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Racist youth check causes controversy

A sociologist has questioned the results of a disputed study on Austrian teens’ attitudes.

Newspaper commentators, integration experts and radio talk show hosts engaged in a heated debate about the outcome of the latest examination by the Austrian Institute for Youth Culture Research. The organisation found that 43.6 per cent of Vienna-based teens agreed with the statement that "there are way too many Turks in Austria."

The poll – in which Austrians aged between 16 and 19 participated – also found that 11.2 per cent were of the opinion that German Third Reich dictator Adolf Hitler "also did many good things."

Bernhard Heinzlmaier, who carried out the research, said 37 per cent of Austrian youngsters claimed that a lack of determination and laziness were the main aspects of their failure to make ends meet.

Vienna University sociologist Paul Scheibelhofer told Die Presse today (Weds) he generally welcomed an increase of research focusing on racism and discrimination. However, Scheibelhofer also warned that this "complex phenomenon needs differentiated analyses". The sociologist also put the poll’s result into question since it was carried out online.

Other integration experts and immigration activists criticised the wording of some questions of the Institute for Youth Culture Research’s survey – and claimed that some Austrian media would "strengthen discriminating tendencies" against foreigners. They deplored that some papers argued the result reflected a widespread opinion of Austrians due to more crimes committed by young immigrants.

Meanwhile, People’s Party (ÖVP) Integration Secretary Sebastian Kurz launched a campaign for more understanding between Austrians and immigrants. His new initiative called "Zusammen Österreich" sends 100 foreigners who succeeded in Austria to schools to speak with students of various ethnical backgrounds about preconceptions and problems in their daily lives. Sports stars, managers and TV presenters agreed to participate in the campaign.

Kurz was sworn in last April. He said one of his key ambitions was to break down barriers between Austrians and immigrants. The ÖVP Vienna vice chief said foreigners living in Austria should be proud of their personal backgrounds but also of Austria as their new homeland. Kurz claimed learning German was an immensely important aspect of successful integration and underlined the great potential immigrants had.

Around one in three residents of Vienna have a migration background. Most of the hundreds of thousands of foreigners residing in the capital come from former Yugoslavia. Vienna has the largest share of immigrants among Austria’s nine provinces. The eastern region of Burgenland is at the bottom of this ranking with a rate of just 9.4 per cent. Germans are the largest group of foreigners in five provinces. However, the debate about good and bad examples for integration mostly ranges around Turks and people from the Arabian region.

The purchasing power of foreigners and people who grew up in Austria in families with a migratory background is, at 20 billion Euros, four billion Euros higher than the spending power of the millions of tourists coming to the country, according to a RegioData investigation. Experts claim Austrian firms still have a long way to go before realising how to make use of immigrants’ economic capacities. While some mobile service firms and food manufacturers succeeded with campaigns addressing both Austrians and immigrants, various enterprises embarrassed themselves with poorly planned marketing initiatives aiming at foreigners living in the country.

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