Despite the Pandemic, Immigration Continues

Even though borders were sealed as COVID-19 hit Europe, 2020 saw the Austrian population increase.

2020’s census paints a clear picture: the Austrian population continued to rise in the past year, despite the ongoing pandemic. While growth was slower than in 2019, it still increased by 0.36%, or 32,282 new inhabitants. 

These numbers primarily stem from immigration: The number of Austrian nationals residing in the country actually declined by 0.17% – a drop of 12,757 linked to expatriation and, sadly, fatalities from COVID-19. In addition, increases weren’t across the board: The population shrank in 24 districts, with Leoben and Krems an der Donau among the most affected, seeing a decrease of 0.84% and 0.78%, respectively. 

Burgenland (0.54%) and Vorarlberg (0.52%) topped the list with the largest population gains; Vienna grew by 0.51%, counting 15,579 non-citizens as new residents against a decrease of 5,600 Austrian residents.

At this rate, Austria should reach a population of 9 million in the upcoming year. In January 2020, the country counted 1,531,262 foreign residents, with the two largest groups hailing from Germany and Romania. 

The Case of Multicultural Vienna

Immigration is most visible in Vienna: The Austrian capital is a melting pot, with 37% of its population born abroad. Numerous languages are spoken around town, with Metropole estimating that 400,000 Viennese use English as a lingua franca. Out of a population of 1,911,191 at the beginning of 2020, the city counts 604,599 non-Austrian citizens – that’s roughly 30% of all Viennese. 

Just like the rest of the country, most of Vienna’s immigrants come from Europe, including 101,888 Serbs, 76,281 Turks, 61,945 Germans and 55,051 Poles. In the 15th and 20th districts (Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus and Brigittenau) over half of the population wasn’t born here.

According to Statistik Austria, Vienna will see an average of 58,000 new non-Austrian residents per year over the next decade, with around 48,000 moving away annually. Adding the roughly 5,000 Austrians moving to the capital every year, population growth should reach 15,000 annually, as in 2020.  

Overall, migration is a major factor affecting Austria’s population, with numerous benefits for the country. As argued by the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs: “The pandemic has shown how important migrants and their work are for the functioning of a society […] for example, of the numerous harvest workers and nurses.”

Emma Hontebeyrie
Born and raised in France, Emma graduated with a degree in Cultural and Humanistic studies. Since summer 2020, she has been living in Vienna where she is currently an editorial intern at Metropole. She is also working on podcast production for the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (Vienna) and Radio Libellules (Bordeaux).

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