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WORKING IN AUSTRIA

Austria extends its short-term work system until the end of 2022

The Kurzarbeit system was limited until June; the Federal Government this Tuesday extended its validity.

Austria extends its short-term work system until the end of 2022
Austria's Labour Minister during a speech in the country's parliament. (© Parlamentsdirektion / Thomas Topf)

Austria’s short-term works scheme, the Kurzarbeit, which was set to expire by the end of June, was officially extended until the end of the year.

The scheme allows companies particularly affected by the coronavirus pandemic to ask for government assistance as long as they keep their workforce. Employees in Kurzarbeit work fewer hours and receive a fraction of their salary, paid by the scheme – up to 90 per cent, depending on their pay.

Discussions are still ongoing between the trade union and the Chamber of Commerce on the details of the short-time work extension, broadcaster ORF reported.

Employers want the government to increase the percentage of the salary paid to workers, asking all employees receive a 90 per cent net replacement for wages. Workers with higher salaries could receive as little as 70 per cent of their wages from the scheme, leading to a significant loss of income.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to get your €500 Kurzarbeit bonus in Austria

Austria’s Labour Minister Martin Kocher said that the extension was only possible after “significant compromises” and that the system will only exist in very specific cases in the future. He didn’t give further details, though.

One of the reasons for the extension, ORF reports, was to cushion the economic consequences of the Ukraine war.

Kurzarbeit and unemployment rates

April 2020 saw the highest number of people, more than one million, on the scheme. Around 53,000 people were still pre-registered for short-time work at the beginning of the week. From March 2020 to the end of March 2022, government spending on coronavirus short-time labour amounted to € 9.56 billion.

READ ALSO: Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in Austria

At the same time, the domestic labour market has seen a decrease in unemployment, even with the slowdown due to the war in Ukraine and soaring energy prices.

Compared to just one week ago, 4,216 fewer people were unemployed. Currently, 324,977 people are registered with the Public Employment Service Austria (AMS) as unemployed or in training. 251,633 of them are looking for a job, and 73,344 are in training measures of the AMS.

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WORKING IN AUSTRIA

EXPLAINED: How to register as self-employed in Austria

Working as a freelancer in Austria is an attractive prospect for international residents. But the process might not be as easy as back home. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How to register as self-employed in Austria

Anyone that has set up a business as a freelancer in Austria will know how confusing it can be. Especially if they are from countries like the UK and US where starting a business as a sole trader is fairly easy.

In Austria though, there are several steps to registering as self-employed, with limited information in English on how to navigate the process. 

So to help foreigners in Austria get started, we spoke to Vienna-based business consultant Miglena Hofer to break down the steps when registering as self-employed.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Austria?

Obtain a business licence (or not)

The first step to becoming self-employed in Austria is finding out if you need a business licence.

Sounds simple enough, right? But for those without strong German language skills, it can quickly become tricky.

Miglena Hofer told The Local: “There is a lack of information about the process in English, especially explanatory information. 

“In Austria there are also different types of self-employed people. The two main types are business owner and operator, and the new self-employed [such as writers, photographers].” 

“Almost everything requires a business licence in Austria. Even if you only intend to cover costs with your work, it still counts as a business.”

READ NEXT: ‘Brutal’: What it’s really like to learn German in Austria

The Ministry of Labour and Economics has a list of regulated trades that need a business licence in Austria (only available in German). Professions include electrician, hairdresser, florist and masseuse. 

If you do need a business licence, an application has to be submitted by the first day you plan to start working in your business. 

To apply for a licence, visit the Gewerbe­informations­system Austria (Business Information System Austria). This website has the option to translate the information into English.

Any professions that don’t require a business licence, like journalists, artists and teachers, are classed as new self-employed (Neu Selbständige) and can move on to the next steps.

Notify the tax office 

This involves filling in the form Verf24 and sending it to the tax office (Finanzamt) to inform them that you are self-employed. There is a deadline of four weeks after you have started operating for this part of the process.

You also have to make an appointment at the WKÖ (Austrian Economic Chamber) and become a member. This involves paying an annual fee (which varies depending on the type of business) and in some places, like in the Alps, you might have to pay a tourist tax.

However, finding information or help in English at this stage can be difficult, and business consultant Miglena advises anyone struggling to reach out for help.

FOR MEMBERS: Digital nomad visas: How does Austria compare with other countries?

She said: “Many Austrians refuse to give advice in English, which is a curious thing. This applies to all kinds of professional services, but it’s important that we are understood.

“I don’t want people to be afraid. I want to make starting a business in Austria easy. Once you know how to do it, it’s fine. But it’s easy to feel lost and be overwhelmed by legal German words.”

Set up social insurance

The final stage in the process is to register with SVS – the social insurance fund for self-employed people in Austria.

It is mandatory for everyone living in Austria to have social insurance (or comprehensive private health insurance). It gives people access to public health care and includes pension contributions.

Registering with SVS has to take place within four weeks from the date of starting a business. You will then receive an e-card (if you don’t already have one) and start paying social insurance bills on a quarterly basis.

The good news about SVS payments though is that they are tax deductible, so don’t forget to include them in your bookkeeping.

Useful vocabulary

Business registration – Gewerbeanmeldung

Business licence – Gewerbeschein

New self-employed – Neu Selbständige

Social insurance – Sozialversicherung

Tax – Steuer

Tax office – Finanzamt

Useful links

Austrian tax office

Business Information System Austria (GISA)

Social insurance

Self-employed in Austria

Ministry of Labour and Economy

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