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Queen's University
 

Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies


Austria

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TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 1 1.5


1. Constitutional, legislative or parliamentary affirmation of multiculturalism at the central and/or regional and municipal levels and the existence of a government ministry, secretariat or advisory board to implement this policy in consultation with ethnic communities

   No, although at the municipal level, there is some recognition of cultural diversity.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • Austria distinguishes between autochthonous ethnic minorities (known as Volksgruppen) and more recently arrived immigrant minorities. The Ethnic Groups Act (Volksgruppenesetz), which was passed in 1976, officially recognizes the Slovenes, Croats, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks and Roma as ethnic minority groups and extends some rights to them. Nonetheless, these rights do not apply to other minority groups (Ratzenböck and Hofecker 2009). Moreover, even in public discourse about the recognized ethnic minorities, the focus tends to be on the application or execution of the protections outlined in the legislation, rather than on issues related to democracy, human rights or pluralism rarely being discussed (Ratzenböck and Hofecker 2009).
  • New immigration legislation (Alien Laws Act), which was passed in 2005, is generally seen to be as restrictive and limited as possible, with a focus on maintaining quotas, stemming illegal migration and implementing a package of security measures (König and Perchinig 2005).
  • Nonetheless, at the municipal level, the city of Vienna has been working since 2003 to encourage a broader understanding of immigration, one that moves away from the traditional view of migrants as “guest workers.” It established a department for integration and diversity policies in 2004 and states that, “immigration and diversity of the resident population are accepted and respected as a social, cultural and economic resource. The City of Vienna strives for a peaceful and tolerant community of generations, genders, cultures and lifestyles where members of ‘minorities’ are respected and treated in the same way as members of the majority population. The diversity-oriented integration policy of the City of Vienna is committed to the principles of a pluralistic society and aims at equality and equality of opportunities of all residents irrespective of their gender, ethnic origin, religion, age, sexual orientation, disability or fundamental belief. This diversity policy is based on the creation of equality and more broadly, equality of opportunities, which includes third country immigrants” (quoted in König and Perchinig 2005, 10). Still König and Perchinig (2005) are careful to point out that Vienna’s policy stance differs quite markedly from the federal policy position. Moreover, it tends to express a “respect for diversity” position rather than necessarily an affirmation of multiculturalism.


2. The adoption of multiculturalism in school curriculum

   Limited. Interculturalism is a guiding principle, but it is not clear that the curriculum specifically requires any multicultural programs of instruction.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0.5

Evidence:

  • Ratzenböck and Hofecker (2009) note that intercultural learning has been an important principle and objective of Austrian curriculum since 1992. This has included 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” (Ratzenböck and Hofecker 2009, 48-49). The emphasis has tended to be most prevalent in the provinces in which Austria’s recognized ethnic minorities reside. It is not clear the extent to which pronouncements related to interculturalism apply to immigrant minorities.
  • In 2009, the federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture introduced a project entitled “Interculturality and Multilingualism—A Chance!” which focuses on developing intercultural learning, sensitization to multilingualism in schools and society, and providing incentives for mother-tongue instruction and learning German as a second language (Wroblewski and Herzog-Punzenberger 2009).
  • Nonetheless, some observers note that the implementation of intercultural teaching principles is really dependent on individual teachers and has been affected by budget cuts to schools (Wroblewski and Herzog-Punzenberger 2009).


3. The inclusion of ethnic representation/sensitivity in the mandate of public media or media licensing

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • Austria passed a new Broadcasting Act in 2001. It obliges the Austrian national public service broadcaster (ORF) to ensure “all aspects of democratic life are…understood by the public” and that some programming be available in the language of the country’s ethnic minorities. However, the law is silent on the language of immigrant minorities and, moreover, does not oblige the broadcaster to comply but rather to apply the provisions “as appropriate” (quoted in Ratzenböck and Hofecker 2009, 29-30).
  • Still, the passage of the Private Broadcasting Act in 1998 opened the door to new non-commercial radio stations, including several that cater to immigrant minorities. Nonetheless, these are not required by legislation (merely permitted) and, indeed, reductions in government support for the stations since 2001 has caused several to close due to financial difficulties (Ratzenböck and Hofecker 2009).


4. Exemptions from dress codes (either by statute or court cases)

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • There have been limited discussions about the headscarf in Austria, and images of women wearing the hijab are somewhat commonplace in promotional literature. This may be an outgrowth of the longstanding recognition of Islam first through the 1912 Law on Islam, which provided Muslims with some autonomy over religious matters and guaranteed them the freedom to publicly practice their religion, and later through the 1997 law on religion, which reaffirmed the public recognition of Islam, safeguards its practice, and allows for its teaching in public schools. This recognition of Islam is held up as one of the factors contributing to Muslims’ high levels of integration in Austrian society (König and Perchinig 2005). Given this, discussions about exemptions for the wearing of the hijab tend not to take place. Although no evidence of disputes related to the wearing of the turban could be found, given that Sikhism is, unlike Islam, not among the publicly recognized religions in Austria, it remains to be seen how requests for exemptions would be addressed.
  • Indeed, with respect to exemptions, section 20 (1) of the Equal Treatment Act notes that “different treatment in relation to the grounds mentioned in s. 17 shall not constitute discrimination where, by reason of the nature of the particular occupational activities concerned, or of the context in which they are carried out, such a characteristic constitutes a genuine and determining occupational requirement, provided that the objective is legitimate and the requirement is proportionate” (quoted in Schindlauer 2008, 34). In other words, prohibiting dress code exemptions could be permitted if the prohibition is justified as an occupational requirement even if this might otherwise be considered discrimination on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity or other grounds. Schindlauer (2008) notes further, there is thus far no case law dealing with such exceptions in the Austrian context.


5. Allows dual citizenship

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • Austria’s citizenship policy is based on its Nationality Act, which was passed in 1985.
  • Dual citizenship is significantly restricted and generally not recognized. The only exceptions are: if an individual is born to Austrian parents in a foreign country and automatically acquires the citizenship of that country; if an individual has an Austrian parent and a foreign parent and automatically acquires the citizenship of the other country at birth; naturalized Austrian citizens are not able to renounce their other nationality; foreign-born individuals who automatically acquire Austrian citizenship upon being appointed a professor at an Austrian university, a provision in the act; and those who acquire the citizenship of another country and receive permission to retain their Austrian citizenship (United States Office of Personnel Management 2001; see also Howard 2005).
  • Citizenship is granted on the basis of descent; interestingly, however, if a child is born out of wedlock to a foreign-born mother and an Austrian father, the child acquires the mother’s citizenship unless the couple marries (United States Office of Personnel Management 2001).


6. The funding of ethnic group organizations or activities

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • While the Ethnic Groups Act (Volksgruppengesetz) does provide approximately € 3.8 million to ethnic associations and foundations each year (a funding level that has remained unchanged since 1995), this is aimed at the autochthonous ethnic minority groups (the Volksgruppen) and does not apply to immigrant minority groups, which are not officially recognized as minorities (Ratzenböck and Hofecker 2009). While immigrant minority groups are eligible to apply for funding through existing programs and channels, none of these are dedicated specifically to them (Ratzenböck and Hofecker 2009).
  • Some grants for “multicultural projects” have been given at the national, state and local level, but these are not specifically designated for immigrant minority groups (Ratzenböck and Hofecker 2009).


7. The funding of bilingual education or mother-tongue instruction

   Yes, although there are some restrictions.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 1 1

Evidence:

  • Mother-tongue instruction has been offered in general compulsory schools since 1992 and in secondary schools since 2000 (Wroblewski and Herzog-Punzenberger 2009). In 2006, mother-tongue instruction was offered in 20 languages by more than 330 teachers. Secondary school students may also choose to study their mother tongue to fulfil their modern foreign language requirement; however, a minimum of 12 students must choose to study the same language for it to be offered (Wroblewski and Herzog-Punzenberger 2009).
  • In addition, there are remedial language programs targeted at students whose mother tongue is not German. Although these programs do provide for instruction in the mother tongue, the emphasis is on facilitating the learning of German, rather than on the maintenance or preservation of one’s cultural heritage. Indeed, requirements to learn German were strengthened in the 2005 immigration laws, which make the completion of language courses a requirement for remaining in the country.
  • There are also language programs that specifically target recognized ethnic minorities in Austria. Notably, secondary education is provided in Slovene for Austria’s Carinthian Slovene minority (Ratzenböck and Hofecker 2009).
  • Still, as Wroblewski and Herzog-Punzenberger (2009) point out, although emphasis is placed on language learning in schools, cuts to school budgets have meant there are rarely a sufficient number of qualified teachers available to provide language instruction.


8. Affirmative action for disadvantaged immigrant groups

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • Various policies at the federal and provincial level protect against discrimination on a number of grounds; religion and ethnic or racial origin (typically called “ethnic affiliation”) are among these (Schindlauer 2008). However, there is no evidence of any affirmative policy designed to assist immigrant minority groups. To the contrary, there is evidence of continued biases against immigrant origin workers. For example, a recent report on measures to combat discrimination in Austria further notes that the practice of requiring job applicants to be “native speakers” is still rather widespread (Schindlauer 2008).

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