Family benefits: ECJ rules against Austria

In 2018 Vienna decided to reduce family benefits for all workers whose children live abroad, lowering them to the level of the country of origin. Now the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that this 'indexation' mechanism breaches EU law, leaving Austria facing hefty back payments. Observers see this as punishment for the populism that prevailed when Sebastian Kurz was the country's chanellor.

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Die Presse (AT) /

After-pains of the Kurz government

The press recalls how the centre-right coalition wanted to punish Eastern European mothers who provide important services to Austria's society as caregivers:

“The sole aim of then federal chancellor Sebastian Kurz's ÖVP-FPÖ government in introducing indexation on 1 January 2019 was to cut the social benefits these EU citizens were claiming for their children. The government programme for the years 2017 to 2022 states that this was to be done 'in accordance with European law'. Nothing came of it: neither of the discrimination of EU citizens in conformity with European law nor of the five years of government.”

Kurier (AT) /

Much needed migrant workers driven away

The ill-treatment of foreign workers has also backfired economically, Kurier puts in:

“Now with the perspective of a few years we can also see that the lousy treatment migrant workers received has also proved detrimental for Austria. The labour shortage in this country is becoming more and more critical, especially as regards the less attractive jobs in which the workers in question are and were employed. During the pandemic, many of them returned to their countries of origin - and stayed there. So they no longer have to live hundreds of kilometres away from their children to slave away for a living and still be treated as second-class citizens.”