In 2010 there were 1.28 million people living in Austria who were born outside the country. That’s a significant 15.2% of the total population, on top of which 19% of the populace have one or more parents who were migrants. Not bad for a country once described by native writer Karl Kraus as “an isolation cell in which screaming is allowed”. So why exactly is Austria such a hot destination for immigrants and why are they so keen to stay?
Lets look at the dull economic data first: Austria is one of the richest countries in the world by per capita GDP and ranks in the top 20 of the Human Development Index which measures living standards. Unemployment is a lowly 6.7% and publicly funded health care is provided to all EU citizens.
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But Austria isn’t the only EU country to offer a high standard of living. What really sets it apart from other destinations in Europe is the outstanding variety of natural beauty on offer - from the snowy splendour of the Eastern Alps to the fertile plains of the Vienna basin; the tremendously rich history of excellence in the arts, science and culture - variously home to Sigmund Freud, Mozart, Liszt, Schubert, Beethoven, Billy Wilder and Michael Haneke; as well as the fact that Austria is located right in centre of the continent, making travel to other European destinations a cinch.
Austria’s major cities, Vienna and Graz, offer easy access to the ski slopes of the Alps, the shopping mecca of Milan and the beer halls of Munich. Not that you’d want to stray too often from cities where you can enjoy masterpieces of baroque architecture, world class opera, picturesque old towns, efficient public transport systems, and delicious Wiener Schnitzel.