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WORKING IN AUSTRIA

What you need to know about finding work in Austrian towns and villages

Finding work is difficult. Finding a job in a new country is more complicated. Finding work in a rural community in a new country— now, that’s downright challenging. Here's how you can do it.

What you need to know about finding work in Austrian towns and villages
How to find work in an Austrian village? (Photo by Frank van Mierlo on Unsplash)

It’s certainly not easy finding a job in a new country as an immigrant. And certain factors can influence your search a lot. For example, in Austria, things like whether or not you speak German, have a work permit, can commute or need full-time annual employment can make a huge difference when finding work. Especially if said work is away from major city centres such as Vienna.

You’ll land a job fastest if you speak German, have a work permit, and are flexible about where and how often you work. But the rural Austrian economy is struggling to find workers post-coronavirus so that tips the scale in favour of job seekers.

READ ALSO: LATEST: What is the job market in Austria like right now?

The Industries
While the Dorf contains the same industries as the Stadt, the companies are dispersed. The most common sectors for finding a job are Construction, Engineering, Retail, Tourism, and Hospitality.

For skilled and unskilled labourers, jobs in hospitality and tourism abound, especially if you’re willing to work seasonally like Alex, who’s Hungarian and lives near a Styrian ski resort.

She explained: “I heard from my Austrian partner that the ski resort team was missing a Seilbahnbedienstete (cable car attendant) as one worker decided not to return for the 2021/2022 winter season.

“I was worried about whether my language skills were sufficient for the position. And I had questions about the job since I don’t ski and have never set foot in a ski resort in winter! But the job sounded fairly easy, so I thought I’d try it!”

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

Alex got the job for winter but was worried about summer employment, as almost everything besides the main lift is shut down in the warmer months.

“I got kind of lucky. At the end of the ski season, someone quit at the main lift. I was offered a year-long contract if I was willing to keep working through summer.”, she said.

Alex’s story demonstrates the seasonality of work in Austria. If you’re willing to hustle bi-annually, you might be able to work your way into something permanent. And, as she demonstrates, you don’t need to be a skier or mountain biker to succeed on the slopes.

The Pay
Wages in the Dorf are lower than in the Stadt, partly because most families cohabitate and are landowners. Many people also produce their food in gardens and with domesticated animals, like cows and chickens. Subsidised childcare also keeps the cost of living low.

“This was a big deal to me,” said Alexis, a Dutch mom living in the Kaprun region. “I can work part-time because childcare here only costs 80 euros per month. In Holland, it was €800. So being able to work part-time opens up a lot of options.”

READ ALSO: ‘We need immigration’: Austrian minister insists foreign workers are the only solution

Plus, there are fewer ways to spend your money in the Dorf. Okay, your ski pass may be expensive, but you’re unlikely to spend money at the movies, restaurants, or other everyday city activities. So living in the Dorf might help you increase your savings, even with a lesser income.

A picture taken on June 8, 2018 shows a small village near the Brenner Pass (Brennerpass), the mountain pass through the Alps between Austria and Italy, close to the Austrian city of Innsbruck. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

A Closer Look
Now that we’ve covered the basics, here is more strategic advice based on your ability to speak German (or not) and your flexibility.

Sie sprechen Deutsch
The Dorf world is your oyster if you speak German. You can use traditional avenues to search for jobs, like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Hokify, and Xing.

But speaking the language doesn’t mean the process will be easy. You’re still up against locals, many of whom have contacts (or parents) ready to offer a job. In addition to submitting your application, follow up with phone calls and in-person visits. Be sure to mention that you already live in the area. And it doesn’t hurt to say that you love Austria! The employer wants to believe that you’ll stay for the long run as they assume many foreigners will have looser ties to the country.

READ ALSO: Working in Austria: Why foreigners find it hard to integrate in the workplace

You don’t speak German
If you can barely say bitte, don’t fear— there’s likely work for you in hospitality, tourism, global corporations with Austrian offices or teaching English (or other languages).

Landing a job in hospitality or tourism without speaking German is more likely if you find an establishment that caters to Dutch, English, or international tourists.

Some Austrian resorts are the playground of only Germans and Austrians, so at least a basic German level would be expected for most positions.

The only way to know is by applying; HR will explain more about the clientele. Even in German-prevalent establishments, you should look for back-of-house positions, like housekeeping and gardening. You can “get your foot in the door” while your language skills increase.

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

You’ll have the most options in a tourist town. Alison was surprised when German skills weren’t a barrier in Hochkönig: “My German is fairly basic, yet they were fine with me doing the Kassa at the swimming pool and the buffet. The bakery in the village takes quite a few staff who don’t speak much German as the owners speak English themselves.”

Many global companies have headquarters in Austrian villages. Retail sports companies like Atomic, Red Bull, Blue Tomato, and Soloman are notable Dorf-dwellers. International construction and engineering companies, like Liebherr and Has-To-Be E-Mobility, are located in lesser-known places. All of these companies offer English-speaking positions.

READ ALSO: How to find a job in winter sports in Austria

Beware: even if the job description says “English-speaking,” your colleagues will likely speak German. Nay: they’ll speak the dialect. On the plus side, this offers you an opportunity to learn the language. On the downside, you may struggle to form social connections.

“The process for finding work isn’t too different,” said Andy, an American working in Altenmarkt. “But, it’s more difficult to find. Mostly because of the language: you usually have fewer international companies and expats to bring English to the company in the countryside.”

You don’t have a work permit
If you’ve landed in Austria looking for work but don’t have a permit, you better hustle. Unless you’re EEA or Swiss, you can’t stay longer than 180 days without a work permit. After that, you can apply for a job seeker’s visa but must meet highly-skilled worker criteria.

On the other hand, you may get a work permit through your employer if you’re highly skilled and the company cannot find anyone else to fill the position. Such circumstances are rare and usually negotiated BEFORE you arrive.

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

Austria allows a certain number of non-EEA immigrants to work under a quota system. Once the quota is reached, Austrian companies can only hire Austrian or “Austrian-equivalent” (EEA) staff. So if you’re already in-country, you might have an edge against applicants abroad. But if the quota is filled, you’re out of luck.

Hikers take a break on the top of the Gaislachkogl Mountain (3050m) in the Tyrol region in the heart of the Austrian Alps, on July 11, 2018. (Photo by VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP)

How far will you go?
Widen your net, and you’ll catch more fish! The neediest employers are the ones furthest from significant towns and villages. While Austrian public transportation is renowned, the ability to move between villages is limited. Many have a singular train station or bus stop, so you’ll need to walk or bike the rest of the way. And if you work in the mountains, you must schedule work based on the bus times. Driving makes you more flexible in the Dorf.

READ ALSO: When are the next public holidays in Austria?

However, many tourism and hospitality employers offer housing. If you enjoy isolation and don’t need a glamorous abode, look for hotels in the mountains. They’re the most likely to provide employee housing.

Finally, you might consider commuting to a larger city for work with private or public transport.

The Search
Finding a job in the Dorf can be tricky. Many of Austria’s rural jobs never touch online forums. Instead, they’re advertised via word-of-mouth. Having a personal introduction could be the golden ticket.

“I got my job because of a recommendation from a former employer. I suspect the manager only hired me because he was desperate and couldn’t say no to the person who recommended me. The employer didn’t advertise the job on the usual job platforms like LinkedIn and Xing”, said Sebi, an Indian immigrant who works in a small Styrian village.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about preparing your CV in Austria

It’s important to get personal in the Dorf.

After emailing a resume, give HR a follow-up call (use it as an opportunity to prove your German skills). Offer to buy a current employee a coffee in exchange for advice. Tell everyone in the neighbourhood that you’re searching for work. And use social media! Many smaller organisations post jobs on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

Another idea: hop on your bicycle and explore. Mosey around different towns and check out the logos on buildings. Then, find their websites and social media to see if they’re hiring. Many companies allow you to submit resumes even if there are no open positions (look for Initiativbewerbung).

Cafe Sperl is one of Vienna's oldest, and most famous, coffee houses. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN

(AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN )

Sometimes, if they’re impressed by your experience and find your personality agreeable, they’ll create a place for you!

(PS: The Local also has a Job Board! Find it here: https://www.thelocal.at/jobs/)

READ ALSO: Working in Vienna: How to find a job in the Austrian capital

Form a Company
Without wading too deep into remote work, we note that international contract work is possible for Dorf-dwellers.

Alexis and her husband moved to the Kaprun area from Holland. They initially searched for Austrian work but couldn’t find anything suitable in the Dorf. So, they formed their own Austrian company, reconnected with their Dutch employers, and are now international contractors.

“Keep in mind that you need three contracts to start a company in Austria,” advises Alexis. “We have my contract, my husband’s contract, and I have a contract with someone I coach. Getting three contracts can be hard if you’re a single earner!”

Just Go For It!
There’s work for foreigners in the Dorf. It may take longer to find, be seasonal, or require a commute, but even without speaking German, the opportunities exist. And once you’re there, the living’s easy: fresh food, clean air, spacious apartments, and jolly locals.

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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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