Interior Minister Herbert Kickl (FPÖ) wants to limit the hourly wage for asylum seekers in public service jobs. To date, cities and municipalities have been able set the compensation. In the future, no more than €1.50 euros per hour are supposed to be paid. The suggestion is under review.

The draft by Interior Minister Kickl is targeted at so-called Remunerantentätigkeiten (paid activities) possible for asylum seekers coming to Austria. In all other cases, they have to wait three months before they are allowed to work in a Mangelberuf (understaffed profession). For example, as seasonal workers in tourism or as harvesters.

So far, remuneration was not regulated and varied depending upon the Bundesland, with compensation averaging as much as €5 per hour. For asylum seekers working in basic care, there is additionally, a monthly income limit of €110, plus €80 for each additional family member in the current situation.

From now on, asylum seekers are to receive €1.50 euros per hour, “by no means more”, Kickl said in a statement on the 23 of March. His proposal is under review and will stay there for at least another three weeks. The Interior Minister justified the plan with the argument that asylum seekers were currently earning more per hour than those doing basic military service and Zivildiener (those in alternative service). At present, those in alternative service receive a basic salary of 339 euros per month, while basic military servants are paid 321.22 euros per month.

The proposal has received support from Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP), who promised the plan would evolve “in consultation” with his office. “I asked for something similar in 2016, but this could not be done with the SPÖ,” he said in a statement. (Then Foreign and Integration Minister, Kurz had called for mandatory non-profit, one-euro jobs for refugees.) Social Minister Beate Hartinger-Klein (FPÖ) also gave Kickl her full approval.

The Provincial Councilors for Integration of the SPÖ, Neos and Greens criticized Kickl’s plans and demanded an increase instead of a decrease, the Ö1 “Journal” reported. “Our call is in the direction of €5, because otherwise there is a danger of wage dumping,” said Carinthia’s Sara Schaar (SPÖ). The Salzburg Councillor Andrea Klambauer (Neos) agreed.  This is yet another example “where it is precisely about guaranteeing that integration won’t work,” she said. Tiroler Landesrätin Gabriele Fischer (Greens) criticized the plan as a mix of populism and deterrence, “which divides a society for years to come. It is simply taking even more away from those who have nothing anyway.”

The association for progressive politics, equal opportunity and social justice “Aufstehn.at” launched an online petition that had received 25,034 signatures as of April 1.

Reactions from the web:

“#kickl wants asylum seekers to earn 1.50 € per hour. A military recruit gets 1.85. € Kickl collects €102 per hour – that’s 68- and. 55-fold respectively. [And he gets this] for administrative failure and a party-book economy [that hands out jobs to loyalists].” – Peter Pilz, Liste Jetzt.

“The moment that Kickl said, “No, one euro is not enough. That is inhuman. Let’s do €1.50 hourly wage.” – GebMoped [meant very ironically – ed.]

“Mayor @DenGeorgWilli invited BM #Kickl to #Innsbruck to experience up close what an hourly wage of € 1.50 feels like. @Gruene_Austria Photo: Instagram Profile”

So far Kickl has remained unmoved by the criticism. The SPÖ and the Liste Jetzt call him a “security risk” for Austria, because of statements by conservative German and British politicians who questioned the continued exchange of government intelligence with Austria because of Kickel’s contacts to the far-right. “With the Secret Service scandal and his contacts to right-wing populists and to the right-wing extremist Identitären Bewegung [a movement emphasizing historical, nationalist identity], Kickl not only seriously damaged Austria’s international reputation, but also the security of all Austrians,” the SPÖ leader in the BVT-U Ausschuss [a parliamentary investigvative committee looking into the police break-in to the offices of the BVT, the Federal Office for Protecting the Constitution and Combatting Terrorism], Jan Krainer, stated in a press release. Last weekend, he called on Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) to “finally act here.” SPÖ and Liste Jetzt are asking Kickl to resign.

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Born 1993, Julia C. Seidl did her first internship at the Austrian news paper "Die Presse" when she was 17. After living in the US for half a year, she went on to study "Journalism & Media Management" in Vienna and continued working as a freelancer for several local news outlets such as ORF, Kurier and Falter. Seidl was employed at the weekly "Die Ganze Woche" before joining the Metropole team as an editor in 2018. She mainly writes about social issues and specializes in doing portraits and interviews. Seidl is the company's Online Content Manager and also responsible for the social media accounts of the magazine.