Why is Good Friday not a holiday in Austria?

Despite being a very religious country with plenty of Christian holidays, including Easter Monday, Good Friday is not a day off in Austria. Here's why.

Why is Good Friday not a holiday in Austria?
After two years of cancellations due to the pandemic, Austrians will be able to celebrate easter in the traditional markets (Photo by Bianca Ackermann on Unsplash)

Austria has many holidays, especially Christian ones, from the Epiphany on January 6th to St. Stephan’s day on December 26th.

The country also has several non-religious holidays, but with more than 55 per cent of its population identifying as Catholics, the holidays also tend to follow the trend.

With one major exception.

Good Friday, a holiday in most Christian countries (or countries with a large share of a Christian population), is not an official holiday in Austria, even though Easter Monday is.

Why is that?

What is Good Friday?

Good Friday is a Christian holiday observing the day of the crucifixion of Jesus and his death. It is also known as Holy Friday. Several church services and traditions, including fasting, take place on the date.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: How do Austria’s public holidays stack up against the rest of Europe?

The date is widely instituted as a legal holiday in Western countries, including Germany and parts of Switzerland.

It was also recognised as a holiday in Austria until 2019, but only for people who were members of the Protestant and Old Catholic Church.

If they had to work, they would be entitled to extra pay for holidays. However, those not members of these religious institutions weren’t entitled to the day off or the additional payment.

Why did the rule change?

In 2019, a Viennese man sued, demanding a holiday salary for his work on Good Friday. The case went all the way to the European Court of Justice, which ruled that having holidays only for a specific part of the population went against the European Union’s equal treatment directive.

Since then, workers in Austria have been allowed to take “personal holidays”, and the Good Friday stopped being a legal holiday in the country.

The “personal holiday” regulation allows workers to, once a year, unilaterally determine when they want to take a day off. The day will be taken from the 30 (or 36, depending on the case) holiday days they are entitled to per year.

READ ALSO: Easter holidays: What to expect if you are coming to Austria

The difference to typical vacation days is that the employee can decide when to take it – though they will need to inform the employer in writing and three months in advance.

Also, unlike a regular holiday application, the employer can’t refuse a personal holiday. They can ask the employee not to take it, but it will be the employee’s decision in the end. This goes even for work that is considered essential for operational reasons.

If the worker agrees to work on the day of the personal holiday after the employer requests, they will be entitled to holiday pay. However, the employee is no longer allowed another personal holiday in the current vacation year but won’t lose any vacation days either.

The new regulation allows people to take Good Friday off for religious reasons. Still, it doesn’t go against the equality directives as everyone is entitled to it.

READ ALSO: Austria wrong to limit Good Friday to certain faiths, EU court rules

So, no more holidays?

The issue has been debated ever since. In 2020, the Constitutional Court (VfGH) in Austria rejected the application of the Protestant and Old Catholic Churches, among others, to repeal the current regulation on Good Friday.

As celebrations arrive, churches in Austria bring the issue to light every year.

Several representatives of Churches are now asking for Good Friday to be a holiday for all Austrians. “It’s about lifting unequal treatment, so we demand a holiday for everyone”, protestant superintendent Matthias Geist told broadcaster ORF.

Despite political signals that this could be the case, it is already too late for any changes to take place for 2022. So, at least for now, Austrians will have to take a personal day if they want Good Friday off.

Useful vocabulary

Karfreitag – Good Friday
Ostermontag – Easter Montag
Aschermittwoch – Ash Wednesday
Ostern – Easter
Frohe Ostern – Happy Easter

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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.