Children supported by means-tested minimum income benefit

The means-tested minimum income benefit system (MIB) replaced income support in 2011 (the relevant agreement according to Art. 15a B-VG is under renegotiation by the government and provinces). MIB can only be claimed by persons who live permanently in Austria and cannot cover their basic needs (living costs, housing, healthcare) or who cannot do so sufficiently with their own resources or through other welfare benefits to which they are entitled. Persons in need not eligible for Austria’s public pension scheme or unemployment / health insurance benefits can apply to the MIB scheme of the provinces under the principle of secondary liability. These statistics are based on data reported to Statistics Austria by the provinces in table format.

The reports do not however always exactly correspond to the specifications of the above agreement. The figures are inflated as Styria and Vorarlberg also include an unknown number of unsupported children in their statistics. If we assume that Styria and Vorarlberg have the same number of unsupported children as Vienna (for which 32.3% can be calculated), approx. 4,700 children could be deducted for 2016 (5.6% of all children and 1.5% of all persons). To ensure consistency with the official statistics published, uncorrected figures are used below for reporting.

In 2016 a total of 307,533 persons were registered by the MIB statistics, including 83,818 children under the age of 18 (27.3%). At approx. 56% of persons overall and 49% of children, the majority of persons claiming MIB live in Vienna – some 21% of the city’s population. In the other eight provinces, an average of 5.5% persons overall received MIB (highest value Lower Austria at 9.9% and the lowest Burgenland at 1.3%), and 6.4% of children for each province. Apart from Vienna, only Carinthia’s share of children eligible for MIB was lower than the share of persons overall with MIB.
In 2016 not only benefits covering living costs and housing were funded by the MIB scheme for 22,046 children (26.3%), but also payments in the framework of sickness benefit (health insurance contributions and any other benefits – e.g. deductibles). This level was slightly below that for all recipients of MIB (30.3%).

The number of people claiming MIB can be expressed more clearly in shares: 3.5% of Austria’s population received means-tested minimum income benefit in 2016, while 5.5% of all minors were allocated MIB payments. At 12.9% Vienna had by far the highest number of persons under the age of 18 claiming such benefits – at 6.3% Vorarlberg was the only other province exceeding the national average. The figures for the other provinces were as follows: Styria and Salzburg (5.0% and 4.8%), Tyrol and Lower Austria (3.6% and 3.5%), Burgenland and Upper Austria (2.4% and 2.2%), and just 1.5% for Carinthia.

Regional differences are further influenced by the average claim period for means-tested minimum income benefit. In 2016 the longest period was 9 months in Vienna and Burgenland. The other provinces were below the overall average of 8.5 months, with periods ranging between 6.2 and 7.6 months (Vorarlberg and Upper Austria). If converted to years, the percentage of person/years of the population under the age of 18 years claiming MIB can then be reweighted. As these values are not published anywhere, the number of unsupported children (see above) should be simultaneously deducted here. At 9.8% Vienna far outstrips the national average of 3.7% in 2016. Salzburg assumes second place at 2.9%, followed by Lower Austria and Vorarlberg (2.2%), Styria (2.1%), Tyrol (1.9%) and Burgenland (1.8%). Upper Austria is second to last at 1.4%, while Carinthia has the lowest MIB requirement for children due to its short claim period of only 0.8%.

Development and structure

In 2016 the total number of supported persons increased by 23,159 (+8.1%) compared with the previous year, and the number of supported minors was up by 6,650 (+8.6%). Since introduction of the means-tested minimum income benefit system in 2011 claims have risen by 59.1%, and by 63.0% for children.

The population did not however grow as fast (in total up by 4.2% from 2011 to 2016, with the number of under 18s only increasing by 0.23%). This means that there has been a significant rise in the share of persons receiving MIB: it increased from 2.3% of the total number of persons living in Austria in 2011 to reach 3.5% in 2016 (+52.7%). Over the same period the share of children aged under 18 in the population of the same age rose from 3.4% to 5.5% (+62.7%).

The greatest increase in children receiving MIB was seen in Lower Austria, where this more than doubled since 2011 (up +129.4% up to 2016). The lowest increases were recorded for Upper Austria (+45.4%) and Salzburg (+39.6%), while in all other provinces the number of supported children rose by between 57% to 68%.

Persons claiming MIB who live in the same household are consolidated into ‚communities of dependence‘. A community of dependence consists either of one person (who is supported as a single person) or several persons who are supported jointly. Where several persons in one household claim MIB benefits independently due to an absence of reciprocal maintenance obligations, they are counted as more than one community of dependence. Family constellations are divided into one of five categories: Single persons, Couples without children, Single parents, Couples with children and Other.
In 2016 on average throughout Austria 1.69 persons were living in a community of dependence. Two categories are relevant in the case of supported children: in 2016 communities of dependence with single parents consisted on average of 2.17 persons, while the category Couples with children was made up of 4.01 persons.
These figures cannot be used to directly determine the exact number of children in each community as, for example, adult „children“ (persons of age eligible for family allowance) living in the same household are counted as Women/Men. It can nevertheless be assumed that the average number of children was just above one child for the category Single parents and around two for Couples with children.
Communities of dependence which came under „Other“ (e.g. a couple with a child of age eligible for family allowance living in the same household) consisted on average of 2.40 persons in 2016.

The family constellation (Single parent, Couples) is also taken into account when counting the number of supported children and has brought about a slight shift since the introduction of MIB (shares without including the province Salzburg as the breakdown of children by family constellation resulted in persons being counted more than once). In 2011 most children (55.1%) already lived with couples, with this level rising further in 2016 (58.7%). At the same time, the number of supported children living with single parents fell from 41.0% to 36.8%. The remaining persons were allocated to the category „Other“.

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