Social insurance in Austria
If you live and/or work in Austria and your income exceeds certain thresholds, you are subject to compulsory insurance under the Austrian social security system. In addition, students and others are granted special insurance conditions, family members are eligible for dependent coverage and low income earners may opt for voluntary self-insurance.
Provided that certain criteria are met, those not covered by the Austrian social insurance system are eligible for social benefits under the means-tested minimum income programme.
Means-tested minimum income.
Click here for detailed information (German only)
As a rule, the competent social insurance institution is determined by the type of activities performed. That means that you are not free to choose your insurance provider, but your insurance contract depends on the type of occupational activities you are engaged in.
A distinction is made between compulsory insurance under the General Social Insurance Act (Allgemeines Sozialversicherungsgesetz, ASVG) for employees and compulsory insurance under the Social Insurance Act for Commerce and Trade (Gewerbliches Versicherungsgesetz, GSVG) for self-employed persons.
In the course of a fundamental revision of the relevant legislation in 2000, those falling under the regulations for new self-employed persons (Neue Selbstständige) were integrated into the system of comprehensive compulsory insurance.
Due to the way the Austrian social insurance system is organised, in many cases compulsory insurance has to be taken out with different insurance institutions at the same time, resulting in multiple insurance (Mehrfachversicherung).
- If you are engaged in self-employed activities under the Social Insurance Act for Commerce andTrade (GSVG), the competent insurance institution is the Social Insurance Institution for Commerce and Trade (SVA). Since 2000, the SVA has not only been the insurance institution for traders with a trade license but also for new self-employed persons and certain types of freelancers. Many artists fall under the category of new self-employed persons.
If you are employed with a public entity at the federal or land level, the competent social insurance company is the Austrian Insurance Institution for Public-Sector Employees (Versicherung öffentlich Bediensteter, BVA).
- If you are employed with a regional public entity or a private-law employer, you are insured with the respective regional health insurance funds. They are organised as autonomous entities in the individual laender, meaning that you might be a compulsory member of several regional health insurance funds in the respective laender if you work in more than one Austrian land. Click here for an overview.
Certain liberal professions, such as doctors, architects, lawyers, etc. are governed by special agreements under chamber law (Kammerrecht) and by a separate law.
Austria also has a special insurance institution for farmers, the Austrian Farmers' Social Security Authority (Versicherungsanstalt für Bauern, SVB).
In Austria, there are also a number of separate insurance systems for individual businesses such as insurance companies, the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) and the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF).
In principle, the systems of compulsory insurance under the Social Insurance Act for Commerce and Trade (GSVG) and under the General Social Insurance Act (ASVG) are compatible. In practice, however, it is not always easy to reconcile the two systems. Problems may arise in particular when it comes to unemployment benefits as a consequence of subsequent charges, reassessments or reclamation of payments, etc. We recommend that you obtain individual advice in such cases.
In the respective year, the person concerned is not entitled to unemployment benefits while she is also compulsorily insured with the SVA – if certain criteria are met, an exemption may apply under the system of suspension of self-employed activities.
Employees with a salary below the marginal earnings threshold are subject to compulsory accident insurance, but not to compulsory health and pension insurance. For that reason, marginally employed persons are recommended to opt for voluntary self-insurance, which is possible both with the respective regional health insurance fund (Gebietskrankenkasse, GKK) and with the Social Insurance Institution for Commerce and Trade (Versicherungsanstalt für selbstständig Versicherte, SVA).
Example of multiple insurance:
A theatre professional is involved in independent theatre projects. For a project in Vienna, she is employed for six weeks and, during that time period, she is subject to compulsory insurance with the Vienna Regional Insurance Fund (WGKK). At the same time, she teaches three voice coaching courses at the University for Music and Performing Arts (Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst) during the summer semester. As the university is a federal institution, the artist is registered with the Austrian Insurance Institution for Public-Sector Employees (BVA). In addition, she regularly works as a voice-over artist for the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF), where she is employed for the respective days only. Depending on her contracts for these jobs, the competent insurance institution is either BVA or WGKK. In addition, the artist receives income from self-employed artistic work, namely a fee for directing a piece for an independent theatre. If this self-employed income exceeds the annual insurance threshold of EUR 5,108.40 (2017), for instance because she also receives a fee for a TV commercial production, she will also be subject to compulsory insurance with the Social Insurance Institution for Commerce and Trade (SVA). That means that the artist is insured with three different insurance institutions at the same time.