled workers. However, the card system should be simplified, which is one of the conclusions of the Court of Auditors in its report on the red-white-red card and the EU blue card. The Court of Auditors sees further adjustment screws in the exploitation and mobilization of domestic workforce potential by increasing the labor force participation of women, the elderly and migrants.

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Franz Harl (ÖVP) says that the lack of skilled workers is currently a fundamental problem for the service and tourism sectors. There has been some progress since the auditors’ court report, which is reflected in a significant increase in the number of applications and approvals for red-white-red cards. Key to this success is, among other things, improved consultation. Hörl identified the possibility of attracting skilled workers in the notified red-white-red card for adults and created a special regulation for tourism workers from the Western Balkan states.

Andreas Kuhberger (ÖVP) said that although training was difficult, the tide has now turned. Companies are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain the skilled workers they need. The recommendations of the Court of Auditors are important pointers on where to start. This includes supporting training and further education and reducing part-time quotas. Labor Minister Martin Kocher has created a package worth 75 million euros to improve the integration of migrants from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan into the labor market. Martina Kaufmann (ÖVP) also pointed out the importance of training skilled workers, which primarily takes place in SMEs. Therefore, the central government is taking many measures to improve the teaching profession.

Klaus Köchl (SPÖ) saw great potential for job seekers, which was not being exploited by the federal government’s lack of initiative. Asylum seekers are repeatedly denied integration into the labor market, despite their urgent need for workers. It is definitely necessary for auditors to improve the red-white-red card recommended by the court. But he only expects this from the next federal government under SPÖ leadership, Koechl said.

Dagmar Belakowitsch (FPÖ) already highlighted the recommendation of the Court of Auditors to better integrate immigrants in the country. However, AMS does nothing to qualify and motivate this group of people. The central government is only focused on bringing more and more “distant people” into the country. In view of rising unemployment, this is a completely wrong approach. Christian Lasch (FPÖ) emphasized that the FPÖ is against a policy which only aims to solve all problems in the labor market through even more immigration. The ÖVP and NEOS are only interested in bringing even more cheap labor into the country. Lash called for a training and practice attack. In recent years, the central government has done nothing towards the overall strategy required by the Court of Auditors.

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Eva Blimlinger (Greens) vehemently contradicted Belakovic’s claim that the red-white-red card criteria had been leveled downwards, calling it “fake news”. Blimlinger advocated reexamining the definition of “skilled worker.” It is still based on the image of the male industrial worker. The system clearly disadvantages women who provide important skills. She could understand the complex critique of the red-white-red cover variations, but a lot had already happened here. Petrana Ribo (Greens) accused the FPÖ of using every conceivable topic to incite racism. Austria was built by many immigrants.

Geralt Loker (NEOS) said that Austria would be happy if people wanted to come to the country to work. However, the complexity of the application remains a hindrance. In Locker’s view, insufficient support of applicants by the authorities is also a problem, as often, missing documents are not actively pointed out, but the application remains intact.

Cracker: Labor shortage will worsen

The President of the Court of Audit, Margit Kraker, explained that the Court of Auditors has received a situation related to the lack of skilled personnel. Due to population growth alone, the workforce in Austria and the EU as a whole will decrease over the next ten years. In the medium and long term, the shortage of skilled workers is expected to worsen. Most of the part-time work worsens the situation. The data situation is also inadequate. Developing an overall strategy is essential. One of the important adjustment screws for this is the red-white-red cover. The application process should be significantly simplified here.

The Court of Auditors is looking into deficiencies in the Austrian Business Agency (ABA).

MPs also dealt with an important report by the Court Audit Committee on the Austrian business agency, the Austrian Business Agency (ABA). The ABA is owned by the federal government and is responsible for marketing Austria as a business destination and advising foreign companies and investors interested in setting up business in Austria.

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Andreas Hanger (ÖVP) said that the report contains important questions about business location. Although the Court of Auditors made some critical comments about the ABA, one should not forget that the organization does a very good job in bringing companies and investors to Austria. No doubt the recommendations of the Court of Auditors should also be taken into account to further develop the work of the ABA.

Ruth Becher (SPÖ) said that the Court of Auditors found that the ABA was a non-transparent “black box” in which it was not possible to understand what conclusions were reached by the tax sources used. Taxpayer’s money should be handled very carefully.

Süleyman Zorba (Greens) critically noted that according to the Court of Auditors report, the ABA was unable to provide overall assessments of the quality and scope of its advisory programs during the period under review from 2018 to 2022. There is no clear report on the actual immigration of foreign skilled workers in Austria. It is not satisfactory.

Gerald Locker (NEOS) said the Court of Auditors’ report on ABA management was absolutely “disastrous” and would lead to the resignation of management. If you read the statement in more detail, you can only come to the conclusion that she is doing what she wants. What’s outrageous to Locker is that, in his view, ABA management on the Board of Auditors has shown no understanding of the Court of Auditors’ criticism. (Continuation of National Council) sox

Note: Meetings of the National Council and Federal Council can also be followed via live stream and are available as video-on-demand at the Parliamentary Media Library.

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