26. June 2012
Migration to conurbation centres continues
The continued migration to large conurbation centres, the growing immigration to a few cities and the increased concern about their financing were the main topics of a press conference in mid-June in Vienna about the 2011 statistics for Austria’s cities by Statistics Austria.
The latest figures were presented by Konrad Pesendorfer, head of Statistics Austria, and Thomas Weninger, secretary general of the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns. Both emphasised Vienna’s special status in the current development of urban Austria. Highlights included the following:
Growing urban regionsThe population of the provincial capitals grew between 2001 and 2011 by an average of 9 per cent. The greatest growth was seen in the towns and communities in the Vienna catchment area (Gänserndorf +28.1%, Vösendorf +25.7%, Gerasdorf bei Wien +23.4%). Towns close to Graz, Linz and Innsbruck also had marked increases.
AgeingIn many regions the number of children and juveniles dropped, with an increase in the number of retirees. The working population aged between 20 and 65 was 62.4 per cent in the city regions and 63.8 per cent in Vienna.
“Most of the population now have their main residence in an urban region,” said Weninger. In fact, some 57 per cent of the population live in communities with 5,000 or more inhabitants, and the move to urban areas continues. “Towns are the backbone of the country. They offer attractive jobs, schools, kindergartens, public transport and many health and cultural facilities,” he added.
Integration in citiesApart from population growth and ageing, migration is a further topical issue. Austria is growing through immigration, said Statistics Austria boss Pesendorfer, adding that this demographic movement was concentrated in a few communities. Around 80 per cent of foreigners live in 10 per cent of the communities of Austria. The number of foreign citizens has increased since 2001 by a third. According to Statistics Austria the number of foreigners in Vienna increased from 16 per cent in 2001 to 21.5 per cent in 2011, the highest level for the whole of Austria. Weninger sees this as an additional challenge for cities and municipal authorities. “Integration is an urban issue and directly concerns the population,” he said. Integration takes place in cities, which perform “outstanding work” despite the financial restraints.
Additional costs for municipalitiesTowards the end of the press conference, Weninger became more critical when it came to the revenue and spending of the municipalities and their financial obligations, particularly with regard to education, child care, welfare and transport. In 2010 the towns and municipalities spent 28.534 billion euros, with just under 10 per cent of the communities (226) being responsible for 73 per cent of the expenditure. The largest portions went to public services (20.3 per cent) and general administration (18.6 per cent). Considerable extra costs were incurred for child care and pre‑school, and the contribution to the care of a three-year-old rose from 53.4 per cent in 1999 to 80 per cent now. For four-year-olds there has been an increase in the last ten years from 84.0 to 95.5 per cent, and for five-year-olds from 90.2 to 94.4 per cent. The contribution for two-year-olds is currently at 17.1 per cent. In social welfare, another major budget item, half of the outlay (45.4 per cent) was on social nursing services.
Towns threatening legal action against federal governmentMost of these outlays are financed by property taxes and rates, explained Pesendorfer. Weninger was “particularly annoyed” that in the latest consolidation package the federal government had cancelled the input tax deduction for education investments. This would increase the cost of education building projects by 20 per cent, which many communities would no longer be able to afford. This meant that urgently required spending on education was threatened. Asked by journalists how he would respond, Weninger said that “towns and municipalities are considering taking legal action against the federal government if it fails to intervene and are continuing to fight either for the possibility of an input tax deduction or appropriate subsidies.”
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