Compulsory vaccination – a stab in the job market

This is an unusual picture: four men march past Schwedenplatz with three flags of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia hoisted in front of them. They protest with thousands of others on Sunday against the government’s corona measures, as the “courier” first reported. The planned vaccination requirement unites the vaccination opponents of the actually divided peoples of ex-Yugoslavia across religious and national boundaries. And in general there is astonishment and resentment east of Austria about the government’s plans to introduce compulsory vaccination from February 1st.

Opponents of vaccination and belief in conspiracy theories could become a problem for the job market. Because the Central, Eastern and Southeastern European countries have a particularly low vaccination rate and a particularly high vaccination skepticism within the population. However, a particularly large number of people from these countries come to Austria as geriatric nurses and seasonal specialists in gastronomy and agriculture. But 1G, i.e. vaccinated, will also apply to them from February 1st.

Lots of cross-border commuters

According to estimates by the Economic Research Institute (Wifo), 98,000 to 100,000 people come to Austria regularly or temporarily from the EU’s eastern neighbors – i.e. from Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Poland – to work. On the one hand, this includes day and week commuters in the eastern Austrian border regions. On the other hand, there are also employees who work weekly or monthly as seasonal workers in agriculture or tourism. “These are people who are employed here but have not moved their main residence to Austria,” explains Wifo labor economist Peter Huber.

This does not include at least 62,000 self-employed 24-hour caregivers, mostly from Slovakia or Romania who look after the elderly here every two or four weeks. In addition, according to the Chamber of Commerce, there are not quite 1,300 seasonal workers from third countries who are allowed to work temporarily in Austria. Most of them come from Serbia or Bosnia-Herzegovina. All of them would also be covered by the mandatory vaccination, at least in theory.

Low vaccination rates

If you look at the vaccination rates in the Central and Eastern European countries, you have to assume that a large number of people who regularly come to Austria to work but do not have their center of life here are probably not vaccinated. Bulgaria, for example, is at the bottom of the EU list with 25 percent vaccinated against the corona virus. In Bosnia it is only 22 percent, in Slovakia it is 42 percent, in Slovenia 55 percent. Some could still vaccinate because of the job, but probably not all.

The responsible Ministry of Health does not yet know what this obligation should actually look like, to whom it applies, how it will be carried out and whether a corona vaccination will become a requirement for entry into Austria. “This week the federal government started a comprehensive process, at the end of which a legislative procedure for the introduction of a general vaccination obligation is to be initiated. The Ministry of Health wants to quickly submit a draft law, after which there will be an assessment process,” it said when asked.

From an economic point of view, no compulsory vaccination is not a solution either. At least as long as the vaccination quota is not sufficient to avoid lockdowns and restrictions. “Of course it is not a disadvantage if everyone is vaccinated,” says Huber. In countries with high vaccination rates such as Portugal and Spain there is currently no lockdown, no overcrowded hospitals and holiday destinations with a low 7-day incidence are also more attractive for tourists.

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