U.S. English Foundation Research



General Information



Vienna 1,539,848 (1991 est.)


83,858 sq km (32,378 sq mi)

Form of government

Federal Republic

GDP per capita

Purchasing power parity–$23,400 (1999 est.)


8,139,299 (July 1999 est.)

Ethnic composition

German – 99.4%

Croatian – 0.3%

Slovene – 0.2%

Other – 0.1%

(Hungarians, Czech and Slovak, Roma and Sinti (defined as Gypsies), Jews and foreign workers)

Within Austria a distinction is made between “official ethnic groups” – Slovenes, Croats, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, and Roma/Sinti – who are legally defined and recognized as minorities, and other social groups such as Jews and foreign workers. These other groups do not have a special legal status as “Austrian ethnic groups” but are de facto minorities.

The Croat enclaves in Burgenland, Austria’s largest ethnic group were the result of the Habsburgs’ wars with the Ottoman Empire in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Slovenes of southern Carinthia, Austria’s second largest ethnic group, are the descendants of the ancient Slavic population that initially inhabited the southern slopes of the Alps and the Drau River Basin.

The Czechs and Slovaks who maintained their native languages descended mainly from migrants who left predominantly rural areas of southern Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They migrated to industrial centers such as Vienna, Graz, Linz, and Steyr, and in areas in northern Styria, in these urban and industrial settings, immigrants were soon assimilated. There were so many Czech migrants in Vienna that the imperial capital was said to be the “second largest Czech City” after Prague.

Jews have also lived in Austria for centuries, at times enduring hostility and repression. As of 1990, only a little more than 7,000 Jews were registered with the Jewish Orthodox Religious Community in Vienna.

Foreign workers represent the largest de facto minority in Austria, although they frequently are not perceived as such because they are “foreigners” and “guest workers”. Their cultural and linguistic characteristics set them apart from the indigenous population, however, and make them a distinct minority. Citizens from the former Yugoslavia, predominantly Serbs, accounted for approximately 50% of the foreign workers in Austria. Turks were the second largest group, making up approximately 20% of the foreign work force, followed by Germans at 5%. Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, and Romanians made up between 3.5 and 4.0% each.

Official Language(s)

GERMAN is the official language, according to the Constitution, Chapter I General Provisions:

SLOVENE is recognized as an additional official language in the Federal Province of Carinthia before certain federal, provincial and local authorities and in certain subject matters (Federal Government ordinance of May 31, 1990, Federal Law Gazette No. 307/1977)

CROATIAN is recognized as an additional official language in the federal province of Burgenlang before certain federal, provincial and local authorities and in certain subject matters (Federal Government ordinance of April 24, 1990, Federal Law Gazette No. 231/1990)

Minority Language(s)

Primarily Croatian, Slovene, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Turkish

Updated (November 2003)

According to the recently published results of the 2001 Census,

  • 95.5 percent of the Austrian population uses German as a sole language in everyday life
  • 1.1 percent of the Austrian population (82,500 people) declared that they use a language of the recognized ethnic minorities
  • 3.4 percent of the Austrians stated that they use other languages

Source: Minority-language Related Broadcasting and Legislation in the OSCE, Program in Comparative Media Law and Policy (PCMLP), Center for Socio-Legal Studies, Wolfson College, Oxford University & Institute for Information Law (IViR) (http://www.ivir.nl/index-english.html), Universiteit van Amsterdam (Study commissioned by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities), April 2003, edited by T. McGonagle (IViR), B. Davis Noll & M. Price (PCMLP), http://www.ivir.nl/publications/mcgonagle/Minority-language%20broadcasting.pdf