The Social Network
Austria provides a comprehensive system of social security and welfare schemes. The network operates at two levels. First, there is the principle of insurance, which provides cover for all gainfully employed persons, and to a large extent for their dependants in cases of sickness, accident, unemployment, parental leave, and pensions, and, secondly, there are public welfare benefits made available by the federal, provincial and municipal authorities to citizens in need, who are not covered by the insurance system.
The social security systems in Austria can be subdivided into the following areas:
- Social insurance schemes, especially health, pensions and unemployment insurance
- Universal systems, especially family allowances and care provisions
- Needs-related benefits, especially minimum insurance levels for pensions and social assistance
- Special systems, especially for war victims
- Private and semi-private forms of social security, especially private and non-compulsory supplementary insurance
- Claims under labour law and worker protection measures, including continuing pay in cases of sickness
The insurance system is financed by social security contributions. These include contributions to pensions, sickness and accident insurance, to unemployment insurance, a supplement to insurance against non-payment in the case of insolvency, the contribution to the family assistance fund (Familienlastenausgleichsfonds – FLAF) and the contribution to housing subsidies. These contributions are calculated as a percentage of remuneration
The Health Service
Austria has blanket coverage with doctors, specialists, out-patients’ departments and hospitals. The principle of compulsory insurance combined with the co-insurance of children and non-working partners ensures that practically the entire population has insurance coverage. Furthermore, there are private insurance companies which provide additional benefits (doctor of one’s choice, smaller rooms in hospital, etc.). Costs for those without means are borne by the community at large. There are also social services, some state-run, others private or run by churches, whose staff are concerned with alcoholics or drug addicts, with the handicapped and with lonely old people. Medical check-ups for children and young people are available everywhere, particularly in schools. The “mother-child pass” provides strong incentives for parents to have infants regularly examined and inoculated according to a medical timetable. Experts consider that the population is giving more thought to making provisions for itself, which is why an increasing number of Austrians are making use of medical check-ups paid for by their health insurance.