SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

JOBS

Will a 4-day week and free German lessons help Vienna’s transport network find staff?

Vienna's state-owned public transport company, Wiener Linien, is thinking outside the box to fill staff shortages, including lowering the German language requirements and offering a 4-day work week.

Will a 4-day week and free German lessons help Vienna’s transport network find staff?
A Wiener Linien tram rides through Vienna (Copyright: @Manfred Helmer / Winier Linien)

Austria’s Wiener Linien, the city-owned company that runs the public transport in the capital Vienna, needs to hire hundreds of workers this year, Austrian media has reported.

In 2022, the company responsible for the buses, trams, and metros in Vienna will see around 600 employees from the so-called “baby boomer generation” retiring.

And even though the company has seen a certain degree of digitisation of its service, it still relies heavily on the “human factor”, managing director Alexandra Reinagl told ORF.

As it expands and serves more people each year, Wiener Linien is struggling to hire around 900 employees already in 2022.

Why is it so hard to find workers?

The phenomenon of a labour shortage is not specific to Wiener Linien – or even to Austria only. As population ages and birth rates go down, many European countries struggle to renovate their workforce.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

The Austrian population of just about 8.8 million people is only still growing because of immigration, as Statistik Austria’s director general Tobias Thomas explained.

He said: “Without it, according to the population forecast, the number of inhabitants would fall back to the level of the 1950s in the long term”.

Additionally, unemployment in Austria is at record lows at the same time as there are increasing numbers of open positions. In many sectors (but particularly in the industrial and commercial), companies have difficulty finding workers.

READ ALSO: Jobs in Austria: What types of jobs are in demand and where?

So, companies are finding it difficult to hire qualified workers all over Europe. In Austria, a country with a large group of immigrants and a relatively tricky official language, one issue comes up more and more: German requirements.

This is one of the barriers that Wiener Linien wants to tackle.

Wiener Linien is also looking for part-time metro drivers. (Copyright: @Johannes Zinner / Wiener Linien)

What is the Wiener Linien doing to end staff shortages?

The state-owned company is perhaps the first of its kind to start looking into significantly lowering German-language requirements for its workers.

“We are thinking about how we can make our working conditions even more attractive so that we also appeal to people who are unsure of their German language skills”, Alexandra Reinagl said.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permit

The company wants first to hire and then invest in German tutoring to get workers to the necessary level in the language. The premise is clear: it is now easier to learn German than to find employees. 

She added: “Often the technical understanding and the will are there, but the language skills are not”.

Four-day work week

The public company also wants to attract workers by offering them more flexible working hours. To prepare for that, Wiener Linien is starting a pilot test for a four-day work week from autumn onwards.

The pilot project would involve 300 employees, and, to avoid salary cuts, the only changes would be in the distribution of the 37.5 hours of work per week. So, workers would stay for longer shifts for four days and, on the other hand, have three days off from work every week.

READ ALSO: Explained: How to understand your payslip in Austria

The project is similar to other attempts, including by Belgium, to allow people to work longer for fewer days. The concept has also been debated in Switzerland, France, and Germany, among other countries worldwide, as The Local reported.

The company runs the bus, tram, and metro lines in Vienna (Copyright: @Johannes Zinner / Wiener Linien)

The Wiener Linien proposal is facing some criticism, though. Some experts have called it “cheating” as while it may reduce the workload to four days, it technically doesn’t lower the weekly amount of hours people have to work in a week. 

They argue that longer days lead to more exhaustion, raising the risk of accidents and could be a problem for single parents who also have to deal with childcare.

Other perks by Wiener Linien

The transport company has an comprehensive recruiting website, with Wilma “the recruiting bot” to assist people with job searches within the company.

There are currently 127 jobs in the Jobs portal, where the transport firm advertises its advantages, including offering safe, “future-proof” and climate-friendly jobs and having “award-winning company health management” that offers preventive vaccinations, nutritional advice, and fitness courses.

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

Winier Linien also says it provides a work-life balance with a full-time week adding to 37.5 hours and the possibility of part-time employment.

“We support our employees from the very beginning in their personal and professional development”, the company claims, adding that employees can also ride in Viennese public transport for free.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Living anywhere as an international resident will have an impact on your life, but if you recognise any of these habits then you have truly embraced the Austrian lifestyle.

Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Life in Austria can be similar to many other European countries, but there are some aspects that are distinctly Austrian.

Here are eight habits that show you’ve integrated into the Austrian way of life.

FOR MEMBERS: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

Indulging in coffee and cake

Coffee and cake is almost as integral to the food culture in Austria as the Wiener Schnitzel.

So say goodbye to the diet, ignore any thoughts of guilt and get stuck into a slice of Sachertorte, Punschkrapfen or Linzer Torte

Preferably with a delicious coffee on the side.

READ MORE: Caffeine, war and Freud: A history of Vienna’s iconic coffee houses

Participating in winter sports

Austria, especially the west of the country, is a winter sports enthusiasts dream.

The Alps offer an almost endless choice in ski resorts, gondolas and mountain huts, with winter sports options ranging from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and Langlaufen (cross-country skiing).

Needless to say, if you live in the Alps, winter sports quickly become a central part of the lifestyle during the cold months. After all, it’s healthy, fun and even a bit dangerous (if that’s your thing).

It’s also a great way to explore the landscape of Austria and get a deeper understanding of the central role of winter sports in Austrian culture.

Downing tools for lunch

Lunch in some other countries (especially places like the UK) is often a sad sandwich while sitting at a desk. 

In Austria however, lunch is an important part of the day and many people sit down at midday with their colleagues or families to enjoy a proper cooked meal.

This is a prime example of the healthy work-life balance that residents in Austria enjoy, and is a much-better habit to embrace than working through a lunch break.

Wearing house shoes

In most Austrian households, people do not wear outdoor shoes inside. Instead, they opt for house shoes, otherwise known as slippers in English or Schlapfen in some Austrian dialects.

Also, many Austrian homes do not have carpet on the floor, which means walking around with bare feet or just socks in the winter can get cold – fast.

So if you’ve invested in a pair of house shoes or, even better, you have a backup supply for guests, then you have fully embraced life in Austria. 

READ ALSO: ‘I’ll probably return to the UK’: Moving to Austria as a Brit post-Brexit

Being punctual

Typically, Austrians are punctual people and don’t appreciate lateness.

For this reason, many international residents make an extra effort to be on time (or early), and it’s not uncommon to become stressed if you know you will be five minutes late.

As frustrating as this can be, it’s actually incredibly polite to be early for a meeting and not a bad habit to pick up.

sparkling water

(Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash)

Drinking sparkling water

People like to drink sparkling mineral water in Austria.

In fact, sparkling water is so popular that if you order a Mineralwasser (mineral water) in a cafe or restaurant, the sparkling variety is often served unless stilles Wasser (still water) is specified.

Want to be more Austrian? Then simply switch from still to sparkling water.

Stripping off

Countries in Central Europe are much more comfortable with nudity than other nations, and it’s no different in Austria.

The main place to expect an encounter with naked people in Austria is at the sauna. There are even some saunas that have a naked-only admission policy and won’t let people in if they are wearing swimming gear.

People also like to get naked at lakes – especially at the more remote or quieter locations – or at least go topless (for the women). 

The reality is, no one bats an eyelid. So put your prudish instincts aside and don’t be afraid to strip off.

READ ALSO: What are the rules on working overtime in Austria?

Taking sick leave

Employees in Austria are entitled to six weeks of paid sick leave (the number of weeks increases the longer the worker has been employed in the same company).

This means workers are more likely to take sick leave if they are unwell, rather than dragging themselves into the workplace and infecting their colleagues.

The downside though is that Austria has strict rules when it comes to taking sick leave with explicit orders to stay at home. Workers can even expect to be monitored by private detectives to make sure they really are resting at home, as reported by The Local.

For international residents in Austria, this can be hard to tolerate. But the upside is that you’re not expected to show your face in the office when sick, simply to comply with a culture of presenteeism.

And that’s a habit worth embracing.

SHOW COMMENTS