New EMN study on the topic of unlawful employment of third-country nationals in Austria

Migration in the context of irregularity is a highly debated topic in the EU. A new study by the European Migration Network (EMN) Austria addresses this important topic from the perspective of unlawful employment of third-country nationals in Austria in the period 2017-2023. The study provides an overview of risk areas and current trends. It also analyses measures to prevent and identify unlawful employment.

The analysis shows that unlawful employment of third-country nationals in Austria poses a complex challenge. It is closely related to issues, such as labour market access, economic developments, the progress of digital technologies and labour exploitation.

In terms of the scope and groups affected, the study shows that whereas previously unlawful employment involved mostly EU citizens and only to a marginal extent third country nationals, this trend has now reversed. Despite the same framework conditions and the same scope of control activities, the number and proportion of identified cases of suspected unlawful employment of third-country nationals has risen notably since 2017.

The study also highlights key challenges, such as the cross-border enforcement of penalties for employers, or the assertion of rights by affected migrants: Regarding the latter, Austrian law provides that foreign nationals have the same rights towards their employers, regardless of whether or not they have a valid employment contract. Moreover, unlawfully employed third-country nationals have access to the same scope of support services from the Chamber of Labour and have the same mechanisms to lodge complaints as Austrian workers, regardless of whether they are staying in Austria regularly or irregularly. As the study shows, however, one key challenge is that even if those in precarious and/or unlawful employment know their rights, they tend not to assert them.  In this context it is relevant, that whilst a foreign employee cannot be penalized for unlawful employment, as it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure the employment is lawful, there may be consequences under aliens’ law.

Low barrier access to information, such as integrating information on rights into language courses for migrants, in turn is seen as an effective practice.

The study is available in German and English and can be accessed here.

The EMN (European Migration Network) Austria is financed by the European Union and the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior.

Funded by the EU  MoI AT logo

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