A new "Viennese Charter" was drawn up in 2012 as a participatory voluntary agreement over the rules of living together in Vienna.
4.2.8 Social cohesion and cultural policies
Only in recent years has social cohesion in general become an issue in Austria – one of the richest countries in the EU - not least because of the rising risk of poverty in this country too. Generally, the role of social "stabilisers" such as the "social-partnership" (the out-of-parliament agreements between the unions and the political parties), which have cushioned social imbalance for decades, has weakened within the last five years. According to the 2009-2010 Social Report, 12.4% of the population in Austria were endangered by poverty in 2008 and manifest poverty grew by some 100 000 people from 5% (2007) to 6%.
Moreover, the income gap between women and men is still high in Austria (on average women earn 25% less). In 2008, the international network BPW (Business and Professional Women) introduced the annual "Equal Pay Day"; for 2012 this was calculated as 5 April, which was the day on which women have earned as much as men did by the 31 December of the year 2011.
In the 2008 government agreement a National Action Plan (NAP) for the equality of women and men on the labour market was agreed in order to develop and implement concrete steps for the next five years. The NAP was published in 2010. In the same connection, the Ministry for Women and Public Services has developed a wage calculator (http://www.gehaltsrechner.gv.at/), which calculates the average guideline for wages and salaries related to a sector or occupational group. The aim is to improve fairness and transparency in relation to the wages of men and women.
The income gap between the rich and the poor has also risen. In response to these developments, networks and platforms such as the Austrian Social Forum and the network Conference on Poverty (Armutskonferenz) have been initiated since 2000.
In Austria there are no cohesive programmes at national level linking social inclusion and culture. Artistic funds, grants and (prize money) awards, as well as project money, are the main support schemes for artistic work. The Social Security Insurance Fund for Artists, effective since 2000, only covers basic social needs to a limited extent (pension supplement); moreover, artists on very low incomes are excluded. With the study "On the social situation of artists in Austria" (2008) an enormous need for action became evident. The ministries responsible are working on solutions. The artists' interest-group representatives are calling for an unconditional basic income for artists. 2010 and 2012, the IG Freie Theaterarbeit toured Austria with a major information programme in order to highlight the precarious position of artists, above all in the field of performing arts and to offer advice and support to those affected.
The initiative "Hunger auf Kunst und Kultur" (hunger for arts and culture) was founded by the above-mentioned "Conference on Poverty" and the Viennese theatre "Schauspielhaus" in 2003. Meanwhile more than 500 cultural institutions throughout Austria provide free entrance (via a "culture pass") for unemployed people and those on lower incomes. Since 2006, "Hunger auf Kunst und Kultur" has been organised as an association, supported by the City of Vienna.
The level of voluntary work is relatively high in Austria. According to a country-wide study (2009), 44% of Austrians over the age of 15 were active in the voluntary sector, especially in the fields of neighbourhood help, social services and culture and entertainment.
In 2012, with the "Viennese Charter" (Wiener Charta) the City of Vienna initiated a participatory project, so far unique in Europe, in which the foundations and rules of play for good coexistence in Vienna are to be worked out. The Viennese are actively determining the themes and drafting the charter. Initially, issues were gathered online and by telephone, and were then deepened in charter discussions. Their results were publicly discussed until the end of October. At the end of the participatory process a voluntary agreement over the rules of living together in Vienna and for a good, fair and respectful coexistence emerged. The text of the "Viennese Charter" will be presented at the end of 2012 and publicised throughout Vienna.