Social welfare: the Vienna system
The first social welfare measures date back to Emperor Josef II (1747–1790), who established one of the largest foundling hospitals in Vienna in 1784. (foundling care, indigent institutes). However, up until the First World War destitute persons in Vienna were largely dependent on private care and charity.
In December 1917, for the first time in the history of the Habsburg state, a Ministry for Social Welfare was set up. However it did not take any significant steps.
It therefore remained up to social democratic politicians of the First Republic, such as Ferdinand Hanusch and Julius Tandler, to establish a comprehensive social welfare system.
Ferdinand Hanusch, the architect of the Austrian social welfare system
After the proclamation of the First Republic the provisional national assembly installed its own government on 30 October 1918 with Ferdinand Hanusch as State Secretary for Social Affairs (which in those days was the equivalent of ministerial status). In the following two years, up until his resignation at the end of October 1920, Hanusch introduced the most important bundle of social measures in Austrian history. His reforms may be divided into three categories.
As a first step – covering the period from November 1918 to March 1919 – the following laws were introduced: the creation of an unemployment benefit (6 November), work-free days on Sundays and public holidays (12 November), the eight-hour working day (19 November), the extension of unemployment benefits to employees (20 November) and the abolition of the labour records (25 January 1919) which until then had made workers highly dependent on employers.
The next stage – it took from March to August 1919 – embraced the Sozialisierungsgesetz (Socialisation Act; 14 March), Invalid Compensation (25 April), the Prohibition of Night-Work for Women and Minors (14 May), the Betriebsrätegesetz (Works Council Act; 15 May) and the Urlaubsgesetz (Holiday Act; 30 July).
Finally, in a third phase, there was the Kollektivvertragsgesetz (Collective Agreement Act; 18 December), then the creation of Chambers of Labour (26 February 1920) and the Unemployed Insurance Act (24 March 1920). Thus within relatively few months numerous long-standing demands by the working population were implemented and Austria positioned itself as one of the most progressive countries in the world. In many respects – unemployed benefits, the right to have paid holidays – Austria was the first country ever to introduce anything of the kind.
In January 1921 Hanusch became the Director of the Vienna Chamber of Labour, whose establishment was the result of one of his own laws. This function he retained until his untimely death on 28 September 1923. And in this capacity he was able to consolidate and round out his socio-political reforms.
In a short space of time Hanusch thus created the fundamentals of the modern Austrian social welfare state.
Julius Tandler's social welfare policy
In 1919 Julius Tandler was elected to the Vienna City Council. On 9 May 1919 he was appointed Under-Secretary of State and head of the Public Health Office. In November 1920 he moved to the Public Health Department of the City of Vienna where during the following years, as Executive City Councillor for Welfare and Health Affairs, he fought with great commitment against the war-caused shortages in the health sector, from which the children suffered especially seriously, as well as for the extension of welfare services. What resulted was the “Vienna Welfare System”.
Julius Tandler was particularly concerned with fighting the high degree of infant mortality and tuberculosis which, because of its high incidence here, was known internationally as the “Viennese malady”. Social assistance during Tandler’s period in office progressed from being something graciously distributed on an arbitrary basis to a recognised right for everybody who needed it. Tandler’s social welfare policy became an international example.
In Vienna during the inter-war period a whole network of kindergartens and children’s day homes, mother advice clinics and children’s dental clinics sprang up – none of which existed anywhere else at the time or in such concentration. These services continue to be pillars of Vienna’s youth care system to this day.
Free kindergartens since 2009
Thus, the non-contributory kindergarten in municipal institutions was introduced for children aged zero to six years in autumn 2009. Private kindergartens, children’s groups and child care providers receive funding from the City, enabling most of these providers to accept a number of children free of charge, too. Besides, a compulsory kindergarten year for all five-year olds was introduced. Between the start of 2009 and 2011 a total of 6,500 new places in kindergartens were created.
The Vienna system of youth care
In the 1960s the Vienna deputy mayor Gertrude Fröhlich-Sandner made a point of stressing the so-called “Vienna system of youth care” which represented the transition from “youth welfare” to “family social work”. Tandler’s motto – “If you build palaces for children you tear down prison walls” – remains valid to this day in Vienna’s youth care system. This is demonstrated by the “Home 2000” reform whose aim was to close down large institutions and transfer the children and young people concerned to supervised shared flats while creating increased regional openings.
The Youth and Family Welfare Office continues to fight child neglect. In 2011 it examined 10,518 cases where it had been informed of possible problems. Today professional problem solutions are sought so that the chances of returning a child to a positively altered family situation are improved.
Around 3,320 children in Vienna weren’t living with their family by the end of 2011. About half of them had been placed with foster families, while the other half are insitutionally cared for, a small group stays with relatives.
Welfare policy after the war
Based on legislation introduced by Emperor Josef II, in 1873, the city administration instituted the so-called poverty councillors. In 1921 they were replaced in “Red Vienna” by welfare councillors, of which there were more than 6,000 in Vienna. The system was abolished by the National Socialists. In 1945 it became obvious that the system of welfare councillors would have to be rebuilt as swiftly as possible. On top of the post-war needs of the Vienna population there were also the refugees, the soldiers returning home and people bombed out of their homes. As from January 1946 there were more than 4,000 welfare councillors in Vienna. The well-tried system during the First Republic was up and running again. As an improved form of “warm parlours” the first 45 pensioners’ clubs were opened in autumn 1946. Nowadays the clubs no longer have the task of helping the needy but are modern, city-wide communication centres for the elder generation.
The foundations were also established in 1946 for other welfare services of the City of Vienna such as household helpers and home nursing. These services have been considerably extended in the course of the decades. Since the ’60s meals-on-wheels, a cleaning service, laundry service, visitors’ service, repair service, family aid and children’s’ supervision at home have been introduced little by little.
The “Allgemeine Sozialversicherungsgesetz” (General Social Insurance Act)
An essential alteration to the whole social welfare system was occasioned by the Allgemeine Sozialversicherungsgesetz (ASVG) of 1955. Much of what the municipality and other bodies distributed was transformed from a form of aid to a legal entitlement. The new situation called for professional work by full-time employees. On 19 November 1969 the municipal council ended the activities of the welfare councillors. A new era began.
The ASVG determined the welfare guarantee for those in employment
Three important tasks were completed through the passing of the original ASVG in 1955: a codification of social legislation, its Austrification after the days of National Socialist domination and the occupation and, finally, a number of improvements compared with the then existing situation – such as free choice of doctors, the 13th monthly wage payment and a compensation bonus for the lowest paid pensioners.
In this manner Austria acquired the most progressive welfare system of any OECD country. With few exceptions all those people employed in a productive capacity and their families are insured against risks. The welfare balance between people with and without children functions through co-insurance to the present day.
Old people´s homes became "Living Homes"
The old people´s homes of the 1950s were in urgent need of reform. A new model had to be found. The pattern chosen was that of Danish and Swedish retiree homes in which the inhabitants each have their own small flat. In 1960 the Vienna Pensioners’ Homes Committee was founded. In 1997 the “pensioners’ homes” were renamed “pensioners’ living homes”. Thanks to the welfare services the elderly were able to stay on living longer at home. The houses were therefore extended to include care wards, and the former old people’s homes made into nursing homes.
Vienna leads the field in communal, social housing
“Long after we are gone these stones will speak for us” – this quote by Karl Seitz characterises Vienna housing policy to the present day.
Karl Seitz became mayor of Vienna in 1923 and for ten whole years headed the great municipal expansion programme (blocks of flats, schooling, social welfare reforms) for which “Red Vienna” became famous throughout the world.
Up until the end of the 19th century the working classes lived in rental barracks owned by private landlords under unacceptable living conditions.
To ease the shortage of living quarters some first attempts at creating workers’ accommodation in the form of company flats were made by the Floridsdorf Locomotive Factory and the Brevillier & Urban company, for example. Others were built by charitable institutions and associations.
On 21 September 1923 the municipal council passed a five-year building programme which envisaged the completion of 25,000 flats from tax resources to set off the miseries of overcrowded living quarters.
The erection of these so-called “super blocks” with their integrated collectively utilisable housing utilities such as central laundry facilities, kindergartens, mother advice clinics, lending libraries, gathering points for joint events, workshops and shops for cooperative food stores naturally had strong political connotations and enabled the creation of around 65,000 new flats all within just one decade.
In the period from 1934 to 45 house building activity stagnated. Because of damage wrought during the Second World War 86,875 flats were uninhabitable in 1945. In 1954 the foundation stone for 100,000 council flats was laid, and by 1958 reconstruction was, for the most part, completed. A further 150,000 council flats were built between 1945 and 1993.
At present around 7,000 new flats are built and around 10,000 old flats renovated in Vienna with public funding every year. In 2011, the City of Vienna launched a new housing initiative in order to provide enough affordable living space for the Viennese population. These measures not only bring better living quality, they also provide a significant impetus for the labour market. Vienna’s housing activities guarantee tens of thousands of jobs every year.
No other large European city has such a high availability of flats, compared to the number of inhabitants, and for that reason too the flat rents in Vienna are at a European average. With the introduction of general housing assistance in 2001 the City has moved a long distance in the direction of social justice. Since then families living in privately rented flats may also qualify for housing assistance.
Europe’s largest municipal landlord
One in four of the approximately 1.7 million residents of Vienna lives in municipal housing. The City of Vienna owns about 220,000 municipal flats, which makes it Europe’s largest property management. Every year Vienna allocates about 10,000 council flats.
Fonds Soziales Wien (Vienna Social Welfare Fund)
The hive-off of large sectors such as geriatric care, support for the disabled, aid for the homeless, and others into a “Fonds Soziales Wien” (FSW) represents a milestone in Vienna’s public welfare administration under the present City Councillor for Public Health and Social Affairs Sonja Wehsely.
Through the FSW and Municipal Department 15 optimum organisation structures have been created for ensuring that the high standards of social welfare in Vienna will remain in place in the future.
Social centres: modern social services
Vienna’s social centres offer help to people in difficult situations – in the form of both financial support and advice and assistance by social workers. Individuals with little (below the minimum standard) or no income can claim minimum benefit. A variety of criteria have to be met to receive support under the minimum benefit scheme, and each case is assessed individually. This form of support is designed to ensure an individual’s livelihood and contribute to rental costs.
Wiener Wohnungslosenhilfe (Vienna Homeless Help) organises the counselling and care of homeless people. 4,800 living spaces in flats and housing projects on 400 different locations are run by the Vienna Homeless Help. Every year, around 8,200 people use its service. Especially the project "wohnbasis" (basic living) is running well and receives international acclaim. The aim is to reintegrate people of no fixed address into the normal housing market or, alternatively, to find them a special chance for permanent accommodation.
Care for the elderly
The City of Vienna offers a comprehensive system of high-quality mobile, outpatient, inpatient and mixed services providing care for the elderly. The Vienna Social Welfare Fund (FSW) is responsible for making available, promoting and financing care services. The type and extent of social services is tailored to meet individual requirements. Through outpatient care the City of Vienna provides active assistance to elderly persons so that they can continue to live for as long as possible in their normal surroundings, in their own flat. In 2010 27,780 people used the mobile services provided by the FSW.
Health centres and social centres
In order to make it easy for those affected and for their relatives to have access to the many outpatient services for care the City of Vienna operates eight advice centres. These also offer information in Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Turkish at specific times.
Vienna offers a wide variety of services such as nursing care in the home, household helps, visiting and companion services, cleaning and laundry services, and meals on wheels.
Competence centre for permanent care
The central service desk “Acceptance into Nursing Homes and other Homes” in Guglgasse is the competence centre for all City of Vienna permanent care offers. This desk establishes a simple connection to all private and municipal nursing and health-care institutions.
Day centres for the elderly
The present ten FSW day centres for the elderly and the eleven privately operated centres are an important constituent of care services for elderly persons in Vienna. This is also to ease the burden on relatives who are involved in caring for elderly persons. The FSW day centres for senior citizens offer individual care for elderly people during the day. A well-structured day, care suited to individual needs, group and individual activities and social contacts help to combat isolation and stimulate individual abilities and skills.
Medical home care
Qualified health-care attendants and nursing personnel attend to sick and disabled persons of all ages at home. A doctor’s certificate is needed to claim home nursing care. Care is provided by a wide range of experts for various forms of care treatments. Sick, disabled and elderly people can be looked after and cared for in their own homes. This reduces the number of hospital stays and of admissions to nursing homes. How often a person can use home nursing care services depends on the severity of the disease and his/her individual needs and specific situation.
Setting the direction for the 21st century
Thanks to the Vienna Social Welfare Fund (FSW) the direction has been set for a social welfare system in Vienna that is able to meet the needs of the 21st century.
The aims, among others, are: to improve the health, and health awareness, of the population; to provide the basic requirements for living and working for underprivileged individuals; to provide medical, psychological and welfare advice and treatment as well as care for those needing assistance; to take preventive measures to avert and hinder or reduce the degree of poverty; the promote the rehabilitation and social integration of these target groups.
Over 20,000 people work for the Fonds Soziales Wien (FSW) in over 150 partner organisations. The FSW ensures the efficient use of funding in the health and social affairs sector. An annual € 630 million of tax money from the City of Vienna make sure that Vienna will continue to be able to offer high-quality social services in the future, too.