About a Red City and a Pink Building: Communal Housing in Vienna

Ed.: this is part one of a sociological photo journal in which authors Carina Altreiter and Franz Astleithner will give us a visual introduction to Austrian places of historical and sociological importance. The first station on our photographic journey is the Karl-Marx-Hof in Vienna

Karl Marx Hof Aerial View
Karl-Marx Hof, aerial view, 1930 (© Bildarchiv Austria, ÖNB)

The Karl-Marx-Hof (Karl Marx Court) is one of the biggest and best-known communal housing complexes (“Gemeindebauten”) in Austria. It was one of the flagships of the communal housing projects of the so called ‘Red Vienna’. This nickname – Red Vienna – refers to the period between 1918 and 1934 when Vienna was governed by the Social-Democrats for the first time. During this period, a far reaching and unique political program – comprising social- and health politics, education and public housing – was implemented to improve the living conditions for people in Austria’s capital. The financial resources for this tremendous societal project stemmed at least partially from new taxes that were collected in addition to federal taxes and targeted the upper class for activities (e.g. visiting night clubs or brothels) and objects (e.g. luxury villas, private cars or racehorses) considered as luxury. These taxes were named ‘Breitner Steuer’ after Hugo Breitner (1873-1946), financial officer of Vienna from 1919 to 1932. Furthermore, a progressive tax, devoted especially to the construction of communal housing (Wohnbausteuer), was introduced.

The Karl-Max-Hof was designed by Karl Ehn (1884-1956) and built between 1926 and 1930. Initially 1382 apartments should offer a living space for about 5.000 residents, forming a small city within the city.

Karl Marx Hof Facade
Karl-Marx-Hof, facade of the middle part, 1927-1930 (© Bildarchiv Austria, ÖNB)

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Austria – A Leisure Society? On The Complexity of Working Time Statistics

Compared with other countries Austria is considered to have an above-average amount of annual paid leave (25 days) and many public holidays (approx. 13 days). Christoph Neumayer of the Federation of Austrian Industries (Industriellenvereinigung) even called Austria a “leisure society”. Contrary to this, trade unions point to long working hours and the high amount of overtime in Austria which amounted to 270 million hours in 2013. So do we work too much or maybe even too little?

In the debate on working time, statistics play an important role. Particularly when it comes to international comparison various statistics come into play and working time can mean quite different things, depending on the operationalization. For example “agreed working hours” are the collectively agreed working hours, “actual weekly hours” are the hours worked in a reference week including overtime but also absence and “usual weekly hours” refer to the hours worked in a normal working week over a longer period of time including overtime.

What can we learn from these statistics and is Austria indeed some kind of “leisure society”? Let´s have a look at the figures. With collectively “agreed working hours” of 38.8 hours per week Austria is slightly above the European average of 38.1 hours. Even when deducting annual paid leave and holidays, Austrian full-time employees still work above-average hours in the European Union, projected to the year as a whole (AT: 33.3 and EU-28: 32.9). However, overtime is not included here. When referring to “actual working hours” per week we see that Austria ranks in the upper middle field of working hours in the European Union (AT: 40.1 and EU-28: 39.6). Starting from “usual working hours” we get a very different picture. Here, Austria climbs to the top of the European ‘ranking’ with 41.8 hours per week, even when annual paid leave and holidays are taken into account.

Table showing the working hours in European countries Continue reading