Country Situation Austria

Current national situation of young people having disadvantaged background

Austria is often praised as exemplary in terms of youth employment in Europe, even after the economic and financial crisis since 2007, the youth unemployment has not risen significantly (2018: 6.4 %.)[1]  However, a comprehensive survey conducted 2012 by the Institute of Sociology at the University of Linz in cooperation with the Chamber of Labour of Upper Austria identified about 75,000 NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) youths between 16 and 24 years of age in Austria, i.e. 8.2% of the age group. Their integration into the labour market is sometimes considered difficult and represents one of the major challenges for labour market policy. In 2018 (annual average) 63900 young people (15 to 24 years) were neither in employment nor in education and training, i.e. 6.8% of the young people (women: 7.1%, men: 6.6%). The EU-28 average of the NEET rate is 11.6% (2018).[2]

Two specific risk groups are identified by the above mentioned study: women and young people from migrant families. One possible reason is that male youths find it easier to access apprenticeship places and also more often take on auxiliary activities at a young age and thus fall outside this indicator. In 2016, around 551,500 young people with a migration background (0-24 years) were living in Austria, which corresponds to almost a quarter of the total youth population.[3] The risk of exclusion of the first generation born in Austria is high. But a significantly higher overall risk therefore affects migrant women, even those from the first generation born in Austria. One quarter (just under 24%) of 16 to 24-year-old women of migrant background are affected by the NEET phenomenon (men: 13.5%) due to the above cited study.

In principle, the NEET group presents a very heterogeneous picture. Roughly the following NEET subgroups in Austria are to be considered: Unemployed young early school leavers, young mothers with and without migration background, apprenticeship graduates in rural areas, school graduates in waiting position, older unemployed youngsters (20 to 24 years) or young people with diseases. Regarding the possible individual risk factors it can be observed that early school leaving has a strong influence on the NEET risk. Gender-specific differences include the fact that caring responsibilities are a major explanatory factor for young women, while for male NEETs, unemployment experiences and a poor economic situation in particular pose risks.


[1] Eurostat Data-Explorer, (last update: 3/ 2020).

[2] – NEET Rate [last checked 4/2020].

[3] The term “migrant background” is officially used for people whose both or one parent are born abroad.

Main challenges of youth workers who work with youngsters having disadvantaged background in their daily implementation

In a comprehensive study on Open Youth Work in Austria by Gspurnik and Heimgartner,[1] based on interviews with participants and youth workers, complex challenges were addressed. One of them relates to the training situation. There is a broad variety of training opportunities for youth work in Austria. However, the wide range is also seen as a problem. The following statement of a youth worker describes the market dynamics to which many training courses are subject: “In general I find such training courses problematic because there’s a big supply. Far too many different offers, where you cannot know, or at least people in the training often do not know if it is recognized or not, will it provide me a chance or not. Because everyone sells his offer as great and super, but how it really works on the job market you don’t know.”[2]

Discontent also arises from the continuous professionalization efforts. If the unit of ECTS points is used as the basis for training and is constantly increasing, this leads to a permanent, forced running behind of untrained employees, which leads to resentment. Another point is that many activities are challenging in terms of time budget for the youth workers. The evenings and Saturday working hours are considered as critical for family life. Individual attractions (e.g. skate halls) can be very extensive in their opening hours. Moreover the financial pressure is shaping up in many federal states, especially in the fact that the financing is limited in time and work contracts. As a result, many youth workers annually or biennially worries for its own existence, although the open youth work is generally continuous.[3]


[1] Gspurnik/Heimgartner 2016.

[2] Ibd. p. 78, 79.

[3] Ibid., p. 136-137.

Current tools and methodology that youth workers and social workers use by working with disadvantaged youngsters to promote their integration

The offers and methods available in the Association’s Youth Work are as varied as the organisations themselves. They can impart a variety of competence and knowledge. Starting with the so-called soft skills and extending to technical and organisational abilities, young people are encouraged to develop their personal skills and knowledge and their commitment to civil society.[1]

The second main sphere is the Austrian Youth Info Service. Its offers and methods:

  • are directed towards the needs and interests of young people,
  • offer free and target group-oriented information on all youth-relevant topics,
  • prepare subject matters in an easily understandable way,
  • refer young people directly to facilities that specialise in their needs,
  • use communication channels that are adapted to the living environments of young people,
  • offer orientation and information as a basis for a self-determined life,
  • teach young people information literacy,
  • support young people in the implementation of their own projects,
  • act in accordance with the principles of the European Youth Information Charter and the principles for online youth information.[2]

The third area, Open Child and Youth Work, pursues the following main approaches: Focus on open space and leisure, focus on target groups and focus on social space. The offers are developed together with the target groups and are oriented towards their living environments and needs. They make it possible to gain experience in leisure time without pressure to perform and without rigid efficiency orientation. The offers of open child and youth work are more widely and frequently attended by disadvantaged young people than the afore mentioned associations or youth information. In addition, autonomous, self-organized youth initiatives should also be mentioned, finally not to forget social work by migrant organisations and religious forms of youth work by churches and mosque associations.


[1]  Bundesministerium für Familie und Jugend 2015, p. 11.

[2] For more information see (a regularly updated and commented link collection on youth-relevant topics.)


Brief description of Good Practices on youth work aimed at youngsters having disadvantaged background in the country

Programs of Open Youth Work are developed together with the young people and are therefore based on their needs and knowledge. Depending on the target group, the offers range from sports, parties and music to creative activities such as workshops, projects or rehearsal rooms for bands, support in finding a job, assistance with school and family problems. In the so-called open mode (offener Betrieb) – i.e. during normal opening hours in a youth club or youth centre – young people can use the facilities for an informal organization of their leisure time, professionally accompanied by the employees. However, open youth work is not only “indoors”, but also “outdoors” – in parks, at railway stations and bus stops, in residential areas and on public sports fields. Which offers are arranged and how, whether a football match, a concert in the park or an afternoon of games, is organised together with the young people. In this way they can get involved, shape their living environment themselves and take responsibility for it.

One example: “Cooking on Fridays”, organised by the Youth Centre Wattens/Tyrol. Aim: Preparing and cooking different dishes together once a week, establish, build and consolidate low-threshold relationships, breaking down and questioning gender stereotypes, getting to know fresh regional, local and, if possible, fair-trade organic products for all participants. Positive results: Building and strengthening low-threshold relationships across age, gender and origin differences, eating together needs and creates trust, active involvement of young people, disadvantaged young people receive at least one freshly cooked meal on Fridays, mutual appreciation, appreciation of fresh food , learning to cook, raising awareness and interest in healthy eating and fair consumption. At the same time, skills and competences for their own household are acquired, which can also have a positive impact on the families involved. Since autumn 2019: daily freshly filled fruit and vegetable basket …