International Company Relocation Opportunities: Austria
Austria offers a welcoming environment and ideal conditions for multinational companies that wish to invest in the fields of technology, intensive capital industries and R&D.
The country has an advanced, stable and free market economy. It delivers skilled and competent manpower. The citizens enjoy a high quality of life. However, wellness and social security sectors are quite expensive. Austria has strong ties with the economies of other member countries of the European Union, especially with Germany. The service sector contributes most to the country’s overall economic performance, while the industrial and agricultural sector is diversified and efficient.
After several years of subdued economic growth, the country’s economic output and GDP have accelerated in 2016 by 1.5% and by a similar rate in 2017. The unemployment rate is at 5.9% and is persistently the EU’s lowest. The country was laid down before the Second World War has ended, and labor force has become the country’s most important resource in the years that followed.
Austria’s economic, political, and social integration with CESEE and with other member countries of the European Union has improved significantly because of the country’s position at the borderline between West and East near the center of Europe.
There are 320 American companies' investments in Austria, and some have expanded over time because of the country’s attractive and conducive business environment.
The country’s new reform package intends to decrease non-wage costs and allows a reduction of 30% of assets invested by a company with over 20 workers. The Minister of Finance, Johann Georg Schelling proposed to decrease the rate of corporate taxes from 25% to 20%. The Austrian parliament presented these measures and tax reforms to boost economic growth and to attract foreign investors.
Advantages and strong points of Austria’s business environment:
- A stable political system, with a high level of employment and job creation;
- Qualified and skilled labor resources;
- Labor productivity is traditionally high and with a great degree of competitiveness;
- Outstanding quality of living;
- High personal and social security, excellent health system, and efficient energy, telecommunication and infrastructure.
Disadvantages and weak points of Austria’s business environment:
- High taxation system despite the reform on business and personal taxation made in 2016;
- Needs improvement in innovation dynamics;
- Inefficiencies in the public sector and in its regulatory system, and wide-range bureaucracy for fresh and recognized companies.
The Major Sectors that significantly attract investments in Austria:
- The automotive Industry,
- The financial Sector,
- The pharmaceutical Industry.
Austria is ranked as the 17th least corrupt nation out of 176 countries in 2016’s Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. It is ranked 19 among 190 economies in terms of business ease in 2016, reported by the World Bank. It is ranked 20 among 128 countries and economies in 2016’s Global Innovation Index.
Openness and Restrictions on Foreign Investments
Direct foreign investment procedures: International direct investments are well received in Austria, especially when they have the possibility of creating more jobs in the field of high technology, encourage capital intensive businesses, and enhance connections on research & development (which are eligible for tax incentives). Officials also make sure investments will not affect the environment negatively.
The country is heavy on taxes with a hefty individual income tax issue and non-wage labor cost. But since it has a rather low 25% corporate tax percentage, it may be a good main business office location. Professionals estimate the corporate tax rate is about 22%, which includes tax adjustments.
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Austria doesn’t have a trader tax, wealth tax or a gift / inheritance tax imposed. An implemented tax reform in 2016 intends to encourage the economy to reduce income taxes up to €5 yearly. However, the majority of the price will come from a reduced tax deduction, increased tax on land transfers, a bigger VAT on selected commodities, a higher withholding tax, vague administrative savings, as well as an accelerated effort to fight tax fraud. Though the concept of encouraging the economy is possibly favorable, tax reforms’ minimal effect on the country’s high tax rate (estimated 44% of GDP) is impossible to lower accordingly before the term.
Austria doesn’t have geographic or sectorial restrictions on international investments. In some areas, foreign investors receive offers from the government on special services and facilities, which may involve incentives for vehicle manufacturers, environmental technologies or high tech goods producers.
U.S investors have no complaints on discriminatory practices or law versus foreign investors, though potential investors must factor in the country’s strict environment policies and impact assessments before making a decision.
The 2014 Energy Efficiency bill that requires energy suppliers to offer incentives to their consumers to execute a power savings measure, created an additional problem for investments within the power sector. Co-existence and strong liability regulations piercingly limit research, and practically prohibit biotechnology development, marketing or product distribution.
ABA (The Austrian Business Agency) acts as the primary contact point for international companies that aim to set up their operations in Austria. The agency is operated and owned by the government.
Foreign Control Limitations and Private Ownership & Establishment Rights
Austria allows non-European citizens to start their own businesses in the country. The Foreigners Law requires residence permits to be included in order to obtain operation rights. This is only permitted when certain conditions are met, like possessing a competency certificate and foreign education recognition. No limits are set to private business ownership.
Reviews on other investment guidelines: Austria has not conducted any recent reviews on its investment policy.
Business Assistance: Though Austria is included in the 20 countries of the “Doing Business” listing by the World Bank, establishing business requires several steps and takes time. The steps may include:
- Getting approval from the “Economic Chamber” stating the business is indeed a new firm;
- Providing a notarized business declaration;
- Depositing the required minimum capital with one of Austria’s banks;
- Completing a company registration on a local tribunal;
- Tax registration;
- Local trade authority registration;
- Social security registration;
- Registration at the local city where the company is situated;
- Lastly, the company should become part of WKO, which is considered the country’s “Voice of Business,” representing almost 450,000 establishments. Membership includes mandatory dues and processing may take weeks. The chamber also acts as an administrative power in other areas, like tourism, retailing and skilled labor certification.
The promotion agency called “Invest in Austria” (ABA) aims to act as a one-stop Hub and be the primary contact point for capitalists. It provides facts regarding Austria’s potential as a venue for business and approaches possible investors proactively.
Furthermore, the ABA offers consultation for companies interested in starting their business in Austria, concentrating on all topics related to selecting a suitable location. Austria allows several types of business set ups.
External Investments: Austria encourages export investments. There is no particular emphasis on a certain country. However, the U.S. has been an attractive target nation. As a special area in the WKO, “Aussenwirtschaft Austria” promotes outward international investments as well as exports. They manage six branches in the US. A collaboration project called “Go International” by the WKO and the Ministry of Economy offers services to establishments that are planning to make their first investments abroad. The project provides allocations by contributing to “market entry costs” and easy subsidies like legal advice, market support, and counselling.
Taxation Agreements and Mutual Investment Treaties
Austria and the U.S. have no existing investment agreement. Bilateral investment agreements (BITs) are in effect with; Azerbaijan, Armenia, Argentina, Algeria, Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovia, Belize, Belarus, Bangladesh, Czech Republic, Cuba, Croatia, China, Chile, Ethiopia, Estonia, Egypt Guatemala, Georgia, Hungary, Hong Kong, Iran, India, Jordan, Republic of Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Libya, Lebanon, Latvia, Morocco, Montenegro, Mongolia, Moldova, Mexico, Malta, Malaysia, Oman, Namibia, Poland, Philippines, Paraguay, Russia, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Serbia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Tunisia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Yemen, and Vietnam. Signed BITs, though not yet enforced, are with Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, and Cambodia.
At present, the European Commission is reviewing the legitimacy of the twelve Intra-European BITs among EU Members. Austria will continue to enforce them until the mechanism for investment protection throughout has been discussed. On a non-paper discussion, EU states and Austria have outlined the mechanics in 2016.
The U.S. and Austria are joined in a bilateral dual taxation convention that includes corporate and income taxes which took effect in January 1999. Another convention for bilateral dual taxation that covers inheritance, gifts, estates, and generation gap transfers is effective since 1982 (modified in 1999). On April 29th 2014, the U.S and Austria signed an agreement (FATCA) to cover accounts held by American citizens in Austria.
This agreement was reinforced on December 9th, 2014. There are 90 auxiliary treaties in effect between Austria and other nations.
Two other essential Austrian agreements are with Liechtenstein and Switzerland in the field of financial markets and taxation (that started being active as of January & April of 2013 accordingly) covering the discussion for unknown Austrian accounts in these respective countries.
The Statutory System
Legal Organization and Transparency: Austria’s constitutional, bookkeeping, and administrative regimes are comprehensible and according to global standards. Administrative agencies typically circulate draft bills and statutes for public discussion before the Ministerrat (Austria’s cabinet and/or senate) adopts them.
Additionally, important investors like the Industrial Association and “Social Partners” (the Agriculture Chamber, the Economic Chamber, the Trade Union, and the Labor Chamber) are requested to offer feedback and propositions for change and improvement, which are all taken into consideration prior to implementing a law.
This system also involves financial laws. The judiciary branch is autonomous, which helps guarantee a government that behaves in accordance with legal processes.
Austria’s government has progressed in terms of integrating its complicated and disorganized set of qualifications for granting business permits and certificates. It asserts it has reduced the time needed to process permits to no more than 3 months, with the exception of big projects mandating an ecological impact review.
Building and factory licenses are not included in Austria’s treatment of processing corporate permits. The country’s Economic Chamber requires all financial entities in Austria, even those owned by foreigners, to become members of the bureau and satisfy mandatory duties. The bureau holds constitutional powers in certain sectors, like tourism, skilled labour certification, and retail.
Austria is impartial in its distribution of investments across districts, and systematically implements labour, health, safety standards, and tax laws. Austrian regulations that control accounting offer American financiers a globally systematized investment information. In accordance with significant laws established by the European Union, listed businesses need to submit their incorporated financial documents in line with IAS/IFRS standards.
Multinational Legal Concerns
As a constituent of the European Union, Austria’s legislations are mandated to comply with European law and accountable to the European Court of Justice or the ECJ. The country is also a World Trade organization member and adheres to all its prerequisites.
Judicial Autonomy and Constitutional Framework: Austria’s judicial system is founded on Rome’s legal framework. Its constitution institutes a hierarchy, and each legal act (regulation, fines, law, and decision) should have a lawful foundation in a larger mechanism.
Each law’s complete text is accessible online. Business concerns are subject to the efficiency of standard district courts, although Vienna has its own specialized Court of Commerce. The Court of Commerce has state-wide expertise for design, mode, trademark, and patent affairs. Foreign investors do not receive special treatments, and the administrator does not meddle with legal matters.
The Austrian legal structure offers an efficient method of securing contractual and property rights for both foreigners and locals. The Department of Justice handles sensitive reports and cases and can implement discipline in resolving them. The country’s civilian courts impose contractual and property rights and deal equitably with all investors, local and foreigners alike. Austria permits appeals of legal decisions, first appealed in a district court and finally at the Supreme Court.
Rules and Policies Governing International Direct Investments
Multinational investors are not discriminated upon in Austria, but financial entities are obligated to heed various policies. Austrians are not required to participate in management or ownership. An administrator must fulfil all legal prerequisites including residency in Austria.
Migrants are permitted to subtract specific expenses, like relocation, children’s education, and maintenance of dual residency from income earned in Austria. Immigration regulation in Austria demands that residency applicants take courses or exams on German language proficiency, unless the applicant presents a university certificate, which automatically satisfies this prerequisite.
Anti-Trust Regulations and Competition: Austria’s Anti-trust Law functions congruently with the anti-trust policies of the European Union, held in high priority over domestic laws involving other constituents of the European Union and Austria. The country’s anti-trust bill restricts anticompetitive behaviour, cartels, and the abuse of a superior commercial status.
The autonomous FCA (Federal Competition Authority) and the FCP (Federal Cartel Prosecutor) are tasked to implement anti-trust policies, which can launch investigations and demand information from businesses. Damage claims can be filed by private parties on accusations of violating the European and Austrian anti-trust regulations.
Business entities must advise the Federal Competition authority of acquisitions and mergers (M&A). Media corporations are subject to exclusive M&A policies. A court on cartels is permitted to decide on mergers and acquisitions upon FCA or FCP notice, as well as implementing fines for anti-trust law violations that could be up to ten percent of the entity’s yearly global sales. Anti-trust matters related to the energy district are reviewed separately by an autonomous energy administrator, but is also required to present cases for review by the court on cartels.
The Takeover Regulation in Austria is applicable to both hostile and neutral business takeovers located in the country and has a listing on the Stock Exchange in Vienna as well. The policy ensures the protection of investors against discriminatory or unlawful practices.
Any investor that holds a controlling share of thirty-percent indirect or direct investment in a company must acquire smaller investors at a set and equitable market price. It also includes regulations for investors who acquire an entity’s control stake passively. This policy restricts manipulative bidding activities borne out of a defensive act. The Act to Shareholder Exclusion permits a primary investor with a minimum of ninety-percent capital stock and enables him to buy out minor investors. An autonomous commission on the takeover at the stock exchange in Vienna ensures the adherence to these policies.
Reparations and Confiscations
Convention in New York and ICSID: As a constituent of the Convention in New York and ICSID on the Enforcement and Arbitration of International Arbitral law, Austria’s local courts are required to implement applicable foreign adjudication awards in the country. In relation to this matter, however, no specific local regulation exists.
State-investor Dispute Adjudication: Austria’s adjudication law primarily adheres to the model regulation of the UNCITRAL, the major difference being an award can be neglected if the settlement process does not follow Austrian civil policies. An FTA or BIT is something Austria doesn’t have with the US, and the country also has no local adjudicatory agency.
Austria has not experienced any disputes with investments in decades. The first instance was in 2015 when the Austrian state went through a litigation case filed in New York by the Austrian Meini Bank’s parent company, prior to an ICSID review due to allegations of domestic discrimination and abuses.
Foreign Financial Settlement and International Courts: The International Arbitral Center of Austria’s Federal Economic Bureau functions as the country’s primary dispute Settlement agency. Policies are congruent with UNCITRAL‘s model regulation. The Convention in New York revoked a lot of Austria’s local regulations, if applicable, and local courts systematically implement them.
Liquidation Policies: Austria’s Insolvency law was mandated for corporate restructuring and insolvency processes. Restructuring demands a reorganization strategy from the debtor. A minimum of twenty percent of the financial duties of the debtor must be capped and should be ratified by a large percentage of creditors, including the ones with at least fifty-percent claims.
The proceedings on bankruptcy may be deemed inaccessible after the creditor or the applicant of the debt. The court provides a receiver to write down the entity and allocates revenues to creditors. Insolvency is not illegal so long as the individual presents all the necessary documents and reports to the law accordingly.
Regulations of Industries
Privileges on Investments: Austria gave business opportunities to investors in relation to certain areas needing an economic boost, by putting up projects according to the policies of the European Union. However, the areas involved are experiencing a gradual decline in qualification for financing programs under the regional office of the European Union. Around 200 million euros annually are allotted to most rural locations as an initiative of the EU covering 2014 to 2020.
The Austrian government has granted equal opportunities and privileges to both foreign and local investors to entice investments in the country by providing exclusions on taxes, qualifying loans, guarantees on loans and some grants. These privileges are given as long as the required criteria are met. They include jobs and the use of advanced technology.
Tax exclusions are applicable to employees who have completed training for advancement. Allowances for research and development are provided as a form of assistance to companies which have just started their businesses. The government also offers a maximum of 80% cash assistance to existing corporations.
AWS (Austria's Wirtschaftsservice) is a government sector in Austria which grants financial assistance. The complete details regarding the investment privileges are available online.
Austria has public sectors with different approaches on how to promote the incentive schemes for investors, specifically in the field of research. International enterprises qualify for them as well.
Free port area, facilitating trade, and international trade areas: The Austrian government did not approve any free areas for trade purposes.
Requirements on Business Performance and the Localization of Data
With regard to foreign investments, the Austrian government does not discriminate when it comes to getting government assistance. The government may enforce certain criteria. However, it did not specify any qualifications needed to obtain incentives on taxes.
In relation to this, Austrians do not have any criteria to secure shares in terms of foreign investments, the same thing with foreign entrepreneurs. There are no requirements to make use of local goods or the country's technology.
Austria opened its doors to the international community by offering different classifications on visas, which includes employment visas, non-immigrant corporate visas and contractual visas. With regard to a longer term type of visa, Austria has established a strong recruitment policy depending on the nature of the job. There are several points like age, educational attainment, multilingual skills and other qualifications which the government considers in imposing this opportunity.
It is mostly offered to highly skilled workers. The model Red White Red or RWR is used to form flexibility in searching for talents depending on business needs. This approach aimed to fill high skilled positions like key professionals, registered nurses and others. Applicants need to secure a job offer when applying for an RWR.
Highly skilled workers may submit their applications in Austria or look for an employer in their home country to mediate the recruitment process. The office that issues the visa will authorize the Embassy of Austria and secure the Red White Red card once the job application is successfully processed. The Immigration Office requires applicants to study German courses if they show interest in applying for a resident visa.
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Once the RWR principal applicants are approved, they are not required to take any language courses. However, the members of a Red White Red applicant’s family must obtain a document stating they took some basic courses for German language at A1 level. If they intend to apply for a residency, they must take additional courses to advance their language proficiency in German within two years. Highly skilled workers' families are not required to complete the A1 level, only the A2 is required. If the applicant is a degree holder from a university, it immediately waives this requirement.
In 2017, Austria announced a new provision is still in the works intended to strengthen the Red White Red approach to certain categories of visa to foreign investors making it seamless for businesses to start in the country. The proposed law was expected to start in the same year.
For Information Technology, such requirements are not necessary to give access to the encryptions or source codes of the country, since Austria and EU’s data protection is still implemented as part of their security measures.
Obtaining the business and personal data of customers still requires authorization from the Austrian government (from the Data Protection Authority). There is an exception though, when data is allowed to be released in the country, the holding authority of data still needs to comply with the regulations of the contract. An automatic approval of data transmission is allowed when it goes through US-EU Privacy Protection. An exception is made for certified companies from the US.
Property Rights Protection
Real Estate Property: The legal system of Austria protects property secured – interest. For a real estate contract to take effect, the owners must enlist with Austria’s land registry. If the land is for rededication, an approval from the State Governors’ office or from the commission of land transfer is necessary. The registry is accessible to the public and it’s a dependable system for documenting interest in property.
An authorization from the local administrative authorities is required for the land purchase of an EEA or non- EU citizens. The provincial directive varies, but generally, the acquisition should serve the public interest (social, economic, cultural). Normally, the applicant should pledge he is not establishing a vacation house.
Austria has an efficient law protection of IP rights, including trademark and patent laws, protection for industrial models and designs, and copyright. Austria is part of the WIPO and of other international property assemblies including the Universal Copyright Convention, the European Patent Convention, as well as the International Convention for Industrial Property Protection.
Through the Austrian patent law, US investors get the same security as Austrian citizens. The country is also part of the Global PHH which began in January of 2014. It allows the registration of the modernized application for determined patentable inventions with other member countries. This program is anticipated to reduce the patent’s processing time.
The Copyright Act in Austria is in accordance with the European Union directive on IP rights. An exclusive right is granted to authors that allows them to broadcast, translate, adapt, copy, distribute, and publish their creations. The legislation also controls digital media copyrights (private copy limitations), internet works, computer programs protection and other connected damage compensation.
However, infringement proceedings can be costly and time consuming. On July 2015, Austria’s High Court proved the 2014 ruling of the ECJ (European Court of Justice) saying internet providers in Austria must prohibit access to prohibited video and music streaming sites that have been tagged with copyright violation.
A directive in 2016 explains internet providers should obstruct workaround networks from these sites. Austria implements an anti - counterfeit trade law that is in accordance with EU requirements. In a 2015 report, Austrian customs officials confiscated pirated merchandise that amounted to €10.7 or $11.8 million.
Although Austria isn’t recorded to be part of the Special 310 Report of the USTR, a few U.S corporations are concerned with the country’s trade secret organization. While Austria provides trade secret protection, U.S businesses complain classified information may not be secured from besmirch actors due to the inconsistency in the system.
For example, an individual or group, trusted with “non-technical” classified information such as the record of clients to the GTM strategy, has no criminal obligation if they disclose the secret. Likewise, a competitor may use confidential information supposing the person providing the secret received the information legally. On the implementation of the EU Directive for Trade Secrets in 2016, the government together with industry spokespersons, Austria reevaluated its leadership on trade secrets to address concerns, and a new law will be reinforced by at least the first quarter of 2018.
The Finance Sector
Portfolio Investment and Capital Markets: Austria has a sophisticated and modern market that foreign investors can access unrestricted. It is IMF Article VIII compliant. The availability of financial instruments and payments is not restricted.
Credit is applicable at market-set rates. Tightened credit standard have been set for loans since banks are working for a more improved loan portfolio as well as aligning its regulations with European Central Banks. As an outcome, access to finances is a sector that Austria may improve. Overall, the financial market growth of Austria ranked 47th from 140 countries checked in the latest report of Global Competitiveness conducted by the World Economic Forum.
Austria currently has 65 companies included in its owned stock exchange. The ATX or the Austrian Traded Index is the country’s most essential stock exchange along with the price index including the 20 biggest stock market. The business size listed on ATX is practically equivalent with Germany’s MDAX.
Banking and the Financial System
Austria’s banking network is part of the world’s densest with more than 750 credit organizations. It operates 4,100 bank services. Only Luxemburg and Ireland has fewer occupants in each bank.
The highly developed banking system has international correspondent banks, as well as agent branches and offices in the U.S and other notable financial hubs. Large banks in Austria also have far reaching networks in Southeast and Central European countries, as well as in the old Soviet Union countries. The banking sector’s total assets amounts to €1,060 billion or $1,124 million, which is estimated to be 3X the GDP of the country.
The bank sector is mainly governed by the Austrian National Bank and by the Financial Market Authority in a lower extent. Six local banks with more than €30 billion in assets are susceptible to SSM or the Single Supervisory Mechanism of the Eurozone, including AG, the VTB Bank and Sberbank Europe, which are subsidiaries of Russian banks where the main office is in Austria. Other local banks are still subject to the dual-oversight banking managing system under the FMA and the OeNB, which are both responsible for checking stock exchange irregularities and managing securities markets, pension funds and insurance companies.
Because of the reporting requirements of the United States government, a few banks don’t accept private U.S citizen accounts. However, locally organized businesses owned by U.S investors haven’t disclosed the problem on this subject.
Remittances and Foreign Exchanges
Foreign Exchange: There are no restrictions on financial transactions across borders, including repatriations of the proceeds and investment sale profits, for both residents and non-residents in Austria. The Euro, an openly convertible currency as well as the only lawful tender in Eurozone member states, protects investors from risky exchange rates within the Eurozone.
Policies for Remittance: Austria doesn’t have any remittance guidelines in place.
Sovereign Wealth Funds: The country doesn’t have sovereign wealth affluence.
The Austrian government has a couple major government sectors, namely: The Austrian Railway Sector and the Asfinag, associated with administration, the financing of highways, buildings, and maintenance. In terms of percentage of government ownership, Austria has a 53% share in the Postal Office, a 33% share in Gaming Corporations, 31.5% in Energy Resources, 28% in Telecomm industry, 33% in gambling groups in Casinos, and other business ventures (this information is available online). The Austrian government takes 51% of Verbund AG, an energy resources company. Some states also have major ownerships in utilities, airports, and a few hospitals.
Private sectors in the country can compete against public sectors since both have similar policies in terms of access to market, business credit, and business-related components like supplies and permits. During the past years, state-owned enterprises have been strongly influenced by political parties to gain favourable resolutions in terms of disputes, appeal processes and delays, or in term of expediting the imposition of remedies.
There was an instance previously when a certain privately-owned railway company decided to file charges on discriminatory treatment against government-owned railway companies. Even though most of these government-owned sectors are getting the same financing terms as private sectors, some public ones are still getting benefits from the government in the form of subsidies. The Austrian government, as a European Union member, has been part of the GPA (Government Procurement Agreement), and these state-owned enterprises are also indirectly included.
Many public sectors are organized and outsourced as stock corporations. Higher management teams report to board members, not to the minister. The Austrian government recommends an appointment to represent them on the board and making political influences stronger in terms of connections.
The FTA, through the Ministry of Economic Affairs, has established a requirement for approval in advance for foreign procurements of stake at 25% in sectors with about 700,000 euros in sales annually. Austria is confident that if there are any restrictions on Foreign Direct Investments, it will provide assurance on security on a national level as well as safety on government services.
These sectors do not only offer security on external and internal aspects but also work on procurement, crisis management, and public safety. These public institutions include medical emergency services, hospitals, fire fighting institutions, gas and energy supply, the supply of water, telecommunications, traffic, educational institutions, and other civil services.
Privatizing State-Owned Enterprises: Austria still does not consider privatizing public sectors since 2007. Austrians are not convinced about the privatization of government-owned institutions, as well as the SPO (or the Social Democratic Party) which has been consistently showing opposition on the issue. As of this writing, the government has not formed steps to privatize any public sectors, but they consider minimizing some shares in the market.
During past administrations, both local and foreign investors gained equal opportunities. In terms of investments, foreign businesses have gained complete control in some major sectors in the country, like banking, infrastructure, steel, and telecommunications.
Accountability in Commercial Ventures
Austria’s RBC (Responsible Business Conduct) and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) guidelines are founded on the 2011 European Union’s Commission “Strategy for Social Responsibility”. Austria’s ONR 192500 Standard Institute functions as the primary model for CSR, which has its basis on the European Commission’s registered Strategy that is made to be congruent with the principles of the United Nation’s standard on Human Rights and Business conduct.
In general, top companies in Austria adhere to CSR guidelines and present a CSR affiliate in their yearly reports. Several others also offer information on safety, health, environment, and security endeavours. CSR Europe, a major CSR commercial network in Europe, has a domestic partner agency called RespACT (Responsible Action).
The Austrian state follows OECD Standards for Multinational Businesses. Its national headquarters reside in the Science, Economy, and Research Ministry office, which seeks to promote its principles to universities, companies, and other investors.
Austria’s export credit organization also develops instructions on CSR guidelines, standards, and issues, which can be found on its online site.
Dishonesty and Fraud
Incidents of malfeasance generally do not have a considerable impact on Austrian business. However, extortion by government officials is discussed in Austria’s Criminal code. Public appropriation of funds does pose a minor corruption risk, which typically arises in tailor-made guidelines for specific participants. Nepotism in government work is believed to be prevalent with more than a third of enterprises.
Regulations against corruption are typically efficiently enforced, although strategies may be conducted passively with high-level incidents, which can take years to resolve. Bribing parliament members was heavily criminalized in 2013, and acceptance of bribe money becomes a punishable crime and could lead to a sentence which depends on the monetary extent of the bribe.
The 2014 European Union report on anti-corruption states Austria has bolstered its efforts in preventing and prosecuting anti-corruption activities. The EU, however, suggests the country implements measures to make access to financial account information effortless in incidents of alleged corruption, due to banking secrecy regulations impeding frequently with investigations. Commission surveys reflect that 66% of Austrians view corruption as prevalent in their country, compared to 76% of Europeans. 5% of Austrians (about 4% of Europeans) reported being asked or expected to be involved in bribery during the previous year.
Two high profile cases of government offcials’ involvement in corruption surfaced in 2016, with one of them featuring an Austrian public official accused of issuing a counterfeit bill to illegally transmit 120,000 euros from Telekom Austria, a partially government-owned entity, to a public political organization. The official was convicted with nine months imprisonment, but was later released on a 3 year probation.
The other incident involved BUWOG and efforts to privatize the real-estate Austrian firm, with sixteen accused officials that involve the ministry of Finance Karl-Heinz Grasser, who allegedly demanded a 9.6 million euro bribe for his allies and himself. Judiciary hearings are presently ongoing.
Currently, no regulations exist to handle conflicting interests involving public officials and no law to govern monetary benefits and other gifts. This was emphasized as a major area for advancement by GRECO (Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption) Council, for which Austria is a constituent and has ratified the United Nations’ Convention Against Corruption as well as the Convention on Anti-Bribery OECD.
The Criminal Code of Austria contains provisions against corruption that cover administrators of government enterprises in the country, public officials, and others involved in administration, legislation, foreign entities, or equity on Austria’s behalf abroad. It also covers local parliament members, mayors, and delegates of public entities. The definition of corruption includes: unauthorized intervention, abuse of government power, and passive and active bribery. Corruption in certain cases may involve fraudulent activities with a private administrator, misuse of public funds, or trust violation.
Penalties for corruption offenses include incarceration of all individuals involved for a maximum of ten years. Austria’s Anti-Corruption Bureau holds jurisdiction on investigations of corruption charges that take place within and outside Austria.
The 2013 Lobbying Act launched irrevocable regulations for lobbying behavior and obligates local and foreign entities to enroll with Austria’s Justice Ministry. Investments made by political organizations are mandated to disclose donations that exceed 3,300 euros or 3.705 US dollars. Private businesses are also governed by Austria’s Corporate Criminal Liability Act, which makes entities accountable for passive and active criminal activities. Fines for violations could get to a maximum of 1.8 million euros or 1. 9 million US dollars.
Surety and Political Environment: There were no cases of damages and political violence to foreign investments in the country. In general, it has a very secure environment. Acts of violence and civil violence are very uncommon.
Employment and Labor Laws
Austria delivers about four million skilled, highly trained, and competent people, whereas 500,000 are farmers or self-employed and about 3,500,000 are employed. Under European Regulations, all member countries of the European Union are allowed freedom of movement, excluding Croatia which recently became a member of the European Union in 2013 and is under a period of transition till 2020.
For many years, the country’s unemployment rate ranking has been the lowest among other member countries of the EU. And for the last five years, the rate of unemployment in Austria was consistent at 4.9% to 5.9%, which was the lowest rate in EU-28 from 2011-2016. However, the rate may accelerate to 6.1% because of the country’s rising labor force.
At present, there are 500,000 employed foreign workers in Austria. Most immigrants are from CEE. However, Austria is dealing with unprecedented numbers of refugees entering the country, particularly refugees from Middle Eastern countries amid the international refugee crisis. Most of them seek asylum in Austria and have been successfully integrated into the labor market. Immigrants from Europe, particularly from the East are working in low-wage occupations and have filled job openings in the health sector and in tourism, which is more likely to have shortages.
The youth unemployment rate in Austria is very low compared to other member countries of the European Union. The country offers apprenticeship training programs and a practical vocational training which assures the age group of 15 to 24 a guaranteed placement of workers supported by the Public Employment Service.
The Austrian parliament acknowledged transformation and have initiated several policy initiatives in the labor market. There is not much agreement on how to undertake the issue of unemployment among older workers ages 50 years and above. The parliament is planning to make ground among older people in the change of category, from unemployment to employment by supporting the 20,000 jobless old age population in finding jobs in the public sector.
The parliament would also want to implement specific measures in limiting the subsidy towards labor taxes and other costs in return for engaging new employees and to all established staff in the country, which may possibly discourage migrants in moving to Austria. These measures may be controversial and noncompliant with European Union law, and it may be nullified by the ECJ, according to legal experts.
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Under the Austrian Social Security System, social insurance is mandatory and prerequisite. Social insurance is composed of various schemes: unemployment insurance, health insurance, accident insurance, and pension for old age. It is predominantly funded by employees’ and employers’ contributions. The Austrian welfare state is regulated by the labor law which set the contract of employment, vacation, working hours, legal holidays, severance pay, termination of employment, separation notice, maternity leave, and part-time employment for parents with children 7 years of age.
However, the financial sustainability of the welfare program became an issue, particularly in pension, health insurance coverage, wellness care for elderlies, and the comprehensive long-term care scheme. Employees’ social insurance is financed by the employer’s contribution. As a result, there is an additional labor cost of up to 70% on gross salaries.
Since 2005, there have been no major labor strikes in the country, and in that respect, there were very minimal occurrences of labor unrest. This is because Austria has maintained a well-balanced labor-management. About 35% of the labor force is owned by a union.
The collective agreement is centralized in additional benefits and wages, whereas 80% of dependent workers are covered by a sector-wide agreement of collective bargaining. There is no statutory national minimum wage rate in Austria. However, binding minimum wage rates are set at sector levels by a collective bargaining agreement where the minimum rate was increased to 1,300 euros/month, regardless if wages are as low as 1,000 euros/month. But in July 2017, real wages increased by 1,500 euros/month.
The normal working time amounts to 40 hours/week. However, the collective agreement stipulates a lesser working time of 38 hours/week or up to 38.5 hours/week, applicable to over half of the total number of employees.
In some cases, the standard hours spent at work may exceed 40 - 50 hours/week or the maximum working hours of 60 hours/week. At company level, a work agreement is obligatory to establish this flexitime model. Austrian workers enjoy annual entitlements of 5 week paid leaves that rise to 6 weeks after twenty five years of service. There is also a 12 days leave entitlement per year for sick and injured employees.
Overseas private investment corporation programs: There is no available OPIC program in Austria. The country is an affiliate of MIGA, a part of the World Bank Group.
Written By:Joe Webster
Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing.
After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood.
With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.