Equality For Members

Four reasons Austria is great for women and four reasons why it isn't

Julia Hjelm Jakobsson
Julia Hjelm Jakobsson - [email protected]
Four reasons Austria is great for women and four reasons why it isn't
Photo by olia danilevich:

With International Women's Day Friday March 8th The Local looks at the current situation for women living in Austria, considering both the advantages and disadvantages.


There are many positive aspects to being a woman living in Austria.

You can benefit from a strong legal framework with different acts and regulations that protect your rights, as well as an educational system that promotes gender equality. The list of reforms taken by the Austrian governments and society in general over the years to improve women's rights is long and also involves other aspects, such as the right to sexual healthcare, abortion, and maternity leave.

However, despite many positive aspects, gender equality is still lacking in certain areas of Austrian life.

The gender pay gap is still one of the highest in the European Union, there are not enough women represented in politics, and around 26 percent of Austrian women suffer gender-based abuse.

Here, we provide you with some insights into the main pros and cons for women living in the country.


Women receive beneficial maternity protection

Maternity coverage in Austria offers numerous benefits to pregnant women. The period of maternity protection (Mutterschutz) begins eight weeks before the baby's due date and continues for eight to 12 weeks after birth. For employed women, the maternity allowance during this period is based on the net pay received in the last three calendar months before the beginning of maternity leave. Self-employed women who take maternity leave are permitted to Wochengeld, which corresponds to €61.25 per day in 2023.

During the period of maternity leave, women are entitled to job protection and cannot be laid off by their employer. When the period of leave is over, mothers can choose to extend their time off work by taking out parental leave.


What are your experiences of being a woman in Austria? Have you suffered from inequality? Let us know in the comments section below.

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They can then request to be released from work in exchange for a suspension of salary. During this period, which is allowed to last up to two years, they will receive a monthly amount of money from the state, which decreases the longer the period of parental leave lasts. 

In addition to these benefits, Austria offers several other benefits for families, such as the Familienbeihilfe, which is paid monthly to every child resident in the country until they turn 24. The amount depends on the age of the child but can reach up to €191.62 a month per child (values as of 2024).


READ ALSO: Is abortion legal in Austria?

The education system promotes gender equality

The education system in Austria has implemented various programs and measures to promote gender equality within the field of education, ensuring that women have the same access as men to high-quality education across different fields and disciplines. Among other initiatives, the system encourages women to choose careers in traditionally male-dominated subjects such as Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEM).

Austria focuses on ensuring equal access to education from early childhood to university education. Policies and initiatives, such as LEA – Let’s Empower Austria, aim to destroy barriers and stereotypes that may hinder women from choosing specific fields of study.


Additionally, the education system prioritises developing gender-sensitive programs to guarantee that textbooks, teaching materials, and educational content are free from gender stereotypes and reflect diverse perspectives.

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Women have rights to abortion and sexual healthcare  

In Austria, abortion has been legal since January 1st, 1975. Unwanted pregnancies can be terminated within the first three months, after consultation with a doctor. Pregnancies can also be terminated later if there is a danger to the woman's health, if the child is proven to suffer from major disabilities, or if the woman is under 14 years old.

Furthermore, Austria offers a wide range of services within women’s sexual healthcare, many of which are covered by public healthcare if you visit a public physician (Alle Kassen). You can access sexual healthcare services through your general practitioner (Hausarzt) for general check-ups and some medicines, and for other more specialised treatments, you can visit a public or private gynaecologist. You do not need a referral to contact a gynaecologist and can typically book appointments over the phone or through their website.


Austria has a strong legal framework protecting women's right 

Austria has strong laws protecting women's rights, including laws against discrimination, sexual harassment, and domestic violence. Through the legal framework, women can seek justice and equality.

Three important acts which promote women's rights are The Equal Treatment Act, The Domestic Violence Protection Act and The Sexual Harassment Act.  

The Equal Treatment Act of 1979 is the primary national-level law promoting gender equality in Austria and preventing discrimination based on gender. The Domestic Violence Protection Act provides protection and support for domestic violence victims and allows for restraining orders and other measures to ensure safety. The Sexual Harassment Act forbids sexual harassment in workplaces and other settings.

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Women lack equal representation in Austrian politics

During the last few years, there has been significant progress in terms of the political representation of women at a national level in Austria.

In 2022, 46.7 percent of the federal government representatives were women, compared to 36.1 percent in 2019. In addition, around 41.5 percent of the members of the National Council were women in 2022, the highest percentage of female members in history.

But even if the numbers in general are improving, women are still underrepresented at municipality level. Only 201 out of 2,093 municipalities in Austria had a female mayor in January 2022, according to statistics from the Federal Chancellery of Austria. Despite the progress when it comes to female representation in Austrian politics, there is still a long way to go.

Austria has a large Gender Pay Gap

Another sector where gender inequality in Austria still remains strong is the gender pay gap. Women still earn less than men in Austria and even if the gender wage gap is slowly decreasing, Austria is still among the EU countries with the largest gender pay gap. In 2021 Austria's gender pay gap was 18.8 percent, showing that women earned 8.8 percent less than men.

Many women experience gender-based violence

Almost 25 percent of the female Austrian population have experienced gender-based violence, according to Specifically, 23.47 percent of women in Austria (aged between 18 and 74 years) have experienced physical violence, 23.75 percent have experienced sexual violence, and 26.59 percent have experienced sexual harassment at work. 

Sexual healthcare sometimes involves higher costs

Even though women in Austria have the right to free abortion and sexual healthcare services, these are not always covered by public health insurance.

One example is abortion, which in most cases is not covered by medical insurance or social security and costs between €300 and €900.

Typically, women seeking an abortion must pay this amount out-of-pocket, a policy implemented in June 2018.  This contrasts with many other Western European countries, where abortion is often covered by the state, especially for young people. Additionally, other services, such as various types of contraceptives that are not subsidised by the state, such as copper and hormonal coils, must be paid for out of pocket in Austria, to a cost of around €500.

What are your experiences of being a woman in Austria? Have you suffered from inequality? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Carol Anne Corner 2024/03/07 19:00
Although I am retired now, I worked for 20 years in Vienna. Thirty years ago when I first began working here, the first thing I noticed is that my male co-workers were much more comfortable working with women and having women in positions of authority than what I experienced in the United States. Just sayin'.

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