Austria wants to hire locals over foreign EU workers

A case of the centre-left trying to woo far-right voters

Austria wants to hire locals over foreign EU workers

Austrian chancellor Christian Kern. Picture by Ronald Zak AP/Press Association Images

Austria's centre-left government is set to ask the European Union to give local employers permission to hire Austrians before other EU citizens.

Chancellor Christian Kern made the pledge as his party launched its 10-year economic plan.

The Social Democrat said:

"These eastern European countries are exporting their joblessness to Austria."

According to the BBC, the move is seen as an attempt to stem the flow of public support over to the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe). Unemployment and immigration concerns in the nation have given the party a lead in the polls.

Kern's landmark speech was made in the FPOe-run city of Wels. He told the hundreds of gathered Austrians:

"Those who no longer believe in us, those who are disappointed by us, those who are perhaps angry, I hear your message and I understand your disappointment. You haven’t strayed, we have. It is not your fault, it is ours."

"From today we will change course," he promised, outlining his ambitions to create 200,000 extra jobs through public investment. Kern hopes to eliminate unemployment by 2020.

Austria's Social Democrat are thought to have support of around 27% of voters currently. Along with traditional centre-right rival the People's Party, they were knocked out of the first round of last year's presidential election. The far-right candidate Norbert Hofer was ultimately defeated by the independent, former Green leader Alexander Van der Bellen.