UPPER AUSTRIA/LINZ. “Strengthening space – protecting quality of life”: this is the motto with which the OÖVP celebrated the launch of its economic policy for 2024 in Linz on Monday. Local economists agree: a better welcoming culture is essential, especially to attract the skilled workers needed by Upper Austria from abroad. But digitization and research and energy are still big topics.
“Times are very challenging, Upper Austria ended with a minus in growth in 2023, and expectations can also be overcome with a small plus. But we want to be an economic engine,” said OÖVP boss, state governor Thomas Stelzer. “Even if there is no international rise, as an industrial location. We are facing the biggest challenge of change.”
“Moderate growth prospects and signs of structural competitiveness deficiencies in Europe only affect Upper Austria, but we see good prospects for Upper Austria and are optimistic,” says OÖVP regional manager Florian Haigelsberger.
Economics in “Lateral Motion”.
The stagnant European economy in 2023, not just in Austria, will pick up some momentum again in 2024, albeit slightly, Holger Bohn, scientific director of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS), sees a “lateral movement”. However, the pace lags significantly behind the US and Asia.
The coming economic upswing will also be heavily driven by private consumption, but with only a weak boost from exports. Therefore, there is a need for “well-coordinated support for research and development at all levels, investments in infrastructure, appropriate education and mobility policies to address the shortage of skilled labor and attractive local production and investment conditions for enterprises”.
Central: Securing and recruiting workers
According to the Labor Force Monitor, the workforce gap in Upper Austria will increase from the current 94,000 unfilled positions to 172,000 by 2030. Therefore, Upper Austria will again focus on additional training and qualification in 2024, Stelzer said.
read more: The New Deal for Work and Qualifications: Full-time work must be more attractive
But Austria-wide efforts are needed to harness existing potential: among women in part-time work and among immigrants. “We're investing significantly in expanding childcare in 2024,” Stelzer says, noting the compatibility of family and work. However, strong national programs are needed to attract skilled workers from abroad; A promising step is to improve the red-white-red card. “But we're asking for more incentives from the federal government to make full-time work worthwhile.”
“We need a better welcoming culture”
Sok-Kheng Taing, co-founder of Linz-based premier technology company Dynatrace, is an expert in location internationalization and attractiveness and knows what is important. “Diversity makes us stronger.” So there is a need for solidarity between institutions, politics and people so that Austria becomes even more attractive for international skilled workers. “There has to be a good welcoming culture.” Skilled workers often come with their families – which is why good childcare, good schools, infrastructure and conditions that facilitate integration are needed, he points out, for example, the language English, which “is a given in Upper Austria – on all official routes, trams and public institutions – to be done”.
Upper Austria needs more FH places
A significant increase in the number of places at universities of applied sciences in Upper Austria is necessary to keep up when it comes to digitization and research. Stelzer firmly believes that the new digitization university IT:U is currently setting up opens up a new opportunity.
Energy: gas conservation as a bridge technology
According to Statistics Austria, Upper Austria requires the most natural gas in Austria, 79 percent of which is for industrial production. “The transition to renewables is making steady progress, but to maintain economics, gas still needs to flow to bridge the gap.” It is against this background that the planned second gas pipeline “WAG Loop 1” between Oberkappel was funded. And Bad Leonfelden needs to be convinced, he says, that the federal government is also committed to transporting hydrogen in the long term.
read more: Second gas pipeline through upper Mühlviertel: operator wants support
Regarding the price of electricity, high prices in Austria should not lead to competitive disadvantages, even compared to neighboring Germany. “If there's more support there, there should be one here.”
During an election year: “No inappropriate election treats”
Stelzer makes a plea to “all political forces” in light of this year's big election year: keep pushing forward on key issues and needed reforms, and avoid “costly, ill-conceived electoral sweets.”