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OVERVIEW OF GENDER EQUALITY ISSUES IN AUSTRIA

Prepared by the State College of Education in Vienna, Austria

INTRODUCTION

Austria ratified ILO Convention No.100 concerning Equal Remuneration for Women an Men Workers for Work of Equal Value in 1953 and ILO Convention No.111 concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation in 1973.

Based on the concept of equal pay for work of equal value as stated in ILO Conv. No.100 the Equal Treatment Act 1979 was introduced. For constitutional reasons it can only regulate private sector labour contracts. At first it contained only equal pay regulations. It was amended in 1982, 1985, 1990 and 1993 to contain also regulations on equal working conditions and sexual harassment in the workplace as well as gender discrimination. In 1990 the Equal Treatment Advocacy was implemented. The latest amendment in 2001 introduced a special status for the chair of the Equal Treatment Commission (for the private sector – specialised complaint board).

In 1993 the Federal Equal Treatment Act for Civil Servants and Employees was passed. This deals with work contracts and working conditions of federal personnel as well as with career advancement for the least represented sex. This act contains regulations for a specialised complaint board (Federal Equal Treatment Commission) for the federal civil service. In 1993 to 1995 in preparation for Austria’s accession first to the European Common Market and then to the European Economic Community the acquis communautaire had to be implemented also within the equal treatment framework. Consequently some amendments were implemented in both federal acts, e.g. more effective damages. The accession also led to the implementation of gender equality laws at provincial government level. These acts deal with the labour contracts and working conditions of personnel working for provincial administrations and affiliated public institutions such as hospitals.

In 1998 the Austrian Constitutional Act was amended to meet the demand of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discriminations Against Women (CEDAW – ratified in 1984) and now contains in Art 7 (2) the responsibility to consider and implement the principle of actual gender equality on all levels of policies and legal enactments.

Austria is about to implement EC directive 2000/78/EC (framework directive) and EC directive 2000/43/EC (race directive) as well as parts of EC directive 2002/73/EC (amendment of the equal treatment directive) into national law. Apart from people with disabilities, for whom separate comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation is planned, discrimination prohibitions, damages provisions and corresponding organisational regulations for all other groups concerned will be implemented within the framework of the two federal equal treatment laws. The new provisions will be enacted by 2004-07-01. The provinces are going to implement separate laws. As far as can be seen up to now some of the provinces are planning comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in addition to their already existing gender equality legislation.

GENDER EQUALITY MACHINERY

The gender equality structure (limited to the institutions which are specifically dealing with gender issues) is provided in Picture1.

This report only takes federal legislation into consideration, because the Equal Treatment Act and the Equal Treatment Act for Federal Civil Servants and Employees cover the widest scope of equal treatment instruments. Most of the provincial enactments took up the models set by federal legislation.

Federal legislation is introduced by Parliament, which consists of two chambers. The Main Chamber is organised in boards with specialised areas of work. Since 1993 the Equal Treatment Board deals with gender equality legislation.

On the Governmental level there are two Inter-ministerial Working Groups– IMWG. The IMWG for Gender Equality in accordance with the Federal Equal Treatment Act 1993 can make proposals and give advice to the government on all matters concerning equal treatment and career advancement for women in the federal public service. The task of the IMWG for Gender Mainstreaming is to develop strategies and methods for implementing the gender-mainstreaming concept within ministerial frameworks and on a political level.

Within every ministry at least one person is assigned as Equal Treatment Commissioner. Their task is to counsel federal civil servants and employees and to monitor all cases of gender discrimination that are brought to their notice. As gender discrimination and sexual harassment are also disciplinary misdemeanours within the federal civil service system the equal treatment commissioners are entitled to lodge complaints with the appropriate boards. The equal treatment commissioners are members of the Equal Treatment Boards of the ministries that are established to monitor and to further career advancement for female civil servants.

In both the Equal Treatment Act 1979 and the Federal Equal Treatment Act 1993 victims of gender discrimination are individually entitled to damages. Complaints must be taken to the regular work and social courts or to the civil courts. There are no separate gender or anti-discrimination departments within the court system.

Both acts have from the beginning contained regulations for specialised complaint boards, the Equal Treatment Commission for the private sector and the Federal Equal Treatment Commission. Both are tripartite bodies entitled to give advisory opinions on single cases, or issue expert opinions on questions concerning gender discrimination in the workplace or within collective agreements. These expert opinions carry no judicial weight. They can however be taken to court as part of the evidence in discrimination cases.

The Equal Treatment Advocacy for the private sector was implemented through the Equal Treatment Act 1979 in 1990. It is located within the framework of the Ministry for Health and Women’s Affairs. Its members are federal employees who counsel victims of discrimination and who can take complaints to the board. They also make reports on the status of equal treatment developments to the minister and to Parliament.

Single complainants can apply either directly to the two separate complaint boards or – in cases pertaining to the private sector – to the Equal Treatment Advocacy or – in federal civil service cases – to the Equal Treatment Commissioners within the ministries.

Gendered statistical data is gathered by Statistic Austria and by provincial statistics units where required by community or by national law. Besides legal requirements gendered statistical data is collected only if authorised by clients.

The Austrian system of Social Partnership is characterised by the autonomy of the organizations from the state and by a relatively high degree of cooperation between the state and by employers and employees´ organizations. Except for the Chamber of Agriculture all social partners are represented on the complaint board for the private sector according to the Equal Treatment Act 1979.

Trade unions, especially the Trade Union of Private Employees, are constantly working on the implementation of gender equality measures at the level of independent private enterprise. Traditionally the NGO sector is not very structured and quite varied; male crisis centres have existed for several years in Vienna and Salzburg.

CHALLENGES FOR GENDER EQUALITY

Unlike other countries Austria has no clear concept of gender equality. Except for the civil service at federal level and in some of the provinces, no legal measures for positive action or for the active promotion of gender equality have been taken. Most of the gender equality policies in Austria remain on the level of announcements (see e.g. the government activities concerning gender mainstreaming).

Anti-discrimination legislation is being prepared according to the directives based on Art 13 EC treaty.

Picture 1. Gender Equality Structures in Austria

2003-2006