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Austria performs very well in overall well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks among the top ten countries in several topics in the Better Life Index.
Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Austria, the average household net-adjusted disposable income is 28 852 USD a year, higher than the OECD average of 23 047 USD. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn nearly four times as much as the bottom 20%.
In terms of employment, over 72% of people aged 15 to 64 in Austria have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 66%. Some 78% of men are in paid work, compared with 67% of women. People in Austria work 1 600 hours a year, less than the OECD average of 1 776 hours. Some 9% of employees work very long hours, in line with the OECD average, with 13% of men working very long hours compared with just 4% for women.
Having a good education is an important requisite for finding a job. In Austria, 82% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, more than the OECD average of 74%. This is truer of men than women, as 88% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 77% of women. This difference is higher than the OECD average and suggests women’s participation in higher education could be strengthened. In terms of education quality, the average student scored 487 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is slightly lower than the OECD average of 497. On average in Austria, girls outperformed boys by 5 points, below the average OECD gap of 9 points.
In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Austria is 81 years, 1 year higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 84 years, compared with 78 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 27 micrograms per cubic meter, higher than the OECD average of 21 micrograms per cubic meter. Austria performs better in terms of water quality, as 96% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, higher than the OECD average of 84%.
Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation in Austria, where 94% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 90%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 82% during recent elections, one of the highest in the OECD where the average is 72%.
In general, Austrians are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 85% of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is higher than the OECD average of 80%.
OECD in Action
OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Austria 2013
This report is the third OECD review of Austria’s environmental performance. The report evaluates Austria's progress towards sustainable development and green growth, with a focus on chemicals management and climate change adaptation.Read this report
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Austria in Detail
Housing – Austria expand
Living in satisfactory housing conditions is one of the most important aspects of people’s lives. Housing is essential to meet basic needs, such as shelter, but it is not just a question of four walls and a roof. Housing should offer a place to sleep and rest where people feel safe and have privacy and personal space; somewhere they can raise a family. All of these elements help make a house a home. And of course there is the question whether people can afford adequate housing.
Housing costs take up a large share of the household budget and represent the largest single expenditure for many individuals and families, by the time you add up elements such as rent, gas, electricity, water, furniture or repairs. In Austria, households on average spend 21% of their gross adjusted disposable income on keeping a roof over their heads, in line with the OECD average.
In addition to housing costs it is also important to examine living conditions, such as the average number of rooms shared per person and whether households have access to basic facilities. In Austria, 88% of people say they are satisfied with their current housing situation, slightly more than the OECD average of 87%. This level of subjective satisfaction reflects Austria’s good performance in objective housing indicators.
The number of rooms in a dwelling, divided by the number of persons living there, indicates whether residents are living in crowded conditions. Overcrowded housing may have a negative impact on physical and mental health, relations with others and children’s development. In addition, dense living conditions are often a sign of inadequate water and sewage supply. In Austria, the average home contains 1.7 rooms per person, slightly more than the OECD average of 1.6 rooms per person. In terms of basic facilities, 98.8% of people in Austria live in dwellings with private access to an indoor flushing toilet, more than the OECD average of 97.8%.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Income – Austria expand
While money may not buy happiness, it is an important means to achieving higher living standards and thus greater well-being. Higher economic wealth may also improve access to quality education, healthcare and housing.
Household net-adjusted disposable income is the amount of money that a household earns each year after tax. It represents the money available to a household for spending on goods or services. In Austria, the average household net-adjusted disposable income is 28 852 USD a year, higher than the OECD average of 23 047USD.
Household financial wealth is the total value of a household’s financial worth. In Austria, the average household net financial wealth is estimated at 47 458 USD, higher than the OECD average of 40 516 USD. While the ideal measure of household wealth should include real assets (e.g. land and dwellings), such information is currently available for only a small number of OECD countries.
Despite a general increase in living standards across OECD countries over the past fifteen years, not all people have benefited from this to the same extent. In Austria, the average net adjusted disposable income of the top 20% of the population is an estimated 52 387 USD a year, whereas the bottom 20% live on an estimated 13 515 USD a year.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Jobs – Austria expand
Having a job brings many important benefits, including: providing a source of income, improving social inclusion, fulfilling one’s own aspirations, building self-esteem and developing skills and competencies. In Austria, nearly 72% of the working-age population aged 15 to 64 has a paid job. This figure is higher than the OECD employment average of 66%. Employment rates are generally higher for individuals with a higher level of education. In Austria, an estimated 86% of individuals with at least a tertiary education have a paid job, compared with an estimated 50% for those without an upper secondary education. This 36 percentage point difference is close to the OECD average difference of 37 percentage points and suggests the job market in Austria is relatively inclusive.
Women are still less likely than men to participate in the labour market. In Austria, 67% of women have jobs. This is more than the OECD average of 60% but less than the 78% employment rate of men in Austria. This 11 percentage point gender difference is slightly smaller than the OECD average of 12 percentage points and suggests Austria could further improve employment opportunities for women but has generally been successful in addressing the constraints and barriers women face in accessing work.
Young Austrians aged 15-24 face an unemployment rate of 8.3% compared with the OECD average of 16.2%.
At the same time, there is a significant difference between a large, well-performing core of the labour force, and some more vulnerable groups with lower employment rates. Better performance of vulnerable groups – older workers and foreign-born workers — would boost economy-wide employment, potential output and social cohesion. These challenges will likely increase due to continued immigration from the new EU member states in 2011.
Unemployed persons are defined as those who are not currently working but are willing to do so and actively searching for work. Long-term unemployment can have a large negative effect on feelings of well-being and self-worth and result in a loss of skills, further reducing employability. In Austria, the percentage of the labour force that has been unemployed for a year or longer is currently at 1.1%, lower than the OECD average of 3.1%. There is little difference on average between men and women in the OECD area when it comes to long-term unemployment. This is true in Austria, where the long-term unemployment rate for men and women is nearly the same at respectively 1.1% and 1.0%.
The wages and other monetary benefits that come with employment are an important aspect of job quality. In Austria, people earn 43 688 US dollars per year on average, more than the OECD average of 34 466 USD. Not everyone earns that amount however. Whereas the top 20% of the population earn 55 997 USD per year, the bottom 20% live on 26 006 USD per year.
Another essential factor of employment quality is job security. Employees working on temporary contracts are more vulnerable than workers with an open-ended contract. In Austria around 9% of total employees have a contract of 6 months or less, slightly lower than the average of 10% in 30 OECD countries. This figure suggests Austria has been successful in stabilising working contracts and encouraging open-ended contracts.
More ResourcesWell‑being in the workplace: Measuring job quality
Community – Austria expand
Humans are social creatures. The frequency of our contact with others and the quality of our personal relationships are thus crucial determinants of our well-being. Helping others can also make you happier. People who volunteer tend to be more satisfied with their lives than those who do not. Time spent volunteering also contributes to a healthy civil society. On average, people in Austria spend 4 minutes per day in volunteer activities, in line with the OECD average and around 56% reported having helped a stranger in the last month, more than the OECD average of 48%.
A strong social network, or community, can provide emotional support during both good and bad times as well as provide access to jobs, services and other material opportunities. In Austria, 94% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in a time of need, more than the OECD average of 90%. There is a 4 percentage point difference between men and women, as 92% of men believe they have this kind of social support, compared with 96% of women. While on average in the OECD there is a clear relationship between the availability of social support on the one hand, and people’s education level, on the other, in Austria the level of social support is similar across society: around 96% of people who have completed only primary education report having someone to count on for help in times of need, compared with 97% for people who attained tertiary education.
A weak social network can result in limited economic opportunities, a lack of contact with others, and eventually, feelings of isolation. Socially isolated individuals face difficulties integrating into society as a contributing member and fulfilling personal aspirations.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance OECD Insights: Human Capital
Education – Austria expand
A well-educated and well-trained population is essential for a country’s social and economic well-being. Education plays a key role in providing individuals with the knowledge, skills and competences needed to participate effectively in society and in the economy. Most concretely, having a good education greatly improves the likelihood of finding a job and earning enough money. Across OECD countries, 83% of people with university-level degrees have a job, compared with just below 56% for those with only a secondary school diploma. Lifetime earnings also increase with each level of education.
Following a decline in manual labour over previous decades, employers now favour a more educated labour force. High-school graduation rates therefore provide a good indication of whether a country is preparing its students to meet the minimum requirements of the job market. In Austria, 82% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, higher than the OECD average of 74%. This is truer of men than women, as 88% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 78%% of women. This 10 percentage point difference is much higher than the OECD average of 2 percentage points and suggests women’s participation in higher education could be strengthened. Among younger people – a better indicator of Austria’s future – 88% of 25-34 year-olds have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, higher than the OECD average of 82%.
Austrians can expect to go through 16.9 years of education between the ages of 5 and 39, slightly above the OECD average of 16.5 years.
But graduation rates, while important, speak little to the quality of education received. The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reviews the extent to which students have acquired some of the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies. In 2009, PISA focused on examining students’ reading ability, skills in maths and level in sciences, as research shows that these skills are more reliable predictors of economic and social well-being than the number of years spent in school.
The average student in Austria scored 487 in reading literacy, maths and sciences, slightly lower than the OECD average of 497. On average in Austria, girls outperformed boys by 5 points, lower than the average OECD gap of 9 points.
The best-performing school systems manage to provide high-quality education to all students. In Austria, the average difference in results, between the 20% with the highest socio-economic background and the 20% with the lowest socio-economic background, is 118 points, higher than the OECD average of 99 points. This suggests the school system in Austria tends to result in higher quality education for the better off.
Better Policies for Better Lives
Strengthen education policies for immigrant children
The Austrian education system has had a successful record in the post-war period. It has promoted mass education and delivered good vocational qualifications. Yet, it is now facing the daunting task of providing youth with new and more generic skills, in changing economic and social circumstances. In particular, university enrolment and graduation rates fall short of other high-income countries, especially in science and engineering. Additionally, the academic level of students falls short of Austria’s ambitions concerning the quality of its education system, given the amount of resources invested per student.
The OECD found that Austria is one of the member countries where students’ academic achievements are most affected by their families’ socioeconomic background. In particular, the education system does not cope well with immigrant children – a significant challenge considering that education is one of the primary avenues for social and economic integration in a society. Austria’s education system, from pre-school to university, should therefore be strengthened. Ambitious reforms, which have already been launched in some areas, should be considered a national priority.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Environment – Austria expand
The quality of our local living environment has a direct impact on our health and well-being. An unspoiled environment is a source of satisfaction, improves mental well-being, allows people to recover from the stress of everyday life and to perform physical activity. Having access to green spaces for example, is essential for quality of life. In Austria, 9% of people feel they lack access to recreational areas or green spaces, less than the 12 % average of OECD European countries.
Outdoor air pollution is one important environmental issue that directly affects the quality of peoples’ lives. Despite national and international interventions and decreases in major pollutant emissions, the health impacts of urban air pollution continue to worsen, with air pollution set to become the top environmental cause of premature mortality globally by 2050. Air pollution in urban centres, often caused by transport and the use of small-scale burning of wood or coal, is linked to a range of health problems, from minor eye irritation to upper respiratory symptoms in the short-term and chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer in the long-term. Children and the elderly may be particularly vulnerable.
PM10 – tiny particulate matter small enough to be inhaled into the deepest part of the lung – is monitored in OECD countries because it can harm human health and reduce life expectancy. In Austria, PM10 levels are 27.1 micrograms per cubic meter, higher than the OECD average of 20.9 micrograms per cubic meter and higher than the annual guideline limit of 20 micrograms per cubic meter set by the World Health Organization.
Access to clean water is fundamental to human well-being. Despite significant progress in OECD countries in reducing water pollution, improvements in freshwater quality are not always easy to discern. In Austria, 96% of people say they are satisfied with water quality. This figure is higher than the OECD average of 84% and suggests Austria has been successful in providing good quality water to its inhabitants.
Better Policies for Better Lives
Protecting the Alps
The Alps are particularly sensitive to climate change. Recent warming there has been roughly three times the global average. The years 1994, 2000, 2002, and 2003 were the warmest on record in the Alps in the last 500 years. Austria (where half the tourism income, or 4.5% of the national economy, is from winter tourism) is more sensitive than most European countries to any climate change. With climate change, the natural snow-reliability of the Austrian ski areas will decrease substantially.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030
Governance – Austria expand
A cohesive society is one where citizens have a high degree of confidence in their governmental institutions and public administration. In Austria, 61% of people say they trust their political institutions, more than the OECD average of 56%. High voter turnout is another measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process. In the most recent elections for which data is available, voter turnout in Austria was 82% of those registered. This figure is higher than the OECD average of 72%.
Even if the right to vote is universal in all OECD countries, not everyone exercises this right. There is little difference in the voting rates of men and women in most OECD countries. This is the case in Austria, where voter turnout is similar between men and women at respectively 84% and 80%. While on average there are few differences between men and women concerning participation in elections, income can have a strong influence on voter turnout. In Austria, voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 90%, whereas the participation rate of the bottom 20% is an estimated 79%. This 11 percentage point difference is slightly lower than the OECD average difference of 12 percentage points.
Ensuring that government decision making is not compromised by conflicts of interest is key to maintaining trust in government. Transparency is therefore essential to hold government to account and to maintain confidence in public institutions.
Freedom of information laws (FOI) allow the possibility for individuals to access undisclosed information. For such policies to be successful, the public should have a clear understanding of their rights under the law, should be able to file requests with ease and should be protected against any possible retaliation. People in Austria can file a request for information either in writing, online, by telephone or in person – thus greatly facilitating the FOI process. However, there are no provisions for anonymity or protection from retaliation.
Better Policies for Better Lives
Strengthening public involvement in decision-making
The Austrian government believes that effective public involvement in decision-making needs to be underpinned by being well-organised, and has developed Standards of Public Participation to help public servants conduct high-quality participation processes.
NGOS and other stakeholders were involved in drawing up the standards, which include elements such as: making information available, fostering open and inclusive policy making, fostering integrity and transparency and improving service delivery. In addition, two e-government applications have been created to facilitate public participation, one for public employees and one for citizens.
In order to mobilize citizens, businesses and civil society, there have been several public-private dialogues on reform concerning important issues like education or science involving different civil society organisations.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Health – Austria expand
Most OECD countries have enjoyed large gains in life expectancy over the past decades, thanks to improvements in living conditions, public health interventions and progress in medical care. Life expectancy at birth in Austria stands at 81 years, one year above the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 84 years, compared with 78 for men, in line with the average OECD gender gap of six years, with a life expectancy for women of 83 years and 77 years for men.
Higher life expectancy is generally associated with higher healthcare spending per person, although many other factors have an impact on life expectancy (such as living standards, lifestyle, education and environmental factors). Total health spending accounts for 11.0% of GDP in Austria, more than one percentage point higher than the OECD average of 9.5%. Austria also ranks above the OECD average in terms of total health spending per person, at 4395 USD in 2010, compared with an OECD average of 3268 USD. Between 2000 and 2009, total health spending in Austria increased in real terms by 2.7% per year on average, a slower growth rate than the OECD average of 4.7%, This growth rate slowed down to only 0.4% in 2010.
Throughout the OECD, tobacco consumption and excessive weight gain remain two important risk factors for many chronic diseases. Smoking rates among adults in Austria stand at 23.2%, higher than the OECD average of 21.1%. In many OECD countries, large proportions of the population are overweight or obese. In Austria, the obesity rate among adults based on self-reported height and weight is 12.4%, lower than the OECD average of 17.8%. Obesity’s growing prevalence foreshadows increases in the occurrence of health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and asthma, and higher health care costs in the future.
When asked, “How is your health in general?” 69% of people in Austria reported to be in good health, in line with the OECD average. Despite the subjective nature of this question, answers have been found to be a good predictor of people’s future health care use. Gender, age and social status may affect answers to this question. On average in OECD countries, men are more likely to report good health than women, with an average of 71% for men and 66% for women. In Austria, the average is 71% for men and 67% for women. Not surprisingly, older people report poorer health, as do those who are unemployed, or who have less education or income. About 82% of the top 20% of the adult population in Austria rate their health as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, compared to about 54% for the bottom 20%.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Life Satisfaction – Austria expand
Happiness or subjective well-being can be measured in terms of life satisfaction, the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and the absence of negative experiences and feelings. Such measures, while subjective, are a useful complement to objective data to compare the quality of life across countries.
Life satisfaction measures how people evaluate their life as a whole rather than their current feelings. It captures a reflective assessment of which life circumstances and conditions are important for subjective well-being. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Austrians gave it a 7.4 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.6.
There is little difference in life satisfaction levels between men and women across OECD countries. This is true in Austria, where men gave their life a 7.3 grade, only slightly lower than the 7.5 grade given by women. Education levels, however, strongly influence subjective well-being. Whereas people who have only completed primary education in Austria have a life satisfaction level of 6.9, this score reaches 7.8 for people with tertiary education.
Happiness, or subjective well-being, is also measured by the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and/or the absence of negative experiences and feelings. In Austria, 85% of people reported having more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is higher than the OECD average of 80%.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Safety – Austria expand
Personal security is a core element for the well-being of individuals, and largely reflects the risks of people being physically assaulted or falling victim to other types of crime. Across the OECD, assault rates have generally declined in the past five years. In Austria, almost 3.0% of people reported falling victim to assault over the previous 12 months, less than the OECD average of 4.0%. The difference between men and women in assault rates is close to 3 percentage points, at 4.5% for men and 1.7% for women.
The homicide rate (the number of murders per 100,000 inhabitants) is a more reliable measure of a country’s safety level because, unlike other crimes, murders are usually always reported to the police. According to the latest OECD data, Austria’s homicide rate is 0.6, lower than the OECD average of 2.2 and one of the lowest rates in the OECD. In Austria the homicide rate for men is of 0.8 compared with 0.4 for women.
Fear of crime is another important indicator as it can constrain behaviour, restrict freedom and threaten the foundation of communities. Despite a general reduction in assault rates in the past five years, in many OECD countries feelings of security have declined. In Austria, 78% of people feel safe walking alone at night, higher than the OECD average of 67%. While men are at a greater risk of being victims of assaults and violent crimes, women report lower feelings of security than men. This has been explained by a greater fear of sexual attacks, the feeling they must also protect their children and their concern that they may be seen as partially responsible.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Work-Life Balance – Austria expand
Finding a suitable balance between work and life is a challenge for all workers, especially working parents. Some couples would like to have (more) children, but do not see how they could afford to stop working. Other parents are happy with the number of children in their family, but would like to work more. This is a challenge to governments because if parents cannot achieve their desired work/life balance, not only is their welfare lowered but so is development in the country.
People spend one-tenth to one-fifth of their time on unpaid work. The distribution of tasks within the family is still influenced by gender roles: men are more likely to undertake more hours of paid work, while women spend longer in unpaid domestic work. Men in Austria, spend 135 minutes per day cooking, cleaning or caring, slightly more than the OECD average of 131 minutes but far less than Austrian women who spend 269 minutes per day on average on domestic work.
Another important aspect of work-life balance is the amount of time a person spends at work. Evidence suggests that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardize safety and increase stress. People in Austria work 1 600 hours a year, less than the OECD average of 1 776 hours. The share of employees working more than 50 hours per week is not very large across OECD countries. In Austria close to 9% of employees work very long hours, in line with the OECD average. Overall, men spend more hours in paid work: in Austria 13% of men work very long hours, compared with 4% for women.
The more people work, the less time they have to spend on other activities, such as time with others or leisure. The amount and quality of leisure time is important for people’s overall well-being, and can bring additional physical and mental health benefits. People in Austria devote 64% of their day, or 14.5 hours, to personal care (eating, sleeping, etc.) and leisure (socializing with friends and family, hobbies, games, computer and television use, etc.) – less than the OECD average of 14.9 hours. Fewer hours in paid work for women do not necessarily result in greater leisure time. In Austria, men devote nearly 15 hours per day to personal care and leisure and women approximately 14 hours per day.