Unlike Germany, Austria has long avoid the plague of high levels of unemployment. But that has begun to change and action is being called for amid suggestions that German workers are partly to blame.
More than 200,000 Austrians are looking for work
The unemployment rate in Austria has been rising since November, and has now reached the 6 percent mark. Exports are declining and the economy is stagnating. It's a sticky situation for the governing parties so close to upcoming regional elections, hence Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel's hastily scheduled jobs conference this week. It was the fourth this year.
Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel
The conference resulted in agreement on a program to boost regional investments, thus putting at least some of the more than 200,000 unemployed back to work.
Austrian Labor and Economy Minister Martin Bartenstein believes the main reason for rising unemployment is weak economic growth, and says its crucial to increase investments in individual Austrian regions, without affecting the current budget.
"The package we agreed on has nothing to do with the budget. First of all, we want to get something going to boost growth and jobs, and we also want to take advantage of the possibilities available through current financing by the European Union until 2006," he said.
More jobs yet more jobless
The program would cost 1.2 billion euros ($1.48 billion), with state and the federal government contributing in equal measure, and EU loans making up the rest, and would hopefully create some 20,000 jobs for Austrians.
Many German job-seekers head for the Austrian Alps
Even as things stand, Austria has a pretty good rate of job creation at about one percent growth. That's between 30,000 and 35,000 new positions opened up each year. But even so, the number of unemployed is on the rise.
According to Austrian media, Germans are partially responsible for this predicament, with many unemployed Germans who cannot find work at home heading south of the border to earn their crust in Austria. Some 45,000 Germans are currently employed there, many of them in the tourism industry.