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.
- 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 (Ratzenböck and Hofecker 2009).
- Immigration legislation (Alien Laws Act), which was passed in 2005, was generally as restrictive and limited as possible, with a focus on maintaining quotas, curtailing illegal migration, and implementing a package of security measures (König and Perchinig 2005). These laws have been updated on multiple occasions, most comprehensively in 2017, with the introduction of the Integration Act, the Integration Year Act, and the 2017 Act Amending the Aliens Law (Biffl 2019; International Organization for Migration 2018). These policies focus strongly on more efficiently integrating third party nationals in Austria and imposing stricter sanctions on those failing to comply with the integration policies (Biffl 2019; International Organization for Migration 2018).
- 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.
- At present, the City of Vienna utilizes the “Vienna Integration Concept” to ensure that migrants are supported and integrated into the city upon arrival (City of Vienna 2020). The concept consists of five pillars, including: German and multilingualism; education and work; living together and participation; objectivity, assessment and information; and human rights. In each of these areas, the City of Vienna offers a variety of programs and policies to assist with integration. Since 2007, the City of Vienna has also conducted research on integration, publishing the results in the tri-annual “Integration and Diversity Monitor” report, which allows the local government to analyze and learn more about the uses of – and challenges with – various government integration programs or policy gaps (City of Vienna 2020; Council of Europe 2020).
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.
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- 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.
- While interculturalism exists in Austria, evidence suggests that it traditionally targeted historic national minorities. Since 1976, Austria has made a distinction between immigrant minorities (e.g. Turks, Bosnians, Africans and Asians) and autochthonous national minorities (e.g,, Czechs in Vienna; Slovenes in Carinthia, and since 1992 the Roma in all nine Austrian Bundesländer). According to Ratzenböck et al. (2014) “new cultural minorities – the immigrants – are not officially recognized as minorities and therefore do not receive support or enjoy the same legal rights as 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).
- However, in 2017, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education released their new intercultural curriculum policy, ‘Grundsatzerlass Interkulturelle Bildung’ – which principally suggests that “Intercultural education interacts closely with other teaching principles, such as political education and upbringing for equality between women and men, and with educational concerns, such as human rights education, social learning, global learning and cultural education… Intercultural education draws teachers and learners’ attention to (historical and current) social change processes, such as migration movements from the global south to Europe, migration processes in rural regions and population growth in urban areas, diverse biographies and life plans, intergenerational and social aspects” (BMBWF 2017).
- The new education policy was intended to bring Austria more closely into line with international educational standards, specifically those outlined in the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the European Union (BMBWF 2017; Dalton-Puffer et al. 2019). While this curriculum document focuses more centrally on non-traditional ethnic groups, with a stronger aim on combatting Eurocentrism in Austria than previous policies, it has been criticized for lacking clear guidelines regarding its implementation, maintenance, and growth (Zivkovic 2019).
3. THE INCLUSION OF ETHNIC REPRESENTATION/SENSITIVITY IN THE MANDATE OF PUBLIC MEDIA OR MEDIA LICENSING
- 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; see also Herczeg 2009).
- 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).
- Little has changed in this policy area over the last two decades. Although there is one non-commercial television station which reserves its airtime for minority programming, there remain few outlets for immigrants and foreign workers. As Seethaler et al. (2016) explain, “the legally recognized minorities have reasonable access to airtime but this does not apply to minorities not recognized by the law.”
4. EXEMPTIONS FROM DRESS CODES (EITHER BY STATUTE OR COURT CASES)
- For several decades, there had been limited discussions about the headscarf in Austria, and images of women wearing the hijab were somewhat commonplace in promotional literature. This may have been 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 was 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 tended not to take place.
- However, amidst debates regarding religious facial coverings in the mid-2010s, Austria instituted the “Anti-Face-Covering Act” which came into effect on October 1, 2017. The law “provides that in public places or in public buildings, facial features may not be hidden or concealed by clothes or other objects in such a way that they are no longer recognizable” (Federal Ministry Republic of Austria 2017). This law, unlike others in Europe, did not expressly use language pertaining to religious dress, referring more broadly to face coverings that are not utilized in a work-specific context (such as masks by doctors). This has led to considerable controversy in recent years as the law has been applied to cyclists covering their faces in winter and individuals dressed in animal costumes (Noack 2017).
- In addition to the Anti-Face-Covering Act, the Austrian parliament also approved new legislation banning girls from wearing religious headscarves in primary schools in 2019 (Cockburn 2019). The new law, once again, “does not specifically mention Muslim women, but bans wearing ‘ideologically or religiously characterised clothing’ covering the head, and specifically refers to items ‘that cover the whole or large parts of the hair’” (Cockburn 2019). The law exempts the patka head covering worn by Sikh boys or the Jewish yarmulke because it only partially covers the hair, as well as any head coverings required for medical needs (Cockburn 2019). This legislation is expected to be challenged in Austria’s Constitutional Court (Murphy 2019a).
5. ALLOWS DUAL CITIZENSHIP
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- 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).
- The only exceptions regarding questions pertaining to dual citizenship are outlined in Section 28 of the Austrian Nationality Act. It states that dual citizenship is prohibited except in cases where: “a) the maintenance is in the interest of the Republic of Austria, or, b) if personal reasons are worth considering (the law does not provide for examples; the specific reasons depend on your own individual situation).” (Austrian Embassy Washington 2020).
- Most recently, these questions regarding dual citizenship have emerged in the case of Brexit. The Austrian government has agreed to extend dual citizenship to Austrians living in the UK but uncertainty remains over whether the same exception would be granted to British citizens residing in Austria (Murphy 2019b). Concomitantly, in 2019, Austria also instituted new legislation to allow victims and descendants of victims of Nazi persecution to hold dual citizenship (Austrian Embassy London 2020).
6. THE FUNDING OF ETHNIC GROUP ORGANIZATIONS OR ACTIVITIES
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- 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 small and 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.
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- 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) and in 2016 a Slovenian mother-tongue course was made available to primary students (grades 1-4) in Vienna (STA 2016).
- 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. The Eurydice Education Information Network in Europe notes that, in Austrian primary schools, “children with first languages other than German are integrated into the classes and can, where necessary, obtain special support in the language of instruction German and, where sufficient staff resources are available, receive mother tongue instruction” (Eurydice 2019b, emphasis added).
8. AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FOR DISADVANTAGED IMMIGRANT GROUPS
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- 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). Some studies also find evidence of discrimination in terms of evaluating migrants’ job applications, especially in the case of those from Africa (Weichselbaumer 2017).
- Also, penalties for violations of the Equal Treatment Act are low, and compensation for victims of discrimination are very limited (Schindlauer 2012, 6).