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FREELANCING

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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For members

LIVING IN AUSTRIA

How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

Austria is known as a country with a high standard of living, but it also comes with a high cost of living. Here’s an overview of what you can expect to earn in Austria.

How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

As with most things in Austria, the question of ‘what is a good salary?’ is difficult to answer as the cost of living (and wages) can vary between states and cities.

For example, the east of Austria is typically much cheaper than the west for housing (with the exception of Vienna). And those living in cities often have easier – and cheaper – access to public transport when compared with people living in rural areas. 

READ ALSO: ‘Bad-tempered locals’: Vienna ranked the world’s ‘unfriendliest city’

Childcare is also something to consider with huge differences between Vienna, where there is access to heavily subsidised services, and places like Tyrol where childcare costs more.

To delve a bit deeper, we looked at the data to find out the average salary in Austria and how it differs between professions and locations.

What is the average salary in Austria?

In 2021, the average gross annual salary in Austria was €44,395, according to the latest data from Statistics Austria

However, in the latest survey by online job platform Step Stone, the average gross annual salary in Austria is €49,609.

The Step Stone survey then broke it down further by industry with those working in pharma earning the most at €60,504. This was followed by energy at €60,345, medical technology at €59,106 and banking at €58,711.

The industry with the lowest average annual salary is hotels/gastronomy at €37,546, followed by agriculture at €39,779 and tourism at €43,965.

FOR MEMBERS: REVEALED: The best and worst districts to live in Vienna (as voted for by you)

Occupation also plays a part with people working in management earning the most – on average €66,768. Consulting came second at €53,721.

And like many other European countries, the gender pay gap in Austria prevails. The average annual salary for a man is €52,633 and for a woman it is €44,330.

Furthermore, the top earning city in Austria is Bregenz in Vorarlberg with an average annual salary of €54,620. When comparing the west of Austria with the east, the median salary in Vorarlberg is €46,450, whereas in Burgenland it is just €39,100.

What is the average cost of living in Austria?

Many international residents will find everyday living costs in Austria to be expensive, especially for those that come from countries with a much lower cost of living.

Inflation has also been rising steadily in Austria throughout 2022, leading to some steep rises in prices for groceries, housing costs and energy.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: 10 ways to save money on your groceries in Austria

However, the average cost of living varies across the country, depending on the location. For example, Vienna and Innsbruck in Tyrol are two of Austria’s most expensive cities, but more affordable places to live are Graz in Styria and Klagenfurt in Carinthia.

In Vienna, the average price for a one bedroom apartment in the city centre is €915, going up to €2,000 for a three bedroom apartment, according to Expat Arrivals.

Whereas in Graz, the average cost of a one bedroom city centre apartment is around €609, and a three bedroom apartment is €1,170.

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