Austria: Why nobody wants to settle here

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For all its natural beauty, Austria is doing a rotten job of attracting immigrants, said Jakob Zirm. Among the 34 most developed countries, this one ranks dead last as a destination for job-seekers from developing countries. That’s a problem, since our low birth rate means that we will soon lack enough workers to pay our retirees’ pensions.

Only “targeted immigration can close the gaps in the labor market,” yet qualified immigrants choose Sweden or even Hungary over us. It’s clear that our famous prickliness toward outsiders is partly to blame: We think “foreigner equals problem” because for decades, populist right-wing parties have had great success in “stirring up fears about asylum-seekers.” But a major problem is simply our lack of a welcome mat. Any enterprising young foreigner wondering whether and how to immigrate to Austria has to navigate a bewildering maze of websites, all in German only. Contrast this with an immigration-friendly nation like Australia, whose Department of Immigration website offers potential residents information in 37 languages and lists the kinds of job skills that are most desired. Austria needs to open up and show foreigners that they will be welcomed—“both by our policies and by the people.”