Publication: Partnership in Times of COVID-19: Government and Civil Society in Austria
How did the relation between Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and government develop during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, once governments had taken restrictive measures to lock down economic and public life? Austria is used as an example of a corporatist welfare state whereby collaboration between government and CSOs occurs particularly in the fields of social services, health-care, and youth. Our analysis focuses on the social service sector and differentiates between several social policy fields. We hereby analyze data from qualitative interviews with CEOs from 30 CSOs, four group discussions with another 30 representatives of CSOs, public agencies and authorities, and from a standardized questionnaire (n = 99 CSOs). We also utilize our own experiences as participant observers in meetings between CSOs and government. Results indicate that CSOs suffered financially partly due to a decrease in income, though mostly due to an increase in cost. In social services in particular, they also faced hardships caused by the need to reorganize operations and human resources, and by the increased demands of customers. Federal government took responsibility for supporting CSOs financially, though such support was hampered by unclear competencies in Austria’s multilayered federal system.