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Austria desperately seeking IT persons

Vienna: Following in Germany's footsteps, Austrian officials have begun to consider bringing in thousands of foreign information technology (IT) experts, prompting protests from the vocal far-right in the country.

Brigitte Ederer, the Social Democratic financial councillor of the Vienna City Council, has called for import of IT specialists from non-European Union (EU) countries to offset lack of computer experts in Austria. India, again, is seen as a major source country.

Hilmar Kabas, head of the Viennese wing of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party, known by its acronym FPOe, said he "totally rejects" the proposed "mass import" of what he called cheap labour from Mumbai and Calcutta. He was of the opinion that the government should launch an educational programme to meet the demands of the IT sector growth.

The FPOe is the minor partner in the government of Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel of the conservative Austrian People's Party. Adding a twist, Kabas said developing countries should not be robbed of their future through the "sucking out" of their IT specialists.

Brigitte Ederer's call for hiring of foreign professionals has been supported by officials of the Austrian Federal Chamber of Economy and the Industrialists' Union.

Recent studies by Austrian and international institutions reveal that the country is lagging behind in the technological field. Lorenz Fritz, head of the Industrialists' Union, said the experts should be hired from East European countries instead of China or India.

The Federal Chamber of Economy supports this view. "In the short-term, it will be necessary to relax visa and immigration regulations for IT experts from Austria's eastern neighbours," said Rudolf Lichtmanegger, a senior official at the chamber.

Though the discussion forums of leading newspapers and the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation are running hot on the issue with many opposing the move to import IT specialists, emotions are not running as high as in Germany.

R Senthilnathan
India Abroad News Service