Social welfare & health system
Excellent healthcare provided by medical professionals and institutes providing state-of-the-art medical services along with a dense network of public and private hospitals ensure that the health care system in Austria is one of the best in the world.
The social security and welfare system in Austria
Austria’s social services such as minimum benefits as well as social insurance and pension benefits contribute to a very high level of social security for the country’s inhabitants.
Together with France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy and Sweden, Austria ranks among the eight countries investing more than one quarter of their gross domestic product in social expenditures. This is clearly higher than the OECD average of 20.1 percent.
According to EU-SILC 2016 (European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions), 45 percent of households would be at the risk of poverty. Retirement and social welfare benefits succeed in reducing this share to fourteen percent. This demonstrates the strong role played by social welfare benefits in preventing poverty.
The social insurance system in Austria is characterised by a mix of central and decentralised components. The social insurance system is dominated by legally mandated social insurance benefits as well as universal services for the entire population, regardless of any proven neediness. Part of the healthcare system, public housing, a large proportion of social services, childcare facilities and minimum income are regional competencies i.e. in the hands of the federal states, municipalities and cities.
Austria features a particularly well-developed system of cooperation among the large economic interest groups of employers and employees and with the government. The Austrian social partnership makes a significant contribution to economic growth and social peace in Austria thanks to its ability to achieve a consensus, the reconciliation of interests and a coordinated approach.
The Austrian social insurance system
The Austrian social insurance system represents a mandatory insurance scheme. Contributions are paid by the employers on behalf of all employees and if applicable on behalf of their relatives as well (source link: wko.at). Self-employed people with a trade license, new self-employed persons and contractors must pay their social security contributions themselves. The statutory contributions of employed persons (workers and freelancers) are automatically deducted by the employers and paid to the tax office. Employers are also responsible for registering their employees with the social insurance system.
The amount of contributions to be paid i.e. the so-called contribution rates varies depending upon which group of employees an individual is assigned, for example wage earners, salary earners, apprentices, marginally employed workers etc.
The Austrian social insurance system consists of several different pillars:
- Health insurance (Krankenversicherung), which also encompasses maternity leave. Health insurance benefits include assuming the costs of medical treatment, hospitalisation, medical check-ups, childcare allowances, sickness benefits etc.
Under certain conditions, family members are insured free of charge.
- Work accident insurance (Unfallversicherung), providing coverage in case of occupational accidents and diseases and their consequences e.g. invalidity and disablement.
- Pension insurance (Pensionsversicherung), e.g. retirement benefits.
- Unemployment insurance (Arbeitslosenversicherung) encompassing benefits in case of unemployment such as unemployment benefits and emergency assistance.
There are several health insurance providers encompassed within the Association of Austrian Social Security Institutions. The specific health insurance provider responsible for a given individual depends on the person’s place of residence and the professional activity of the insured person.
In addition to covering the costs of medical treatment, hospitalisation, medical check-ups, childcare allowances, sickness benefits and payments during maternity leave, the Austrian health insurance system also assumes costs for dental care, rehabilitation, home nursing, therapeutic aids, examinations within the context of the mother-child pass and nursing.
The underlying prerequisite for taking advantage of health insurance benefits and what the health care system in Austria has to offer is presenting the e-card, which every insured person, and, if applicable, her or his relatives, receives from the medical insurance provider within fourteen days after registration with the health insurance provider. The back of the e-card also serves as the European Social Security Card, enabling the insured person to make use of medical services provided in other member states of the European Union.
- Employed persons or self-employed individuals, amongst others, are entitled to medical insurance.
Marginally employed workers are provided with medical insurance upon request.
- Entitlement to unemployment insurance or emergency assistance or
- Receiving retirement benefits
- Receiving maternity pay or a childcare allowance.
Co-insurance of relatives
In addition to the compulsorily insured people, the social health insurance system also protects their relatives. An additional contribution may have to be paid in certain cases.
Relatives are considered to be the following family members whose place of residence is in Austria:
- Spouse or registered partner
- Children born in wedlock, legitimised and adopted children
- Illegitimate children of a female insured person and, under certain conditions, illegitimate children of a male insured person
- Stepchildren and grandchildren who live with the insured person in the same household
- Foster children taken care of by the insured person at no cost, or if foster care is based on official permission
- Under certain conditions, the life partner and relatives running the household
- Specified related persons or persons related by marriage and life partners entitled to a care allowance (starting at Level 3) who, under certain conditions, are nursed by the insured person.
Co-insurance based on additional payments
In contrast to co-insured children, grandchildren and certain relatives, people related by marriage and life partners entitled to a care allowance (starting at Level 3) who are cared for by the insured person, the spouses, life partners and relatives running the household have to pay an additional social insurance contribution for the duration of the co-insurance.
This amounts to 3.4 percent of income (including bonus payments) or retirement benefits i.e. the specified contribution base of the insured person.
Work accident insurance
There are several work accident insurers encompassed within the Association of Austrian Social Security Institutions
- General Accident Insurance Institution (Allgemeine Unfallversicherungsanstalt) (AUVA)
- Social Insurance Institution for the Self-Employed (Sozialversicherungsanstalt der Selbstständigen (SVS)
- Austrian Insurance Institution for Public Sector Employees (Versicherungsanstalt öffentlich Bediensteter (BVA)
- Austrian Insurance Institution for the Railways and Mining Industry (Versicherungsanstalt für Eisenbahnen und Bergbau (VAEB)
Work accident insurance benefits are provided in cases of occupational accidents and diseases or the death of an employed person. These services include curative treatments, rehabilitation as well as compensation and services in case of death such as the payment of a survivor’s pension.
At present, the retirement age in Austria is 60 for women and 65 for men. According to Austrian law, EU and EEA citizens as well as Swiss nationals are entitled to retirement benefits, provided they were employed in Austria for a period of more than one year and were covered by pension insurance. If insurance contributions were paid for less than one year, this amount will be included in calculating the pensions the employees receive in other countries.
Unemployment insurance services such as unemployment benefits and emergency assistance are coordinated by the Public Employment Service Austria (Arbeitsmarktservice - AMS).
If an individual wants to claim entitlement to unemployment benefits from the EU/EEA area or Switzerland while searching for a job in Austria, the public employment service of the person’s country of origin is the right contact partner. The form U2 which includes the deadline for registering with the regional AMS office in Austria, the maximum duration of unemployment benefits and other information must be filled out by the person and confirmed.
After successful registration with the responsible regional office of the AMS in Austria, the public employment service of the person’s country of origin will be immediately informed about the registration of the applicant as a job seeker, which in turn can make the corresponding payments. If no job is found in Austria within the period of time stipulated on the form U2, benefits can only be granted in the case of an immediate and timely return of the person to her or his country of origin.
It is absolutely essential to take information provided by the country of origin into account.