What are the major societal trends?
The collapse of the Eastern Bloc in 1989/1990 led to the fall of the Iron Curtain, which had before hampered the development of Austria, particularly of the eastern part of the country.
Austria soon became one of the largest investors in the economies of the transition countries and Eastern Europe. Some of the most important factors influencing social development since 1980 have been the collapse and rebuilding of the country's own heavy industry, the favourable economic development owing to the opening up of the Eastern borders since the 1990s, the country's accession to the EU in 1995, the accessions of 2004 and 2007, and finally the deep economic and financial crisis.
Nevertheless, during the same period there have also been huge changes in demography, which has made Austria a country influenced by the issues of immigration, migration and EU-internal migration and pose future challenges to the safeguarding of the pension and social systems and public budgets from national to communal levels.
Simultaneously, trends in tourism have made a considerable contribution to stabilising rural areas, particularly in the western part of the country. Tourist areas with high overnight stay rates are located primarily there. Winter tourism has increased in recent decades and in 2005 it reached summer overnight-stay rates for the first time (UMWELTBUNDESAMT [Federal Environmental Agency] 2010A). This increase does, however, imply a significant environmental burden.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from traffic rose by 61% between 1990 and 2008. A major cause of this, in addition to the increase in domestic mileage covered, was the export of fuel. The low price of Austrian fuel in European terms has led to fuel exports which has in turn reinforced structural fuel exports. In 2008, around 25% of GHG emissions by the transport sector were attributable to fuel exports (UMWELTBUNDESAMT [Federal Environmental Agency] 2010A).