No certificate

When I took the law exam that was part of my professional training course as a government employee, the examiner asked me what rights civll servants had as opposed to regular government employees. I came up with all sorts of things, from health insurance to pension schemes and whatnot, but he still kept on asking me the same question over and over again. When I finally couldn't think of anything anymore and gave up, he said: "well, the right to use an official title of course."

Any book about Austria will dwell upon the Austrians' obsession with official titles, be it the obsession over academic degrees or titles that denote your status in your profession. Every nation has ranks in their police force and military force, such as sergeants, captains, colonels and so on; in Austria, even civil servants in administrative positions have similar titles. Even though the law regulating civil service did away with the ranks of Kommissär (commissioner) and Rat (councillor) ten years ago, there are still Oberrat (senior councillor) and Hofrat (court councillor) -- the latter despite the fact that the court was abolished along with the monarchy as long ago as 1919.

Anyway, when I was made a full civil servant a couple of years ago, I received a certificate signed by the Minister of Higher Education stating the fact that I was now a civil servant and had the right to use the title Beamter (civil servant), which was nice in principle, but a somewhat anticlimactic title; it was kind of weird that the certificate should even mention it.

Two weeks ago on July 1st, if my maths is correct, I should have been promoted to senior councillor. In fact, the staff database says that this is indeed what I am now. Curiously, I have so far not received any kind of piece of writing confirming it. In a country as obsessed with titles and formalisms, this seems very, very odd. Either they forgot about it, or they're all on holidays already, or - God forbid - they might even have come to their senses.

Whatever the matter, a piece of paper would still have been nice.


If I'm not mistaken, in the US a government employee *is* a civil servant, by definition. So the distinctions to which you refer are somewhat lost on me, as far as the actual meaning. Seems to me there should be a big pay raise that goes along with this. ;-)

@Jann. I am an outsider to Austrian civil service, so whatever I am going to say is bound to be biased by prejudice and preconseptions. However, what you learn as an ordinary Austrian is that:
a) the government has civil servants, but it also started to hire employees who differ from the civil servants by having largely the same legal status as private employees.
b) civil servants do have a different legal status. Most notably, it is virtually impossible to fire them. Different health care plans, pension schemes etc.
c) civil servants used to be poorly paid. Still, raises are given at biannual intervals. Titles used to be considered a compensation for not advancing in any other way. So I assume that Horst neither earns more money nor is in a different position for being a senior councillor. It is really just the title...

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