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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Political, social and economic background and trends


1.Political, social and economic background and trends

Last update: 3 February 2024
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Austria is a landlocked Central European country with about 9 million inhabitants (9,061,848, as of 1.7.2022, source: Statistics Austria: Population statistics, visited 31.08.2022). The population has grown faster than expected in the 1st half of 2022 due to refugee migration from Ukraine.

Geographically, Austria borders the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. Austria's territory covers around 84,000 square kilometres, making it slightly smaller than Portugal and Hungary and slightly larger than the Czech Republic. Since 1979, Vienna has been one of four permanent seats of the United Nations worldwide.

With around 1.9 million inhabitants (1,962,779, as of 1.7.2022, source: Statistics Austria: Population statistics, visited 31.08.2022), Vienna is also the most populous of nine federal provinces, accounting for one fifth of the total population.

Of the nine million people living in Austria, almost 65 % are in the "working age" between 15 and 64 years and form the "labour force potential" of the population. 15 % are children under the age of 15 and 20 % are 65 or older (as of 1.1.2021, source: Statistics Austria: Population by age group, Demographic Yearbook 2020, visited 31.08.2022). 21 % of the population were born abroad, 18 % have a non-Austrian citizenship (as of 1.1.2022, source: Statistics Austria: Population by citizenship and country of birth, visited 31.08.2022).

Austria is a democratic republic and a federal state. The federal territory consists of the nine provinces of Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Vienna. The federal provinces are in turn divided into 114 judicial districts, approx. 200 cities and 2,093 municipalities (as of 1.1.2022, source Statistics Austria: Administrative breakdown, visited 31.08.2022).

Austria is a constitutional state based on the rule of law. The most important constitutional foundations are the Austrian Federal Constitution of 1920 (as amended in 1929) and, since Austria's accession to the European Union (then European Community) on 1 January 1995, the law of the European Union. Due to comprehensive social legislation, Austria is also referred to as a social state.

Austria has been a member of the EU since 1 January 1995 and introduced the euro as its currency on 1 January 2002, joining the Eurozone in 1999.

Austria is a social market economy. The VET system is strongly linked to the economy.

The national language and official language in Austria is German. In some regions of Austria, the minority languages Croatian, Slovenian and Hungarian are also considered official languages. Recognised regional and minority languages are Hungarian, Slovene, Burgenland-Croatian, Czech, Slovak and Romani. Sign language has also been anchored in the Austrian Federal Constitution as an independent language since 2005.

As far as the distribution of competences in the education system is concerned, the Federal Government with the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research is responsible for federal schools, general adult education and the strategic control of the higher education sector. The responsibility for compulsory schools including teaching staff lies with the Länder (provinces). With the nine education directorates in the federal provinces, there has been a federal-state authority since 2017 with Austria-wide uniform tasks of enforcing school law, including quality assurance, school supervision and education controlling.