2. Current cultural affairs
Last update: November, 2020
Austria’s cultural policy in the period 2007-2017 (social democratic government) was characterised by the commitment to a sustainable safeguard for art and culture, by emphasising the promotion of contemporary art and emerging artists, the strengthening of cultural education and mediation, efforts of internationalisation and the improvement of working conditions of artists, particularly of women. Moreover, the promotion of gender equality and cultural diversity, the improvement of cultural participation and of the general conditions of cultural institutions, and the protection and mediation of cultural heritage were other key issues of social democratic cultural policy.
The commitment to freedom of art and the governmental responsibility for the support of arts and culture has remained unchanged with the centre-right government since 2017. However, the points of emphasis regarding art and culture for this legislative period have shifted with stronger emphasis on traditional art and culture, efficiency and profit-orientation.
Under the current government, culture policy objectives are outlined in the government programme 2020-2024:
- Worldwide strengthening of contemporary art and culture from Austria.
- Create the best possible framework conditions for those active in art and culture as well as for the various cultural institutions, from the independent scene to the major cultural institutions.
- Enabling innovation, planning security and social support for artists.
- Promotion of musical-creative-artistic training and cultural education as a factor of positive personality development.
- Commemorative year 2020 as a starting point for a new, comprehensive culture of commemoration on a broad social basis.
To achieve these objectives, specific measures are outlined:
- Development of an art and culture strategy;
- Strengthening Austrian culture abroad;
- Support in planning and implementation of the European Capital of Culture 2024 Bad Ischl/Salzkammergut;
- Strengthening of the Federal Museum Directors' Conference and creation of a federal museum holding company;
- Continuation and expansion of provenance research;
- Economic stimulus package for cultural and memorial sites;
- Establish Austria as an innovative international platform for the fusion of art, culture, technology and the digital world; close cooperation with research institutions;
- Strengthen contemporary art and culture;
- Promotion of private financial involvement in art and culture;
- Promoting cultural education for children and young people;
- Development of a joint strategy of federal, state and local authorities to implement the cultural strategy "Fairpay";
- Promotion of women and equality (mentoring programmes);
- More transparency in the funding system and new funding priorities;
- Strengthening of inter- and transdisciplinary artistic and scientific projects;
- Strengthening of art and cultural projects in the area of recognized ethnic groups;
- Strengthening art and cultural projects in the field of integration;
- Development of a commemoration strategy.
Cultural policies of the Bundesländer focus mainly and with varying emphasis on:
- Commitment to freedom of art;
- Responsibility for the support of art and culture;
- Creation of appropriate framework conditions for creative work;
- Preservation and mediation of cultural heritage;
- Equal opportunities for access and participation;
- Strengthening arts education and cultural diversity.
Last update: November, 2020
On the national level, artistic freedom has been anchored in the Constitution since 1982, apart from the freedom of expression as an independent fundamental right. Thus, it protects any kind of artistic creation from state intervention. Participation and access to critical debates with art and culture are seen as key factors for the high quality of life of a society in Austria.
The Bundesländer also safeguard freedom of art, support cultural education and mediation as well as equal access to and participation in art and culture for everyone. The Bundesländer are responsible for art and culture, the state acts in a subsidiary role and the Kunstförderungsgesetz (1988), as a self-binding law, includes the objectives to promote and convey artistic creation and to improve the general conditions for artists. The guiding principles for the promotion of art and culture by the federal state are outlined in the estimated federal budget (2020), where two main targets were defined: 1. cultural education and mediation, ensuring broad public access to art and culture and 2. guarantee of sustainable and stable framework conditions for contemporary art work. Both goals can hardly be achieved due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of art and cultural institutions.
Many cultural offers are concentrated in Vienna, where nearly a third of the Austrian population lives and many of the major art and culture institutions are located. In order to balance this out, district, suburban and rural culture development are supported by different instruments on regional and local level to improve access to and participation in the arts and culture for broader sections of the population even in outer regions.
Rural areas in Austria are traditionally characterised by a very dense cultural offering. Throughout the year, there are festivals, art and cultural initiatives and events in all regions. These events are low-threshold in access and participation and heavily geared to participation.
Last update: November, 2020
The national and the regional governments encourage the promotion and support of artists and creators. Not only does Austria perceive itself as a cultural nation, many great artists, musicians and writers add to the worldwide fame. But there is a strong gap between a few highly-paid artists and a huge number of them who barely can make a living from their work. This was concluded in the 2008 study Zur sozialen Lage der Künstler und Künstlerinnen in Österreich (On the social situation of artists in Austria). It revealed a dramatic level of poverty and came to the conclusion that the already precarious income situation of artists had worsened in comparison to studies from earlier years. As the framework conditions of artists are not solely the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Culture, inter-ministerial working groups (IMAGs) have been founded in cooperation with experts from the former Federal Ministries of Labour, Family and Youth, Health, Foreign Affairs and Women's Affairs and representatives of the scene, interest-groups (IGs), trade union and social-partnership representatives. These IMAGs have been working between 2009 and 2014 on the issues of social security for artistic, cultural and media workers, employment law, unemployment insurance law, social security, women in the arts, support for the arts, copyright and taxation measures and mobility in order to improve the social situation of artists in Austria.
The update study in 2018 (Soziale Lage der Kunstschaffenden und Kunst-/Kulturvermittler/innen in Österreich (Social situation of Artists and Cultural Educators/Mediators in Austria) showed nearly the same results: the situation of artists is still shaped and challenged by discontinuous and precarious working conditions, unstable future income perspectives and a lack of social security. The study assumes that there are 20 000 to 30 000 professionally active people in Austria in the fields of music, literature, visual arts, performing arts and film. 1 757 people took part in the study. Despite the high level of qualification of artists in Austria (58% with an academic degree), half of all respondents earn only EUR 5 000 a year from their artistic activities. 70% of the artists surveyed are also involved in art-related and/or non-artistic activities as an employee or freelancer. The activities are often irregular and difficult to plan. These complex employment relationships often lead to a lack of social security, such as gaps in unemployment insurance or pension insurance, and to an increased risk of poverty in old age. Further measures in the general social security area to specifically improve the situation of artists would be: improvements in financial resources (subsidies); fair employment conditions and minimum fees as a precondition for subsidies for institutions; and labour-market policy measures. Further options for action are the responsibility of various departments and ministries: security, employment law, unemployment insurance law, social security, women in the arts, support for the arts, copyright and taxation measures, mobility and – in general – transparency and reduction of bureaucracy. (see chapter 7.2.4)
Last update: November, 2020
The Digital Agenda for Europe, published by the European Commission in 2010, made proposals for measures on cultural and audiovisual issues that have also been implemented in Austria. For example, the EU online library Europeana and the digitalisation of cultural heritage content and support, for the digitalisation of film, for the development of indicators for digital qualifications and media literacy, as well as for initiatives in the field of intellectual property in connection with digital media.
In 2016, the government adopted the Digital Roadmap Austria, which covers 12 topics, among them “Media, civil courage and culture”. By using digital technologies, art and culture should be made more visible and accessibility barriers should be reduced. But traditional media must also play their democratic role in the digital environment. The reuse and further use of cultural resources is regarded as crucial for the development of the near future: the copyright issues. To address these challenges, measures include:
- Reforming press subsidies by promoting quality in the digital media world;
- Strengthening and improving journalists’ media literacy;
- Expanding digital services of arts and culture facilities (e.g. museums, archives, libraries and national and European platforms such as Kulturpool and Europeana) and improving the ease of access;
- Improving opportunities for using digital cultural content for education, science, tourism and the creative sector, taking into account the interests of the rights holders;
- Increasing participation in cultural programmes through digital solutions such as mobile services, live streams and augmented reality;
- Strengthening media literacy of contributors and users, in particular children and young people;
- Taking measures against hate speech.
In 2017, the tasks for economy and digital policy were merged in the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs. Since 2017, there has been a Digital Overall Strategy for Schools and in 2019 the Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs announced a Digitalisation Strategy of the government as one of the main topics for the coming years. With the establishment of a digitisation agency under the umbrella brand Digital Austria the government provides a central platform for the implementation of relevant digitisation activities and has presented a digital action plan. For example, an online platform for museums will be set up in order to create contemporary and modern access, especially for children and young people.
The Kulturpool, an initiative of the Arts and Culture Division of the BMKOES and the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF), offers central access to digitalised Austrian cultural heritage resources in museums, libraries and archives and provides these to Europeana. One of the main tasks of the Arts and Culture Division of the BMKOES is the promotion of contemporary art in Austria and the presence of Austrian artists abroad. Comprehensive holdings of art and photography have been digitally recorded and the federal government established the image databases Artothek and the Fotosammlung (federal collection of photography at the Museum of Modern Art Salzburg). Additionally, image databases of the federal museums and others, the Austrian Mediathek and ANNO – Austrian Newspapers Online are supported by public funds. The project ABO – Austrian Books Online has been running since 2010 as a private-public partnership between the National Library and Google. In the course of this project, 600 000 copyright-free library holdings from the 16th to the 19th century have been digitalised and integrated into the online-inventory of the National Library as well as the Europeana.
A main actor in the field of media and digital arts is Ars Electronica in Linz, Upper Austria. It annually organises one of the most important festivals at the interface of arts, new media, politics and society in Europe and stimulates debates on art and technology and the threats and challenges of the digital shift.
In the field of audiovisual media, the emphasis is also being placed on digitalisation. KommAustria has the statutory task of presenting a revised digitalisation concept every two years. Currently, the emphasis is on the nationwide introduction of digital terrestrial television broadcasting.
Last update: November, 2020
In Austria, ‘intercultural dialogue’ is often used in context with external relations, events, co-operation projects and the like. Different actors on different levels – state, Bundesländer (provinces) and local, but also NGOs – with divergent interests, have so far made it difficult to develop a cohesive, consensus-based integration and migration policy. Although Austria is an "immigration country", the immigration and integration policy is very restrictive, especially since the refugee crisis of 2015 (see chapter 2.6).
Concerning the cultural field – apart from individual projects and the stipulation of cultural diversity in strategy papers and laws – there have not been cohesive programmes linking intercultural dialogue and culture so far: grants for multicultural projects are inter alia given by the different levels of governments (state, Bundesländer and local level). The awareness of the need to promote intercultural dialogue is growing and there are a number of initiatives to support this. For example, the Outstanding Artist Award for Intercultural Dialogue for artistic and cultural achievements that contribute to dialogue and the understanding of people from different countries of origin living in Austria. Further activities of the Arts and Culture Division of the BMKOES include bilateral and international exchange of artists and cultural cooperations and agreements.
In order to support intercultural dialogue, the Task Force Dialogue of Cultures was established at the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs in 2007. It serves as a contact point for and originator of various intercultural and interreligious dialogue activities, cooperates with an international network of contacts and serves as a liaison to Austrian government institutions, religious organisations, NGOs, academic institutions as well as members of academia, culture, the media and the economy. The Task Force also supports the Austrian representations abroad with the identification, design and implementation of dialogue projects. These initiatives aim at promoting intercultural understanding through education and the exchange of information, the rapprochement between different cultures and religions, the strengthening of intercultural competences and the inclusion of marginalised groups and religions – nationally as well as internationally. Multilaterally, the Task Force engages in dialogue initiatives in the context of the United Nations, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, within the EU and in cooperation with the International Center for Dialogue (KAICIID) in Vienna.
Intercultural dialogue is also an objective of the cultural support acts or rather cultural (development) strategies of all Bundesländer and also included in cultural strategy papers at the local level of most municipalities. Nevertheless, the visibility of migrants as cultural consumers and producers is still low in Austria. In fact, the essential players have been primarily smaller initiatives and cultural associations that try to reflect migrant experiences, e.g. Brunnenpassage in Vienna and NGOs such as Initiative Minderheiten (initiative of minorities) that try to give a voice to minorities living in Austria. The free radio stations, institutions such as the MAIZ in Linz and the interest-group for cultural initiatives (IG Kultur) are also active in this field.
The initiative Kulturen in Bewegung (Moving Cultures) at the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) realises – subsidised by the Austrian Development Agency – innovative culture projects and thus promotes a diverse cultural understanding in Austria as well as different perspectives on development policy interrelations and global connections.
Last update: November, 2020
The educational principles, including diversity education, are administered by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research. Since 1992, intercultural learning has been anchored in the curricula of the various types of schools, both as a teaching principle and as a general educational objective. Alongside learning about other cultures, the objectives are the promotion of tolerance and the understanding and respect for cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity, the critical analysis of ethno- and Euro-centrism, prejudice, racism and the strengthening of linguistic, cultural and ethnic identity. Beyond this, bilingualism and multilingualism are to be judged positively; children's knowledge in their mother tongues is to be incorporated in the teaching. Finally, intercultural learning is to be combined with other teaching principles (“political education”).
A lot of projects in schools have focused mainly on gender equality, but due to rising numbers of students with a mother tongue other than German more multilingual offers have been developed. A nationwide school action of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research about interculturality and multilingualism has been carried out since 2005. The aims are quality development for the educational principle of ‘intercultural learning’, sensitisation to multilingualism in schools and society, providing motivation and incentive for teaching German as a second language and for mother-tongue teaching. Participants can be schools of all types and grades. The projects promoted are documented in the ‘multilingual school’ database.
A project to encourage cross-culturalism and multilingualism is the multi lingual rhetoric competition Sag´s multi, initiated by Wirtschaft für Integration and organised together with Educult,an independent, non-profit institute providing empirical research and consulting in the fields of culture and education. Every year, several hundred pupils from Vienna with a migration background participate in this contest. They speak on a subject of their choice and have to convince a jury about their language skills and knowledge of several topics while they mix their mother tongue and German.
By decreeing a policy on intercultural education in 2017 (Grundsatzerlass zur interkulturellen Bildung), implementation, content and measures were defined concretely with the goal of strengthening intercultural competencies of both students and teachers, acknowledging and respecting social, cultural and linguistic differences as normality, recognising the contingency of one's perspective and learning the ways of appreciative dealing with differences and constructive conflict culture without cultural ascription. Such cultural competencies are seen as essential, especially when considering the high number of migrants, for the democratic and social development and to prevent segregating, racist and sexist statements and actions.
KulturKontakt Austria/OeAD (see chapter 1.4.3) is also active in this field. Projects and educational courses, focused on intercultural educational work, are also provided by the inter-cultural centre (Interkulturelles Zentrum) in Vienna.
Last update: October, 2019
Since the break up of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) monopoly in 1993, the Austrian media scene operates in three categories:
- a public broadcasting and print media sector (ORF, gazettes);
- a private, profit-making sector (private radio, TV and publishing); and
- a non-profit media sector (free radio, print media for culture etc.).
The Österreichische Rundfunk (ORF) is a statutory public institution and the largest media provider in Austria. It operates with one provincial studio in each province and since 1975 with a studio in Bolzano / Bozen (South Tyrol). The ORF produces four television channels and three national and nine regional radio channels. In addition, it is the largest shareholder in the Austria Press Agency (APA).
The role of statutory public broadcasting has been a subject of debate in Austria for many years. The ORF has been through several crises and – not only in view of the high level of competition from private broadcasters – critics are also worried that the independence of media coverage could suffer if the ORF is funded by the government, causing discussions about abolishing the licence fees (GIS).
Permission was granted for country-wide private TV broadcasting via the Private Television Act (2001). Among other things, the act includes extensive regulations related to digital terrestrial television (DVB-T), which was gradually being introduced in Austria by 2010. Licences have been granted to several regional and local private radio stations via the Private Radio Broadcasting Act (2001). According to the Austrian country report of the Media Pluralism Monitor 2017, the dual system of public and private television broadcasters has led to a decline in the market share of the ORF (at a level of 31.4%) and, in 2017, to a merger of the two biggest private TV companies (ATV and PULS4, which are now owned by the German ProSiebenSat.1 Media company).
In the non-profit media sector, special reference should be made to Austrian free radio: 15 stations are currently broadcasting and are available to more than four million listeners. About 3 000 radio workers (mostly as freelancers) produce high quality radio programmes in 25 languages, which have repeatedly received prizes. The programme philosophy is anchored in the Charter of the Free Radio Stations in Austria (1995, new edition 2007). Free radio stations are complementary to the media service of the statutory public, as well as the commercial operators and are fundamentally non-commercial.
The supervisory media authority (Austrian Communications Authority / KommAustria) established in 2001 and controlled by the Federal Chancellery, awards permits for private television and radio, functions as a legal oversight body for the private radio operators and is responsible for both the preparation and introduction of digital radio and the administration of radio frequencies,. Since 2004, KommAustria has been responsible for the allocation of press and journalism subsidies (see below) and it controls the ORF and private broadcasters’ adherence to the advertising regulations. Since October 2010, KommAustria has been entrusted with the legal oversight of the ORF and its subsidiaries and with the legal oversight of private providers of audiovisual media services in the Internet as well as with tasks under the Television Exclusive Rights Act. Moreover, KommAustria is responsible for the press subsidy and operates as the Board of Control for Collecting Societies. It grants a distribution subsidy, a special subsidy for maintaining the regional diversity of daily newspapers and a quality subsidy for press clubs, training institutions and internal editorial training.
According to the Media Pluralism Monitor 2017 (MPM), risks to media pluralism in Austria are primarily due to horizontal – but also cross-media – concentration, restricted access to media for minorities, the lack of protection of the right to information, insufficiencies in broadband coverage, political and – to a lesser extent – commercial influence over editorial content (not least because of the distribution of state advertising to media outlets), endangered editorial autonomy, threats to the independence of public service media governance and funding, limited access to media for women and a missing overall concept (and resources) for media literacy. On the other hand, the MPM emphasises that the foundations of the democratic media system are intact and strong, and freedom of expression is well protected. The public service broadcaster feels responsible for providing access to media for people with disabilities, and there is a rich and varied supply of local media services, including a lively community media sector.
Last update: October, 2019
German is the main language spoken in Austria. Minority languages covered by the Volksgruppengesetz (Ethnic Groups Act) are Croatian and Hungarian (found mostly in Burgenland) and Slovene (found mostly in Carinthia). In Burgenland, the language of instruction in a school depends on the number of pupils and students in that school speaking a second language. Hungarian language instruction at the elementary level is provided for the Hungarian minority in Burgenland. For the largest ethnic minority in Austria, the Carinthian Slovenes, secondary education is provided in Slovene; a so-called "minority education right".
Last update: November, 2020
Austria has committed itself politically and legally to implementing the strategy of gender mainstreaming. Since 2009, gender budgeting has been anchored in the Austrian constitution and must be implemented in all departments. The government's arts and cultural supports have been constituted according to gender-budgeting criteria since 2007. Within administrative bodies, the former "equality officers" – civil servants responsible for gender-fairness issues – have been changed to "gender-mainstreaming officers". The policy of gender-mainstreaming is concerned with the reform of policy-processes rather than with a single gender-equality employment policy.
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. In 2019, Equal Pay Day was February 29th, as this was the day that women earned as much as the men that worked until December 31st, 2018.
The situation in the field of art and culture is similar to other areas of society. One of the improvement measures is the gendered cultural report. Since 2001, the Department of Culture of the City of Vienna has published gendered data (“Frauenkunstbericht”) in a supplement to their annual financial report.
In terms of gender budgeting, the federal annual Arts and Culture Report has identified the gender-specific distribution of scholarships, purchases and prizes, the gender-specific distribution according to branches and the gender-specific distribution of the commission and jury members. In 2019, a total of 1 399 subsidies, with a total amount of EUR 7.7 million, were awarded, with 699 projects by female artists with an amount of 3.82 million EUR and 700 projects by male artists with an amount of 3.87 million EUR. Of the 95 scholarships, 56 went to women (59%) and 39 to men (41%). The aim of equal access to transfer payments by the Arts and Culture Division of the BMKOES thereby seems to have been successful. The general gender pay gap in Austria has shrunk from 35% to 25%, but it nevertheless remains enormous.
Gender-relations are documented even when support applications are rejected and the start-scholarship applications will be gendered. In art institutions, an effort is being made by increasing the quota of women in the management boards and presidiums. The Outstanding Artist Award for Women’s Culture is a measure at federal level. An expert mentoring programme by established female artists for up-and-coming female artists unfortunately has been stopped although the evaluation results have been excellent. Mentoring pairs (mentor and mentee) were established in the branches of video and media art, fine art, fashion, artistic photography, performance, music, performing arts, film and literature.
Organisations such as Fiftitu% and IG Kultur in particular are striving to reduce the gender-specific imbalance in the arts and cultural field. At a networking meeting of female creators of culture, a catalogue of measures was drawn up that demands the implementation of gender mainstreaming in the cultural field and the development of specific measures for female creators of arts and culture.
Last update: November, 2020
In Austria, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been in force since 26 October 2008. It must be taken into account in legislation and enforcement (administration and jurisdiction). According to a microcensus survey conducted by STATISTIK AUSTRIA on behalf of the Ministry of Social Affairs in 2015, 18.4% of the population in Austria aged 15 and over have a permanent disability. That is a projected approximately 1.3 million people.
At federal level, the Ministry for Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection is responsible for coordinating disability issues. However, many areas that are important for people with disabilities come under the competence of the provinces. There are no specific cultural policy programmes for people with disabilities at any of the local authority levels.
Participation in cultural life is made possible above all by cultural institutions that improve accessibility or private initiatives that create provisions for people with disabilities, such as equalizent, a company with long-standing expertise in deafness, sign language and diversity management, or the Tanz.montage project, which offers dance and performance as fields of work in a workshop for people with disabilities in the Verein Balance. As part of the Tagesstruktur offer, people with artistic ambitions can engage in artistic work in groups and with the assistance of experienced artists. Verein Balance also supports people interested in dance and performance in finding offers in the scene, in getting to the rehearsal location and in structuring and organising their individual daily routine.
The association Ich Bin O.K. – Kultur- und Bildungsverein, a cultural and educational association of people with and without disabilities for cultural integration through extracurricular leisure activities, dance and theatre, aims to dismantle access barriers and improve participation in artistic and cultural life, as well as the inclusive theatre project Theater Delphin.
IVS Wien, the interest group of social service companies for people with disabilities, lobbies for these goals. In 2019, it initiated the #LebenNichtBehindern (let live, don’t obstruct) campaign to inform about the possible consequences of further savings in the care of people with disabilities in Vienna.
The City of Vienna offers a lot of information on offers, initiatives and activities in connection with disability, either self-organised or supported by institutions, on its internet portal under the keyword Leben mit Behinderung (living with disabilities). Other provinces also have information portals on this topic. For example, at various cultural events it is “first row with extra leg-room” for members of ÖZIV, an association for people with disabilities in Burgenland. Every year, they are invited to the operetta in Mörbisch and the theatre in Kobersdorf.
Last update: October, 2019
Austria has no cohesive programmes at national level linking social inclusion and culture. In particular, people with migrant background and people facing poverty are threatened by cultural or social exclusion.
The Law on the Rights of Indigenous Ethnic Minorities in Austria (1976), the Volksgruppengesetz (Ethnic Groups Act), significantly curtailed the rights granted in Article °7 of the 1955 State Treaty. Six groups are recognised as ethnic minorities in different parts of Austria: Slovenes (in Carinthia and Styria, ca. 25 000), the Croats (in Burgenland, ca. 20 000), the Hungarians (in Burgenland and Vienna, ca. 40 000), the Czechs (20 000) and Slovaks (10 000, both mostly in Vienna). In 1992, the Roma (in all nine Austrian Bundesländer, ca. 50 000) became the latest ethnic minority group to be recognised. There is an ongoing debate among the recognised ethnic groups over the perception that the provisions meant to safeguard their cultural heritage are not being properly applied and executed. Since 2005, Austrian sign language is a recognised minority language with about 10 000 speakers.
The Federal Chancellery's department for the Volksgruppengesetz (Ethnic Groups Act, 2000) is responsible for providing support for cultural activities of ethnic minority groups. Essentially, associations, foundations and funds are entitled to apply for funding for projects specific to ethnic groups, as well as churches and religious communities and their institutions. With EUR 3.9 million, the budget for ethnic groups has remained almost the same since 1995.
In 2019, there are about 1.4 million people with a foreign nationality living in Austria (16.2% of the total population). Almost half of the non-Austrian nationals come from the European Union, 192 000 are German, the biggest group of foreigners in Austria (13% of all), and 112 000 are Romanian. 700 000 people are third-country nationals, with Serbians (122 000) as the biggest group, followed by Turks (117 000) and citizens from Bosnia and Herzegovina (96 000). Among people with a non-European nationality, Asians form the biggest group (189 000) and 35 000 people from Africa are living in Austria.
As much as many other European countries, Austria has been the destination of refugees from war zones, primarily from Syria (50 000 people) and Afghanistan (44 000). The number of asylum applications has risen by more than 200% in 2015, but has declined sharply after the shutdown of the Balkan route in 2016. Policy making and administration are facing great challenges regarding the social and cultural integration of people with a migrant background. The Division for Integration of the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs is responsible for these tasks.
The law and its application distinguish sharply between citizens of Austria and the EU on the one hand and those of third countries on the other. A number of measures have attracted considerable criticism from human rights organisations and other NGOs, such as the tightening of residence permits in the context of the Aliens' Rights Act which has been sharpened, initially through the limitation of transition times for asylum procedures. Generally, immigrants from non-EU-countries are disadvantaged in the labour market and the Austrian education system.
Prevention and decrease of poverty and social exclusion are essential objectives of the social and welfare policy on national and EU-level. According to STATISTIK AUSTRIA, more than 1.5 million people are affected by poverty. The risk of poverty declined since 2008 by 2,6% and it is lower than the EU average, actual poverty halved from 5,9 to 3%. Long-time unemployed persons belong to the high-risk group, 8,3% are at in-work poverty risk.
To avoid the risks of social exclusion of people with a migration background, social inequalities or any other impairments, or even enable their social inclusion, most of all private initiatives are actively engaged in order to improve the situation. One example is the initiative Hunger auf Kunst und Kultur (hungry for arts and culture) founded by the network Conference on Poverty (Armutskonferenz) 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 with lower incomes. Hunger auf Kunst und Kultur is supported by different authorities, for example the City of Vienna and the State of Upper Austria as well as numerous sponsors and other promoters. It is available in all the Bundesländer, with the exception of Carinthia. The Armutskonferenz is involved with the research of background settings, reasons, data and figures as well as the elaboration of strategies and measures against poverty and social exclusion in Austria to achieve an improvement of the situation of the aggrieved party.
Most often there are private cultural initiatives and NGOs which take care of the cultural participation of migrants and minorities.
Last update: November, 2020
Art and culture are recognised as essential factors for the high quality of life in Austrian society. The Art Promotion Act states that art makes a contribution to improving the quality of life and the mission statement for the current Federal Budget 2020 states that art and culture are important elements of social cohesion and that artistic positions on issues of our time are important contributions to the diagnosis of social challenges. The importance is emphasized to safeguarding the cultural heritage and state cultural institutions and ensuring broad public access to art and cultural assets and the development of an “Art and Culture Strategy” is announced.
In all art and culture strategies or cultural guidelines – at regional, local or national level – the role of art and culture is understood as promoting democracy and strengthening social cohesion, and the promotion of art and culture is oriented towards impact goals that are intended to ensure the sustainable anchoring of art and culture in society. The public sector is therefore committed to promoting and supporting art and culture at all levels, and all government programmes in recent decades confirm this value of art and culture.
The role of art and culture for society has most recently been discussed in connection with the Faro Convention of the Council of Europe ratified by Austria in 2015. Numerous publications and events have highlighted the importance of cultural heritage for society and its social value for people. The social relevance of contemporary art and cultural creation was also discussed.
There are no overarching programmes, but there are various actors who use and promote the social impact of art and culture. The Büro für Transfer, for example, develops programmes and activities to promote and shape social change through art, design and creativity. The numerous regional cultural initiatives in Austria (see chapter 6.4) also have a far-reaching social impact in terms of participation and involvement in the country’s art and cultural events.
Last update: November, 2020
Sustainability has become a subject of (political) discussion in Austria in the context of cultural policy with the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development 2005 to 2014 and the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals. In the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the contribution of art and culture is a cross-cutting issue. At the national level, in its mission statement of the federal finance act, the Ministry of Finance has defined the general conditions for the creation and communication of art and culture. The main objectives defined there are the sustainable anchoring of contemporary art in society, the guarantee of stable general conditions for artists and the sustainable safeguarding of state cultural institutions and cultural heritage, and better access to art and culture for the public. The measures will be implemented through a broad participatory process at all local-authority and civil-society levels. The latest government programmes are also committed to the sustainable safeguarding of art and culture and their contribution to social cohesion, their role in education and as a location factor.
Last update: October, 2019
Platform Baukultur, the Austrian initiative for architectural policy and building culture fosters architectural policies in Austria. Since 2006, it has been presenting the Report on Austrian Building Culture – on the basis of a parliamentary resolution – every five years. The report contains several recommendations in the fields of public awareness, production, economy, sustainability and more. The third Austrian Building Culture Report (2017) concerns itself with scenarios and strategies for the future up to 2050 and creates – from three perspectives: global, integral and national – three scenarios on the issues of 'Landscape as a resource', 'Cities and regions', 'Housing' and 'The public sector'.
A further issue that repeatedly gives rise to debates is the restitution of artworks plundered by the Nazis during the Nazi period to their former owners or their heirs. The Commission for Provenance Research systematically checks the government's collections since 1998. The Law on the Restitution of Art Objects from the Austrian Federal Museums and Collections (Art Restitution Act, also 1998) made it possible to return cultural objects to the original owners or their legal heirs. In 2009, the Law was amended and extended to moveable cultural goods.
The Austrian National Library (as an example) also takes its responsibility for the systematic plunder of the belongings of mostly Jewish citizens, but also of other victims of the Nazi regime. The National Library has drawn up a comprehensive provenance report and since December 2003, 43 580 objects have been restored to their legal owners.