In breaks we were eating together in dim canteen of education center in routine of our unemployment compulsory course. Dining hall was full of people.It was steaming stewed cabbage, which melted in the mouth and reminded me of hearty soviet meals, which were but 200 times cheaper. My companion treated cabbage with great appetite. She was attractive woman of forty, with trim figure and regular face features, which together with her lively way, made her looking more of brown-eyed Gallic type, than woman from Vorarlberg. Like many others in my surroundings, Martha was very talkative and exploded now and then with distinctly articulated passages of eloquence. Relative longevity of German lexical units and typically loud manner of speaking with low, throat voice always increased my impression of Austrian vocalizations affluence.
Moreover, Martha talked not only willingly, she was real champion of public speech on variety of subjects, and she constantly exercised her articulacy in the group of unemployed, where we both belonged, and these unemployed, forced to visit course under threat to be left without allowance and trying make themselves inconspicuous – were looking at her numbly in lack of other entertainment during long hours spent in the center.
Reaction of jobless to social control
Normally Vienna jobless, in spite of excessive oral and written self-presentations, were not spoiled by higher education or massive knowledge.
They were trained to offer themselves to world rapped in luminous pack of words, which concealed simple truth of their uselessness at job market and their high usefulness as job givers to AMS clerks and trainers, and also simple fact, that certain jobs in Austria were not better than unemployment allowance.
Job seekers knew they must play their role well and hunted for positions with indefinite functions, like assistance, management or organization, what gave idea they were taught to crave for simulation – when one fusses around, shakes the air with talks and gets paid. Martha looked for post of manager in furniture saloon, where she could use her good communication skills and her natural disposition for art and design.
She gave picture of resoluteness and enthusiasm, but when she started talking about her family, her mascara eyes instantly filled with tears. Between mouthfuls of cabbage, she narrated me sad story of her ill parents and deprived childhood with neurotic problems inherited.
I felt myself weird witness of this sudden burst of sorrow. But family drama existing in Martha mind as ground for self-pity, didn’t diminish her dominating oratory in the class-room. Martha seemed to be ambitious and identified her human values solely with her potential job. Complete atmosphere of control over unemployed as parasites of society in the center invested greatly in distortion of such identifications.
In slightest detail she informed us about her interactions with future employer. She confessed how happy she felt to gain this opportunity, and how glad her mom would be to know about her triumph. Next time in canteen, Martha involved me in discussion, what shoes and dress she would need for the job, and her joy made me happy too, as if this brilliant prospect expected my own wardrobe.
At this high key point I parted with Martha, because our course was over.
The victims of welfare
I was sent to other education course by AMS.
At first I felt curious, but then shocked and stunned.
My duty was to sit through long days in cramped computer room with no air and suffer from verbalization of folks around.
This time unemployed – mostly men – were disposed in their chairs in intimate closeness to me and talked in full voice. It was especially hard, because I could not participate in their talks and could not escape, forced to stay where I was and fulfill tasks on computer I would never need. I was sweating and shivering hour after hour, cursing my fate and sucking with all my pores the fluids of negative attitudes from the air. These attitudes, besides of other stimuli, had nationalistic grounds. In hard times people tend to form collective national identity, when they want to compensate lack of freedom and satisfaction with feeling of false minute superiority over strangers.
Though being sophisticated, I never had such depressing experience in my life. It seemed I sold my freedom because of fear to lose social allowance, and was imprisoned in small cell with creatures who were also trapped and hated each other as animals in the cage, and especially they hated me, with whom it was harder to find common terms and who was damn foreigner and target for suppressed rage.
I never liked going to the cinema before, feeling myself blocked by spectators from both sides. Now it was prolonged torture of such boring film trap, with difference of no film on the screen going on, but old version of Photoshop, which I could not handle with shaking hands.
In midday’s breaks I raced outside without coat, in painful haste, and used to run along secluded road toward neighboring patch of wood.
There I stood gazing at trees and river, deep in stupor of unhappiness, incapable to think.
A few days later, I appeared in job office and told to consultant – overloaded with formal obligations woman, who instantly became amazed and indignant, that I could not visit useless course anymore.
Later I received email from Martha. She wrote she was unwell for some time after being disappointment with furniture shop employer, who didn’t keep his word to engage her.
Reference about employment of immigrants in Austria, provided by AMS- Austrian work market service
The upper limit model
The number of foreign nationals who are allowed to work in Austria is controlled by the upper limit system (upper limits at federal and provincial level to ensure controlled entry of foreign workers).
This system stipulates that (at present) the total number of employed and unemployed foreign nationals must not exceed 8% of the Austrian labour force. All foreign nationals employed within the framework of an employment permit, short-term or long-term work permit are included in this quota.
Quota suggesting idea of national discrimination (G.T.)
If this quota is exceeded, only specific groups of people can be conferred a pre-employment permit and an employment permit when it is considered in the interests of the public and general economic good up to a maximum of 9%. Access to the Austrian labour market is still possible for the following cases:
- Young foreign nationals after gaining a school leaving certificate in Austria when one parent is also working in Austria;
- War refugees in the framework of the law governing foreign nationals;
- Managers and particularly highly qualified employees (in particular when their employment is accompanied by the transfer of capital and the opening of new branches in Austria);
- Foreign nationals whose access to the labor market is foreseen in bilateral agreements;
- Frontier commuters for an employer who has employed them for at least 6 months of the previous year;
- Limited seasonal permits in the fields of agriculture, forestry and tourism;
- Employees of a foreign employer placed in Austria;
Integrated foreign nationals who have lived in Austria for at least 8 years.
If the quota has not been exceeded, the provinces have to stick by the individual quotas laid down for each province. If the quotas have been exceeded, a more rigorous procedure is applied whereby the labour market situation is assessed and the unanimous agreement of the interest groups is required – or the employment is considered in the interests of the general public or economic good.