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EXPLAINED: How freelancers in Austria can pay four times less in social insurance

Self-employed people in Austria are insured by SVS and have to cover 20 percent of treatment costs. that can be reduced to 5 percent. Here's how.

Freelancers in Austria may be able to reduce their social insurance contributions. Here's how. Photo by Ewan Robertson on Unsplash
Freelancers in Austria may be able to reduce their social insurance contributions. Here's how. Photo by Ewan Robertson on Unsplash

Austria has a mandatory health and social insurance policy, which means that every resident needs to be insured.

EXPLAINED: What is it like being self-employed in Vienna?

Most people in Austria, 82 percent in total, are insured by ÖGK through their employers.

Self-employed workers, however, have to make their payments themselves with Sozialversicherung der Selbständigen, or SVS. 

Several differences come from this, the main one being that self-employed people need to register and make the payments by themselves, while employed workers will have their contributions automatically taken from salaries and paid for by employers.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about becoming a freelancer in Austria

Another key distinction is that SVS will not cover 100 percent of costs when it comes to health treatments and doctor consults.

Self-employed people need to cover a 20 percent proportion of costs, the so-called Selbstbehalt. That means that if a doctor that works with the SVS insurer charges € 100 for his consultation, SVS will pay €80, and the rest, €20, will come via invoice for the self-employed person to pay for afterwards.

Bills rarely come this high, though. Even so, there is a way to reduce that co-pay rate to 5 percent.

The ‘healthy self-employed program’

SVS has a program to promote health that will let you cut the costs of payment, conditional to achieving specific health goals. 

Insured people can arrange these health goals with their doctors. The targets can be regarding blood pressure, weight, exercise, tobacco and alcohol consumption, according to SVS.

READ MORE: Top co-working spaces in Austria for freelancers and entrepreneurs

After six months, you can arrange another consultation with the doctor to check on those goals. If you have met them, the doctor can sign off on reducing copayment costs from 20 percent to 10 percent.

After two to three years, another evaluation is necessary, and people who kept their achievements can co-payments to 5 percent. 

The rates can also be achieved by “fit” people as there can be “maintenance” goals.

Self-employed people can make an appointment at the SVS Health Centre in Vienna to agree on goals or go straight to their own family doctor. 

The My SVS website (you have to be logged in to access) has a PDF form with all the possible goals that can be agreed together with the doctor, including columns for the “current values”, a separate column for goals (including things such as “continue to be a non-smoker”), and a third column for the “after” evaluation. 

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about health insurance for freelancers in Austria

Useful links

SEA – The self-employed in Austria group supports self-employed individuals by delivering information in the form of guidebooks and free articles in English. 

SVS – The social insurance organisation for self-employed people in Austria.

WKO – The Austrian Chamber of Commerce is a useful source of information for self-employed people.

Useful vocabulary

Sozialversicherung – social insurance

Selbständigen – self-employed

Neue Selbständige – new self-employed

Steuer – tax

Gesundheitsversicherung – health insurance

Pensionsvorsorge  – pension provision

Unfallversicherung – accident insurance

Verwaltungskosten – administration costs

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Bread, butter and veggies: The items getting more expensive in Austria

The purchase price of flour has risen by around 70 percent, which means the cost of bread, cakes and pastries in Austria are set to rise, alongside steep increases for fresh and canned vegetables. Here's what you need to know.

Bread, butter and veggies: The items getting more expensive in Austria

The war in Ukraine and a ban on the export of wheat in India is driving up the cost of wheat flour around the world, with bakers in Austria warning they have no choice but to raise prices.

According to the Chamber of Commerce, there is also a paper shortage for packaging that is used for most baked goods, adding to further pressure on bakers.

Reinhard Honeder, Chairman of Bakers for the Chamber of Commerce, told ORF: “I believe that every colleague must raise their prices if they have not already done so.”

READ ALSO: The essential products that are getting more expensive in Austria

However, the rising cost of wheat flour is not expected to hit Austria as hard as other countries because Austria is “self-sufficient” when it comes to wheat, due to domestic agriculture capabilities.

Honeder says Austria has enough wheat to feed the population and believes this should stop baked goods from becoming unaffordable. 

In Upper Austria, there are around 288,000 hectares of arable land and wheat is currently grown on almost 46,000 hectares, according to Agrarmarkt Austria.

However, global wheat production is forecast to be 774.8 million tonnes for 2022/2023, which is 4.5 million tonnes less than in 2021/2022.

Farmers are also being hit with rising costs for fertiliser and machinery, leading to ongoing increases in the global price of grain.

FOR MEMBERS: Cost of living: 45 ways to save money in Austria

The cost of groceries (Lebensmittel) also on the rise in Austria

Bread isn’t the only staple food product that is becoming more expensive in Austria.

Der Standard reports that the cost of a bell pepper (Paprika), butter and tinned tomatoes are also rising sharply. 

When comparing prices from April 2021 and May 2022, one red pepper (from Austria) is up by 67 percent to €1.49, a 250g pack of Clever butter is 79 percent more at €2.49, and a can of Clever chopped tomatoes costs 20 percent more at €0.47. 

Inflation has been rising in Austria for the past year and hit 7.2 percent in April – the highest rate in Austria since October 1981 when the Gulf War led to an increase in oil prices.

The cost of food is a big driver in the rise in inflation with the average weekly shopping basket costing 14 percent more than last year, according to Statistics Austria.