Will the Hospitality Industry in Austria Soon Run Out of Skilled Workers?

Article written by CARMEN WEISSENSTEIN

The tourism industry has been complaining about an acute shortage of staff for the last year. According to hoteliers the main reason for this situation lies in the COVID-19 pandemic, which due to several lockdowns affected the hospitality business in a great manner. Established staff left the industry during the pandemic and the next generation is a long time coming. Numerous chefs, waiters or bartenders left their profession during the lockdown and do not seem to be coming back. Many have changed professions in search of more stability, and workers from abroad returned to their home countries and possibly found work there. Nonetheless, the pandemic solely cannot be blamed for the plaintive situation. The problems were there before, and the pandemic might have just been the final trigger for the crisis in the hospitality industry. It can be argued that the pandemic has exposed problems in the local gastronomy and hotel industry which have been present for a longer period of time.

Firstly, the main reason for the shortage of staff seems to originate from the structural problems such as precarious employment and poor treatment of employees. The problem, which seems to be bothering most of hospitality personnel are the gruelling work schedules that leave them with very little to no time for personal matters. It can be said that people do not want to work in the evenings or on weekends anymore. In other words, a good work-life balance seems extremely important in the contemporary society. Additionally, the payment seems to be inadequate for the big majority. All in all, wishes and needs of the hospitality staff for a shortened working week with fewer working hours and a higher income have been getting louder and louder in the past few years.

Secondly, it can be argued that the hospitality sector has set the bar too high for its applicants. Although, there might have been a few top-qualified sommeliers, restaurant managers and chefs who would rather pursue their career in Switzerland, Asia, the Emirates or on cruise ships, there always seemed to be enough staff to keep things running in the domestic department. People with no or very little experience in the hospitality sector or career changers could always rely on finding employment in the hospitality business and in a way formed the pillars of the hospitality sector. Nonetheless, things have changed. Employers are no longer satisfied with the former and are on the lookout for experienced personnel only.

Thirdly, there are countless competent applicants from abroad who would like to broaden their horizons and gain new experiences. Even though these candidates bring a large spectrum of knowledge and experience with them, they are unfit to work in Austria due to the lack of knowledge of German or the lack of a work permit. Since English is acknowledged as an international business language, there is nothing to be said against hiring English-speaking staff, who will certainly learn German by working and living here. Regarding the working permits for workers from Non-EU and Third World countries, the issue should be addressed by the Austrian government at once.

To sum up, it can be established that the views of the local hospitality industry must change, otherwise the hospitality sector will soon run out of (skilled) personnel. The hospitality industry must finally recognize that long working hours coupled with low salaries and an inadequate work-life balance is not the right way to appeal to professionals of the hospitality sector. This is the only way to permanently eliminate the shortage of workers in the hospitality business.


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