Legislative and policy framework
The principle of equality is embedded in Article 7 of the Federal Constitutional Law (Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz, B-VG), which states that ‘[…/A] all nationals are equal before the law’ and excludes any privilege based on sex (among other characteristics). In 1998, an amendment to this Article provided the constitutional basis for the implementation of gender mainstreaming by introducing the responsibility for authorities at all levels (federation, Länder and municipalities) to implement measures to achieve equality between women and men. Additionally, according to Article 13(3) and Article 51(8) of the Federal Constitutional Act (Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz, B-VG), federal, state, and local governments must strive for the actual equality of women and men in financial management, which translates into a federal commitment to gender budgeting.
The Equal Treatment Act of 1979 is the primary national-level law, other than the constitution, relating to the promotion of gender equality, although it only covers discrimination at work. Part 1 of the law focuses exclusively on the equal treatment of women and men in the working sphere. Part II covers other grounds of discrimination, including sex, ethnic origin, religion or belief, age or sexual orientation in the working sphere.
The earliest government measure on gender mainstreaming dates back to a cabinet decision in 2000 that established the Inter-Ministerial Working Group for Gender Mainstreaming (IMAG GMB) to implement gender mainstreaming at the federal level, as a horizontal strategy involving all ministries. In 2011, another cabinet decision established gender mainstreaming criteria for all ministries and departments, as well as in legislation, funding programmes and public procurement.
There is no overall national action plan or strategy dedicated to gender equality. However, the interministerial working group on gender mainstreaming/budgeting published a report in 2020 on progress of the implementation of gender mainstreaming to mark the 20-year anniversary of the start of gender mainstreaming efforts.
Austria has several other policies to promote gender equality within a range of sectors.
Governmental equality bodies
The Division III: Women’s Affairs and Equality (“Sektion III: Frauen und Gleichstellung”) is the governmental body responsible for gender equality. Founded in 1997, it now resides within the Federal Chancellery as a division. Today, the Division for Women’s Affairs and Equality comprises seven departments. Its central task is to share information and raise public awareness of women’s issues and equality issues. For instance, the Division for Women’s Affairs and Equality publishes a triannual newsletter and other annual reports, for example, on gender equality in political leadership roles. This includes investigation into and analysis of fundamental research and statistical data, as well as the realisation of gender-specific projects, representation in national and international bodies, and the provision of information and comments on legislation. It also promotes the so-called ‘Women’s Projects,’ with part of the division’s budget used to support about 250 projects each year, chiefly providing counselling and support services to women. Other key topical areas are gender equality in the professional sphere and the prevention of violence against women. The Division for Women’s Affairs and Equality monitors and reports on issues, such as the elimination of discrimination against women and equal treatment, and reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. These reports are regularly published to provide information on the status of gender equality to parliament and citizens.
The Division for Women’s Affairs and Equality is responsible for the management of the Inter-Ministerial Working Group on Gender Mainstreaming/Budgeting (IMAG GMB), which was set up in 2000 and is based on a resolution of the Council of Ministers. The IMAG GMB aims to create a basis for the implementation of the gender mainstreaming strategy at the federal level, in compliance with Austria’s international obligations.
The Division for Women’s Affairs and Equality Functions
- To support and monitor the implementation process of gender mainstreaming in all departments and at all political levels
- To exchange information and best practice initiatives in the various departments, as well as on domestic and foreign best practice examples
- To develop criteria for the implementation of the gender mainstreaming strategy
- To monitor and evaluate ongoing projects, measures, and the application of gender mainstreaming objectives
Members are termed ‘GM agents’ (GM Beauftragte) and are appointed within the ministries and supreme organs (Constitutional Court, Supreme Administrative Court, Court of Auditors, Ombudsperson Board and Parliamentary Directorate). As part of the inter-ministerial coordination process, the gender/oriented outcome goals are discussed annually during the planning phase of the IMAG-GMB.
The Division for Women’s Affairs and Equality is regularly consulted by departments and ministries in relation to the gender impact of new or existing policies, laws, or programmes in fields other than gender equality, which leads to relevant adjustments in 25-50 % of cases.
Within the Division for Women’s Affairs and Equality, the Commission on Equal Treatment and the Federal Equal Treatment Commission deal with all questions of a general or individual nature that involve discrimination in employment or other areas of life, based on sex, ethnic origin, religion or belief, age or sexual orientation. The Equal Treatment Commission was set up to scrutinise matters relating to discrimination under the Equal Treatment Act and is designed to support labour, social and civil courts.
As of December 2021, the personnel resources of the Division for Women’s Affairs and Equality consisted of 50 employees and 7 administrative trainees. Furthermore, within the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport, two employees devote up to 25 % of their time to gender equality issues.
A second governmental body for the promotion of gender equality is the Department III/C/9 within the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport on Strategic performance management and administrative innovation (“Sektion III/C9 Strategisches Performancemanagement und Verwaltungsinnovation”). Within the scope of the department is the coordination of cross-departmental strategies in the context of ‘impact orientation,’ with particular regard to coordination in the area of equality of women and men. Since 1 January 2013, and as a part of Austria’s outcome-oriented budget management, all federal ministries and the highest national bodies (Parliament, Constitutional Court etc.) are obliged to define a maximum of five outcome objectives for the annual budget (Annual Federal Budget Statement). One of these objectives must be related to gender equality. Furthermore, specific measures for achieving the objective related to gender equality and appropriate indicators to evaluate the results must be defined. Progress is reported annually to the parliament. The Ministry for Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport is responsible for monitoring, supporting, and developing the methods, processes and results of the gender equality objectives and activities. Part of this coordination includes the involvement of NGOs. There are 90 staff members employed to support this aspect of the ministry’s work.
Independent equality body
The Ombudsperson for Equal Treatment (Gleichbehandlungsanwaltschaft) is the independent equality body in Austria. It is the main point of contact for all persons who claim to have been discriminated against in employment and occupation on the grounds of sex, ethnic origin, religion, or belief, age, or sexual orientation. It was set up under Council Directive 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation and took effect on 1 July 2004. The Ombudsperson for Equal Treatment is sometimes contacted by ministries or entities to discuss its input on new or existing policies, laws, or programmes. Policymakers are not bound to take the Ombudsperson's feedback on board and consultations are considered to lead to adjustments in 25-50 % of cases.
The Ombudsperson for Equal Treatment (Gleichbehandlungsanwaltschaft) Functions
- Conducting research on gender equality issues
- Publishing and disseminating gender equality-related information and conducting trainings
- Providing legal support for victims of discrimination on the ground of sex or gender
- Monitoring progress in achieving gender equality
The Ombudsperson for Equal Treatment consists of 25 employees who, according to the 2018/2019 data, spend approximately 75 % of their time on requests related to gender equality as around two thirds of requests to the Ombudsperson relate to sex-based discrimination.
The Equal Treatment Committee (Gleichbehandlungsausschuss) is the parliamentary body in charge of gender equality and women’s policy. The Equal Treatment Committee deals with all bills, motions and reports relating to the equal treatment of women and men and the equal treatment of persons who are discriminated against based on ethnicity, age, religion or belief, or sexual orientation. This includes combating gender disadvantages and discrimination as well as gender equality in all policy areas. The principle of the parliamentary procedure is that a decision on an item in the plenum of the National Council is preceded by a preliminary discussion in a committee. This is to ensure that expert Members of Parliament can discuss issues in small groups, perhaps alongside external consultants. The final decision is however reserved for the plenum of the National Council.
Austria consists of nine federal states, which have an important role in implementing gender equality and women’s policy. In the Austrian Federal Constitution, the federation, Länder (federal states) and municipalities all commit to the equal status of women and men as a goal. Although the national obligation is the same for all federal states, implementation depends on political commitment, funding and the priority given to gender equality and women’s policy by the various federal governments and administrations. At the Länder level (federal states), resolutions on the implementation of gender mainstreaming were passed by the provincial parliaments, the government, and numerous municipalities.
Methods and tools
Gender impact assessment and gender budgeting
Gender budgeting is well developed in Austria. It has been enshrined in the Constitution since 2009. Additionally, ex-ante impact assessments of laws, directives and major programmes proposed at the federal level must also explicitly consider the potential effects on gender equality in practice concerning the sub-dimensions of the ‘impact orientation’ described in section 1.1. The legal obligation to undertake an ex-ante gender impact assessment is based on the Ordinance of the Federal Chancellor on Principles of Impact-oriented Impact Assessment for Regulatory and Other Projects.
Training and awareness
Another method to implement gender mainstreaming is training. Although there is training provided in the individual ministries, there is no legal obligation for specific training and/or awareness-raising activities, and it is not mandatory. However, the management academy (Verwaltungsakademie Bordesholm) offers specific courses to raise gender competence at the federal level. Training courses may aim to foster and improve knowledge of the legal framework to facilitate the implementation of the relevant provisions, they may train executives to support equal treatment of women and men as employees, or train female employees to better communicate their aims and preferences with a view to career progression. These courses are not obligatory, however.
Further, the Federal Chancellery published guidelines to raise awareness of the importance of gender-sensitive language among ministries and other governmental bodies, as well as a document outlining examples of gender-equitable language. 
Statistics Austria, the National Statistical Institute, is the most important agency for sex-disaggregated data in Austria. There is an operational unit in charge of producing sex-disaggregated statistics (among other tasks). The mandate of the unit includes the collection, compilation, communication, and publication of gender-relevant data and analyses. There is no legal obligation for the national statistical office to collect and/or disseminate data disaggregated by sex.
Statistics Austria presents a compilation of data and facts about the situation of women and men in the country on their website. The aim is to use selected statistics to provide a brief overview of the economic and social situation of women and men in different areas of life. Gender statistics on the topics of demography, education, the labour market, reconciliation of work and family, income, pensions and the poverty or exclusion risk, at both national and regional levels, are available on the website of Statistics Austria. The website includes descriptions and visualisations of the data, as well as links to download the data.
Key publications are however available through the Federal Chancellery which compiles several publications and gender-specific data. The main publication is the report on the ‘Gender Index’ which has been published each year since 2011, with the most recent edition, published in 2020, being renamed ‘Women and men in Austria – Figures, Data and Facts 2020’.
Indicators for monitoring progress on institutional mechanisms for the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming in the EU, under Area H of the Beijing Platform for Action
This section analyses the scores achieved by Austria for data collection in 2021 for the four officially agreed-on indicators on institutional mechanisms for the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming to monitor progress on Area H of the Beijing Platform for Action. It also analyses scores under an expanded measurement framework which includes the role of independent gender equality bodies and assesses the effectiveness of efforts to disseminate statistics disaggregated by sex. Institutional mechanisms refer to national machineries that implement, monitor, evaluate, and mobilise support for policies that promote gender equality and gender mainstreaming. All indicators and sub-indicators are available on the Gender Statistics Database here, including metadata about how the scores are calculated.
For Indicator H1 on the status of commitment to the promotion of gender equality and considering only the governmental commitment in line with the officially adopted indicator, Austria scored 6.0 out of a possible 12, below the EU average of 7.2. It scored particularly low on sub-indicator H1e on accountability of the governmental gender equality body where it lost 4.0 points out of a maximum possible score of 5 because there is no national action plan on gender equality.
Under an expanded measurement framework which includes sub-indicator H1f on the mandate and functions of the independent gender equality body, Austria scored an additional 1.5 points, out of a possible 3. It lost 1.0 point because the mandate of the independent gender equality body is gender equality combined with other non-discrimination areas, rather than exclusively focused on gender equality. The overall score for the expanded H1 indicator was 7.5 out of a possible 15, below the EU average of 9.1.
Indicator H2 analyses the personnel resources of the national gender equality bodies. For sub-indicator H2a, regarding the governmental body, Austria scored 1.5 out of a possible 2 which was just above the EU average of 1.0, because there were 25-100 employees working on gender equality in the governmental body. For sub-indicator H2b, regarding the independent gender equality body, Austria’s score was 1.0, against a slightly lower EU average of 0.8, because there were 10-25 employees working on gender equality in the independent body. For both sub-indicators, the maximum 2 points was awarded where the number of employees was over 100 as an indication of the body being sufficiently resourced.
Indicator H3 relates to gender mainstreaming. Here, Austria scored 7.5 out of a possible 12, which was above the EU average of 5.1. It lost 2.0 points under H3b on governmental gender mainstreaming structures and consultation processes because the governmental gender equality body is only consulted by departments or ministries on the gender impact of new or existing policies in some cases, and those consultations, similarly, only lead to relevant adjustments in some cases.
Under an expanded measurement framework, which includes sub-indicator H3d on consultation of the independent equality body, Austria scored 7.5 points out of a maximum of 14, which was also higher than the EU average which increased to 5.4. Under this sub-indicator Austria lost both available points because, like the governmental body, the independent gender equality body is only consulted by departments or ministries on the gender impact of new or existing policies in some cases, and those consultations, similarly, only lead to relevant adjustments in some cases.
For Indicator H4 on the production and dissemination of statistics disaggregated by sex, Austria scored 4.0 points, out of a possible 6, which was just above the EU average of 3.4. It lost all 2 points available for sub-indicator H4a on government commitment to the production of statistics disaggregated by sex because Austria does not have an obligation in place regarding the production of statistics disaggregated by sex. However, they scored all 4 available points, for sub-indicator H4c on the effectiveness of efforts to disseminate statistics disaggregated by sex through the use of a specific section on the National Statistics Office’s website.
 Federal Constitutional Act (Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz) (1945) https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=Bundesnormen&Gesetzesnummer=10000138
 IMAG GMB (n.d.) Implementation in Augusta https://www.imag-gmb.at/gender-mainstreaming/implementierung-in-oesterreich.html
 Bundesministeriengesetz (1986), amended by Act Bundesministeriengesetz-Novelle (2017), BGBl. I Nr. 164/2017 https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/eli/bgbl/I/2017/164
 Bundeskanzleramt (2022). Newsletter on Women’s Issues https://www.bundeskanzleramt.gv.at/agenda/frauen-und-gleichstellung/newsletter/newsletter-ausgaben.html
 Bundeskanzleramt (2020). Women as decision-makers in politics https://www.bundeskanzleramt.gv.at/agenda/frauen-und-gleichstellung/gleichstellung-am-arbeitsmarkt/frauen-in-fuehrungs-und-entscheidungspositionen/frauen-als-entscheidungstragende-in-der-politik.html
 IMAG GMB (n.d.) Inter-Ministerial Working Group gender mainstreaming/budgeting https://www.imag-gmb.at/arbeitsgruppe/interministerielle-arbeitsgruppe.html
 Commission on Equal Treatment (n.d.) https://www.bundeskanzleramt.gv.at/agenda/frauen-und-gleichstellung/gleichbehandlungskommissionen/gleichbehandlungskommission.html#:~:text=Gleichbehandlungskommission%20(GBK)%20Die%20Gleichbehandlungskommission%20ist%20den%20Arbeits-%20und,den%20Zivilgerichten%20als%20besondere%20Einrichtung%20zur%20Seite%20gestellt
 Federal Equal Treatment Commission (n.d.) https://www.bundeskanzleramt.gv.at/agenda/frauen-und-gleichstellung/gleichbehandlungskommissionen/bundes-gleichbehandlungskommission.html
 Bundesministerium, Kunst, Kultur, offentlicher Dienst und Sport (2020). Bericht zur Wirkungsorientierung 2020 https://www.oeffentlicherdienst.gv.at/wirkungsorientierte_verwaltung/dokumente/berichte_wo1.html
 Federal Cahncellery of Austria (n.d.) Equal Treatment Committee https://www.bundeskanzleramt.gv.at/en/agenda/women-and-equality/equal-treatment-commissions/equal-treatment-commission.html
 Ordinance of the Federal Chancellor on Principles of Impact-Oriented Impact Assessment for Regulatory Projects and Other Projects (EFC Policy Ordinance – WFA-GV) (2012) StF: Federal Law Gazette II No. 489/2012. https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=Bundesnormen&Gesetzesnummer=20008150
 Bundeskanzleramt (n.d.) Linguist equal treatment: Information and guidelines on equal linguistic treatment https://www.bundeskanzleramt.gv.at/agenda/frauen-und-gleichstellung/gleichbehandlung/sprachliche-gleichbehandlung.html
 Statistics Austria (n.d.) Gender Statistics. https://www.statistik.at/en/statistics/population-and-society/gender-statistics
 Gender Data: Women and Men in Austria (n.d.) Reports on the Gender Index https://www.bundeskanzleramt.gv.at/agenda/frauen-und-gleichstellung/gender-mainstreaming-und-budgeting/gender-daten-index.html The most recent report is entitled ‘Women and Men in Austria – Figures, Dates, Facts 2020 (Frauen und Männer in Österreich – Zahlen, Daten, Fakten 2020)