Economic and Political Overview

flag Austria Austria: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Outline | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response

 

Economic Outline

Economic Overview

The Austrian economy is deemed one of the most stable in Europe. The country relies on a very strong network of export-focused SMEs, excellent academic standards and significant spending for research and development. After growing 4.8% in 2022, Austria’s GDP stagnated in 2023 (+0.1% as per the IMF; although the EU Commission’s first estimates point to a negative growth of 0.5%), with a slowdown in activity observed during the first semester, followed by a gradual recovery in the latter part of the year. The manufacturing sector has been in a recession since mid-2022 due to significantly reduced demand from its primary export destination, Germany; whereas the robust momentum witnessed in the services sector, particularly in financial and economic services, as well as tourism, helped keep the country’s economy afloat. A gradual easing of high inflation over the forecast horizon should contribute to a slight uptick in economic activity for 2024 and 2025, with forecasted real GDP growth rates of 0.8% and 1.7%, respectively (IMF). This envisaged trajectory is supported by an anticipated resurgence in private consumption, fueled by the resumption of real wage growth. Furthermore, a recovery in the export sector is expected to contribute to this dynamic. Nevertheless, the prospect of tepid investment development, particularly in the construction sector due to elevated interest rates, may exert a dampening effect on overall economic growth.

Thanks to the phasing out of support measures taken in the context of the pandemic and of those intended to mitigate the impact of high energy prices, the general government deficit decreased from 3.6% of GDP in 2022 to an estimated 2.1% in 2023, when an increase was recorded in tax revenue and social contributions due to a robust labour market and high inflation. Despite sluggish growth, the deficit should follow a downward trend in 2024 and 2025 (at 1.3% and 1.2%, respectively – 2.4% and 2.2% as per the EU Commission projections) as the total net budgetary cost of energy-related measures is projected to decrease to 0.1% of GDP in 2024 from 1.6% one year earlier. Nominal GDP growth is poised to contribute to a sustained decline in the public debt-to-GDP ratio. IMF projections indicate a reduction from 78.5% in 2022 to 74.8% in 2023, followed by a subsequent decrease to 74% in 2024 and a further decline to 71.7% in 2025. Meanwhile, inflation remained high in 2023 (7.8%), driven by significant real wage increases, but is expected to gradually subside over the forecast horizon (3.7% and 2.5% in 2024 and 2025, respectively).

Austria has a low percentage of unemployment compared to other countries in the Eurozone and the EU, as well as global comparison. Although it increased marginally in 2023 (to 5.1%, from 4.8% one year earlier as the increase in labour supply outpaced employment growth), the unemployment rate is still at a historically low level. This trend is expected to continue in 2024, with a projected unemployment rate of 5.4% before starting to decrease again (IMF). According to the latest figures by the EU Commission, nominal wages increased by 8.3% in 2023 and should continue on an upward trend (7.1% in 2024 and 3.9% in 2025), driven by inflation and the tight labour market. Overall, Austrians enjoy one of the highest GDP per capita (PPP) in Europe, estimated by the IMF at USD 69,069 in 2023.

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 471.03526.18552.34579.00602.81
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 4.80.10.81.71.9
GDP per Capita (USD) 52,19258,01360,59463,20365,474
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) -3.6-2.1-1.3-1.2-1.4
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 78.574.874.071.770.7
Inflation Rate (%) n/a7.83.72.52.1
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force) 4.85.15.45.35.1
Current Account (billions USD) 3.240.390.161.962.50
Current Account (in % of GDP) 0.70.10.00.30.4

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database, Latest data available.

Note : (E) Estimated data

 

Main Sectors of Industry

Out of its 8.95 million population, Austria has a labour force of about 4.7 million people, of whom many are highly educated and skilled. The agricultural sector employs 4% of the active population and represents 1.4% of GDP (World Bank, latest data available). Of the total area, 32% is agricultural land while forests cover 44%. About half of the utilised agricultural area is arable land and the other half is mostly permanent grassland. Cattle farming and viticulture are the country's main agricultural activities. There are more than 110,000 farms in Austria, while the average farm manages about 20 hectares of land (EU Commission). Organic farming is incredibly popular in Austria: according to the latest available data (IFOAM), around one-fourth of all its farms are organic and cover over a quarter of the total agricultural area, the highest rate in the EU and the second in Europe after Liechtenstein. Austria benefits from significant subsidies from the European Union provided by the Common Agricultural Policy, consequently, agricultural exports are continuously increasing. The regions of Lower Austria, Styria and Upper Austria are those with the highest number of agricultural and forestry holdings (Statistics Austria).

The industrial sector, which is comprised of SMEs connected to the Central European markets, represents 26.1% of the GDP and employs one-fourth of the active population (26%). The manufacturing sector alone represents 16% of GDP (World Bank). The main industrial sectors are the metal industry, electrochemistry and engineering. Over the past fifteen years, Austria has successfully implemented policies for the economic specialization of each region (Lander): Upper Austria (iron, steel, chemical and mechanical engineering), Salzburg (electrics, wood and paper), Vorarlberg (textile, clothing), Carinthia (wood, pulp and paper industry), Styria (automobiles, manufacturing) and Vienna (financial services). The renewable energies sector, especially hydroelectric power, is booming and its performance has exceeded those of the tourism and construction sectors, while the mechanical engineering sector grew by 140% in the last 20 years, with a pace ten times higher than the euro-area average. According to the Austrian Institute of Economic Research, for 2023 as a whole, industrial production was expected to fall by 2% compared to the previous year.

The services sector dominates the economy, contributing 62.1% of GDP and employing 71% of the country's active population. Every sixth job is provided by tourism, which has a major impact on the country’s economy. According to the latest available information from the Austrian Statistical Office, tourism accounts for 2.7% of the country’s GDP, with an added value (direct and indirect) of more than EUR 10.8 billion. However, these figures are much lower than the pre-COVID level (5.2% of GDP and EUR 20 billion, respectively). Concerning the banking sector, the Austrian network consists of 520 banks with around 3,420 branches holding EUR 1,197.2 billion in total assets on a consolidated basis (European Banking Federation).

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 3.7 25.6 70.6
Value Added (in % of GDP) 1.3 26.2 62.1
Value Added (Annual % Change) 4.7 3.3 6.2

Source: World Bank, Latest data available.

 

Find more information about your business sector on our service Market Reports.

Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Score:
73,9/100
World Rank:
25
Regional Rank:
13



 

Business environment ranking

Definition:

The business rankings model measures the quality or attractiveness of the business environment in the 82 countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Forecast reports. It examines ten separate criteria or categories, covering the political environment, the macroeconomic environment, market opportunities, policy towards free enterprise and competition, policy towards foreign investment, foreign trade and exchange controls, taxes, financing, the labour market and infrastructure.

Score:
7.65/10
World Rank:
18/82

Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit - Business Environment Rankings 2020-2024

 

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

 

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: Alexander VAN DER BELLEN (since 26 January 2017)
Chancellor: Karl NEHAMMER (since 6 December 2021)
Next Election Dates
National Council: 2024
Presidential: April 2028
Current Political Context
The Austrian political landscape has been characterized by increasing polarization in the past few years. After being appointed as leader of the ÖVP by the federal party committee, Karl Nehammer was nominated as chancellor, leading a coalition government formed by the Austrian People's Party and the "Die Grünen" (The Greens). During 2023, the ÖVP has experienced a significant decline in public support, securing only 23% of votes and holding the third position in the summer 2023 polls, in contrast to the 37.5% it garnered in the previous general elections of 2019. Similarly, the coalition partner, the Greens’ support dropped from 13.9% during the elections to 10% in the summer of 2023, placing them in fourth position. The national-populist FPÖ has been gaining momentum and is currently heading the polls ahead of the next election scheduled for the autumn of 2024, ahead of the social-democrat SPÖ party. As various possible coalitions have been ruled out, alliances involving three parties, excluding any two of the major parties (FPÖ, SPÖ, or ÖVP), would lack the necessary support to establish a majority coalition.
Main Political Parties
Austria has a multi-party system. The main parties represented in the parliament include:

- Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP): centre-right, Christian democratic and conservative
- Social Democratic Party (SPÖ): centre-left,
- Freedom Party (FPÖ): right-wing, nationalist and anti-immigration
- The Greens (GRÜNE): centre-left
- The New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS): centre, liberal
Type of State
Federal Republic based on parliamentary democracy, composed of nine States (Bundesländer).
Executive Power
The President is the Chief of State, while the Federal Chancellor is the Head of Government. The Federal Chancellor enjoys executive powers. The President is elected by direct popular vote for a six-year term and the Chancellor is traditionally chosen by the President from the majority party in the National Council. The Council of Ministers is chosen by the President on the advice of the Chancellor.
Legislative Power
The legislature in Austria is bicameral. The parliament consists of two chambers: The National Council (the lower house) whose 183 members are elected by direct popular vote to serve four-year terms, and the Federal Council (the upper house) whose 61 members are elected by provincial parliaments to serve five- or six-year terms. The President can dissolve the National Council on the recommendation of the Chancellor. The Federal Council only reviews legislation passed by the National Council and can delay but not veto its enactment. Most authority, including that of the police, rests with the federal Government but the states have considerable responsibility for welfare matters and local administration.
 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
17/180
 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Free
Political Freedom:
1/7
Civil Liberties:
1/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

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COVID-19 Country Response

Travel restrictions
Regularly updated travel information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related entry regulations, flight bans, test and vaccines requirements is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
To find information about the current travel regulations, including health requirements, it is also advised to consult Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on a daily basis by IATA.
Import & export restrictions
A general overview of trade restrictions which were adopted by different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
The summary of the EU’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the website of the European Council.
For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) in Austria, please consult the country's dedicated section in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For an evaluation of impact of the Covid pandemic on SMEs and an inventory of country responses to foster SME resilience, refer to the OECD's SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.

 

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Latest Update: February 2024