In the early 1990s, the number of Austrians living and
working abroad--approximately 430,000--was somewhat lower than
the number of foreigners in Austria. Since the 1950s, West
Germany had been the most frequent destination, and in 1990 about
181,000 Austrians resided there, attracted by prospects of better
wages and greater career opportunities. In the same year, 29,000
Austrians lived in Switzerland and 10,000 in Italy. The great
majority of the remainder lived outside Europe, predominantly in
North America and South America. In contrast to foreign workers
in Austria, Austrians working abroad frequently were highly
skilled and well educated.
The ethnic or national backgrounds of many Austrians reflect
the multinational heritage of the Habsburg Empire. During the
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a substantial
amount of migration occurred within Austria-Hungary to the
German-speaking provinces of Austria. Austria's western and
Alpine provinces were affected much less by migration because
their low levels of industrialization and urbanization offered
few employment opportunities. Before 1918 Czech and Jewish
migration influenced the composition of Austria's population to
the greatest extent, although all the empire's peoples
participated in it. The migrants to Austria from other parts of
the empire were usually assimilated into German-speaking Austrian
society in a generation or two. However, traditional religious
prejudices and racist doctrines of the late nineteenth century
prevented a full acceptance of Jewish migrants.
The post-World War I peace conferences that established the
borders of the Republic of Austria created a relatively
homogeneous German-speaking state (95.3 percent of the populace)
but left German-speaking minorities in Czechoslovakia and Italy.
Although the 3 million German-speaking inhabitants of the
borderlands of Bohemia and Moravia had been subjects of the
Habsburgs for centuries, their national orientation was German,
and it would be not be accurate to see them as an Austrian
minority outside of Austria.
The establishment of the Austrian-Italian frontier at the
Brenner Pass involved the dismemberment of the province of Tirol
and created an Austrian--or, more specifically, German-speaking
Tirolean--minority of 200,000 persons in South Tirol that was
incorporated into the Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige.
While Italy was controlled by the Fascists (1922-45), Germanspeaking South Tiroleans were subjected to Italinization
campaigns, and during World War II they were given the "option"
of Italinization or emigration as "settlers" to areas occupied by
After World War II, a popular movement in South Tirol
agitated for the region to be incorporated into Austria, but the
Allies did not support these aspirations. An agreement in 1947
between Italy and Austria provided South Tiroleans with a special
autonomous status. The realization of this status became a
continuing point of contention that sometimes erupted into
violence between South Tiroleans and Italians and caused friction
between Vienna and Rome. However, in 1992 political
representatives of the German-speaking South Tiroleans and the
Italian authorities in Rome succeeded in drafting legislation
that is likely to satisfy South Tirolean claims for autonomy as
an Italian region
(see Regional Issues
, ch. 4).
Data as of December 1993