Historical background from 1994 to 2004

1994 - the year of labour market reforms. The Public Employment Service Act (AMSG) comes into force on July 1. The Labour Market Administration Authority is outsourced from the Federal Ministry of Employment, Health und Social Affairs to become a service enterprise under public law. This successful restructuring is done under the aegis of Joseph Hesoun, Minister of Social Affairs, and Wolfgang Schüssel, Minister of Economic Affairs, together with the Chair of the Administrative Board, Günther Steinbach. The transition from a mere employment office to the Public Employment Service as a comprehensive service provider is marked by the introduction of new management strategies (management by objectives, managerial accounting, launch of a corporate identity project). The AMS also plays a crucial role in establishing the pan-European job portal EURES.

Austria joins the European Union. January 1 also sees the organisational reform of the AMS come into being, as the former employment offices are reorganised as AMS regional branch offices. The AMS links up with its European partner institutions, thereby increasing the possibilities for Austrian jobseekers and companies throughout the European Economic Area. Via the European Social Fund, the AMS now receives additional funding for its active labour market policy and the national action plans for employment. The development of the Public Employment Service towards a modern service provider takes shape with the launch of the new corporate design.

To the AMS, 1996 was marked by new strategies of sustained organisational development. The Public Employment Service adapts its entire organisational set-up to the needs of its clients (jobseekers and companies alike). The principle of management by clearly defined objectives soon proves successful in improving performance and client satisfaction. Within the frame of a corporate identity project, a new mission statement is designed, with the staff at all levels being involved, and new “Principles for Management, Communication and Cooperation” are worked out. This anchors a service-oriented concept for staff and clients as a crucial corporate objective.

The IT revolution takes off. All workstations of the AMS are equipped with internet access, and the new electronic job bank eJob-Room allows for interactive job matching. Employment figures start to rise. However, a decrease in unemployment figures is not yet in sight. In order to better cater for the needs of jobseekers and companies, the AMS entirely restructures its internal staff training programmes. Apart from training of staff on the job, new training modules are set up to thoroughly familiarise the members of the AMS team with new situations on the labour market and the services provided by the AMS. Practical coaching schemes still take place at the individual branch offices.

The AMS continues to expand its IT systems. The eJob-Room of the AMS is Austria’s biggest online employment marketplace, and http://www.ams.at/ is listed among the top ten of the country’s most visited websites. For promoting a more targeted approach and improving corporate efficiency, the AMS Data Warehouse project is launched and rapidly implemented. By shifting resources and the growing use of IT applications, the AMS is able to tackle new challenges, such as the enlargement of its activities to support jobseekers and companies or the complex administrative handling of providing health insurance coverage for the unemployed, without additional staff.

Despite the general internet hype und increasing numbers of visits to AMS online services, the AMS continues to place the main focus on face-to-face counselling. The results of a survey on client satisfaction show that the AMS is pursuing the right strategy. In cooperation with the Swiss corporation Focus Management, optimisation possibilities are analysed, and consequently, the services provided in the field of counselling and placement/recruitment are redesigned. The following five years will see the reorganisation of all regional branch offices into three “Zones” (Info Zone, Service Zone and Counselling Zone). Implementing the one-stop-shop principle is intended to guarantee optimal client care and to reduce the length of time spent in unemployment. At the same time, the AMS establishes an Austria-wide network of call centres in order to improve interaction via telephone and reduce the number of trips AMS clients have to take. 

As the New Economy reaches its climax, unemployment figures fall to an all-time low. Some sectors even suffer from an acute shortage of personnel. With the help of the AMS, even those who for a long time have been most disadvantaged in the labour market are able to reinsert themselves into working life, bringing about a decline in long-term unemployment. The results of client surveys are used to achieve lasting quality improvements in AMS services. Best practice becomes a principle of corporate management.

2001 - a year of dramatic changes, as the economic downturn in Europe takes its toll on the Austrian labour market. The AMS strengthens its activities in career counselling. Information campaigns and career advice events are launched to encourage young people to assume a more active role in exploring career and training options. These activities are complemented by new video clips visualising modern job profiles and additional information services. Gender mainstreaming, equal opportunities and the promotion of affirmative action programmes for women at all corporate levels, is incorporated into the AMS management strategy.

The Euro is introduced in Austria. The changeover to the new currency, a challenging IT project, is successfully completed in time. The AMS embarks on a new way of addressing clients and organises the AMS Job Day. For the first time, the AMS awards its Friendliness Award aimed at motivating staff. The e-government service section is further enlarged by adding an online Download Centre to the AMS website. After the flood calamity that hit Upper and Lower Austria, AMS-sponsored jobseekers help in clean-up efforts.

The number of young people searching for apprenticeships and employment goes up considerably. Within the framework of the Youth Training Consolidation Act (JASG), the AMS provides more than 5,000 vocational training places in training institutions. The AMS strengthens networking activities with companies to acquire vacancies. The AMS’s website is restructured to meet the new requirements of jobseekers and companies.

The year of EU enlargement. After the elapse of the transition periods, the pan-European labour market will encompass 28 EU and EEA member states. On July 1, the AMS celebrates the tenth anniversary of its establishment, and despite the rather difficult situation on the labour market, this decade can be considered a successful one. Flexible organisational structures and modern management tools leave the AMS well-prepared to face future challenges and make its contribution in safeguarding social justice and stability in Austria. 

Despite the somewhat problematic situation in the labour market, the AMS has succeeded in further expanding the number of job vacancies to be filled. Thus the number of job acquisitions was increased by about 21.300 as compared to 2004. During a three months period 92% of all job applicants were placed. Support was given to this successful acquisition and placement policy by continuing the campaign “AMS on Tour”, a measure positioning the AMS as a strong partner and largest HR service provider in the labour market. As one of the items listed in the Austrian government programme for 2006, the AMS was charged with the task of creating additional apprenticeships (the so-called “Blum Bonus”). All told, more long-term unemployed were reintegrated in the job market than in the previous year.

At the AMS management level changes are taking place, with Dr.Johannes Kopf, LL.M. being appointed as a new member of the Executive Board.  Moreover, the number of women in top level jobs was increased. Compared to the previous year, unemployment decreased markedly. This is due to the positive development in the economy but also to the constantly growing measures enacted by the AMS. The efficiency and effectiveness of the AMS staff are not only acknowledged by EU experts in this sector but also expressly appreciated by all members representing the five parties in the Austrian Parliament.

Unemployment continued to decline (by 16.925 or 7.1%). This success is all the more remarkable since the number of the total work force (employed and unemployed) also rose during this period (+46.200). The greatest success was achieved among women (gender mainstream), reaching a general all-time high of 3.3 million persons; this represents a plus of 63.100 persons employed as compared to the previous year. Vacancies registered also upped by 16.1%. Considering an international comparison (27 countries), Austria also ranges in the top group. Only the Netherlands, Denmark, Cyprus and Lithuania had a lower rate of unemployment. For some time now the AMS has been in charge of an international Benchmark Project, comparing the results of 13 Public Employment Services in Europe, with Austria also taking top marks.