Sick Leave Remains at a Low Level in 2021


WIFO Publishes Absence Report

WIFO has been analysing the absences from work due to sickness and accidents in Austria on an annual basis every year since 2007. The Absence from Work Report by Christine Mayrhuber and Benjamin Bittschi shows that, following the significant decline in the first pandemic year 2020, health-related absences in the Austrian economy continued at a low level in 2021.

The number of sick days remained almost constant in 2021, while the number of employees increased by 2.8 percent. Employed persons spent an average of 12.3 calendar days on sick leave over the course of the year, which was again less than in the previous year. The COVID-19 pandemic-related contact restrictions, social distancing in conjunction with the increased use of home office continued to have a dampening effect on sickness-related absences from work.

In 2021, 57.7 percent of employees were on sick leave at least once, and the number of sick days per case of illness continued to decline from 11.7 to 10.3 days. Occupational accidents also continued to decline, with 2.7 percent of employees suffering an occupational accident, compared with 2.5 percent excluding commuting accidents.

Diseases of the musculoskeletal system (14.7 percent) and those of the respiratory system (27.9 percent) continue to account for the largest share of sick leave cases and 21.9 percent and 15 percent of all sick leave days, respectively.

Overall, the number of days of sick leave per capita and the duration of sick leave per case have declined over the past decades. The development of sick leave days due to mental illness has been different. Here, both the number of sick leave cases and the duration of sick leave increased to 37 days per case, this duration is only surpassed by diseases caused by cancer. Of all sick leave cases, 3.2 percent are due to psychological diagnoses, but these account for only 11.4 percent of all sick leave days.

Sick leave in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 were also analysed in the Absence Report.

In 2020 and 2021 there was a falling apart of absence of work in general and sick leave periods in particular: days of separation (quarantine) according to the Epidemics Act do not constitute sick leave with sick pay and sickness benefits. There was no recording of these days by the health insurance administration. In this context, health-related absences only arise if the illness persists after the quarantine. We found for 2021, that COVID-19 sick leave lasted an average 13.4 days, three days longer than the average across all illness groups, even though quarantine periods are not included in this number. COVID-19 sick leave increased with the age of the employed population and varied as well as between blue- and white-collar workers and federal provinces. The analysis of absenteeism by income group also showed longer absences among low-income earners; employees in the lower income quartile had an average of 2.5 days longer absences from work due to COVID-19 than employees in the upper income quartile.


Fehlzeitenreport 2022. Krankheits- und unfallbedingte Fehlzeiten in Österreich (Absence from Work Report 2022. Absences Due to Sickness and Accidents in Austria)
Studies, November 2022, 123 pages
Commissioned by: Federal Chamber of Labour – Austrian Economic Chamber – Dachverband der Sozialversicherungsträger
Study by: Austrian Institute of Economic Research
Online since: 06.12.2022 0:00
Die gesundheitlich bedingten Fehlzeiten in Österreich waren 2021 trotz steigender Beschäftigungszahlen rückläufig: Die unselbständig Beschäftigten verbrachten 2021 in Österreich durchschnittlich 12,3 Kalendertage im Krankenstand. Krankheiten reduzierten das gesamte Arbeitsvolumen um 3,4% nach 3,5% im Pandemiejahr 2020. Relativ mehr Erwerbstätige waren von einem Krankenstand betroffen, die Dauer der Krankenstände je Krankheitsfall sank jedoch um über einen Tag auf durchschnittlich 10,3 Tage. Atemwegserkrankungen verzeichneten gegenüber dem Vorjahr einen Rückgang, zugenommen haben die sonstigen Krankheiten, Verletzungen und Vergiftungen sowie die psychischen Erkrankungen. Im Sondermodul zu den Krankenständen im Zusammenhang mit COVID-19-Diagnosen zeigen sich deutliche sozioökonomische und regionale Unterschiede. Eine verbesserte Gesundheit der Beschäftigten hätte kostendämpfende Effekte für das Gesundheitswesen wie auch für die Wirtschaft.
Please contact

Mag. Dr. Benjamin Bittschi

Research groups: Labour Market, Income and Social Security

Mag. Christine Mayrhuber

Research groups: Labour Market, Income and Social Security
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© AdobeStock/polinaloves