Born in 1962 I visited ground school, 4 years of gymnasium and 5 years of the back then so called „Handelsakademie” (today „Vienna Business Schools”). 1981 I finished with the Matura, including two foreign languages (English and French) as well as a lot of very useful skills like book-keeping, salaries accounting, typewriting and stenography. Those abilities not only helped me to find jobs in the most varied sectors, but also turned out to be convenient tools to organize my own life (for example: the knowledge how to control my payroll saved me several times from being fleeced by my employers). There were also two years of instruction in „informatics”, where we paradoxically never touched a real computer (we were taught how to write simple software, in Basics and another language I don’t remember). In my free time I had learned a bit of Italian and Russian.

Between 1981 and 1986 I part time studied Business Economics at the Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien, part time worked in the export departments of several larger and smaller companies, and travelled to Italy rather often thanks to grants donated by the „Istituto Dante Alighieri”. In 1987 my first son was born and I left the University, although my studies were nearly half way completed. I wanted a change in direction. During the years of mostly being mother (of 3 kids) I passed the „Diploma Dante Alighieri” (a certificate of Italian language, according to the standards of the Cambridge Certificates for English) and studied history, german literature and philosophy at the FernUniversität Hagen, by the way of distance study. In those same years I discovered a new branch of professions and was lucky enough to get a chance to work there: media observation.

Between 1996 and 2005 I witnessed an incredible evolution of techniques – while in the first years we read newspapers, cut out articles with scissors and glued them on white paper (a bit like children in the kindergarden) only short time later we already scanned the texts, followed by directly copying the digitalized articles out of the Net into the Net. A similar development took place in the area of radio and television observation: at the beginning you had to sit there punctually for every transmission or record it attentively not to miss any minute – later on you found all the files in the internet ready for you whenever you were in the mood to work with them. One of the great advantages of this kind of job was that I could do telework from home. My employer provided me with the necessary technical facilities and paid me a „normal” salary, with social insurance, 14 payments a year, paid holidays ecc.

In 2005 I got troubles with my eyes and was forced to change into an area with not so much screen handling to do. I changed into the back-office of a large cultural institution, as a part time assistant for 20 hours a week. There I am, still today and as I hope for the next 9 years till my retirement (in 2022, if the laws don’t change). I regularly visit in-house trainings and have learned to administer our special library as well as attending visitors and researchers. It is an interesting mix and I am very glad to work there. The only drop of bitterness is that my wage is not very high, so I never have stopped jobbing around in the most various fields – typing scripts from Dictaphones, filling in Excel sheets, translating texts, writing biographies for studies.


On e-learning

E-learning seems a great thing to me. As I wrote in my biography I attended the FernUniversity Hagen in Germany in the 90s of the former century. Back then this meant that you had only very few occasions to contact other students. If you wanted your Profs to read and comment a paper you wrote you had to send it over there on the postal way, and until you got an answer this could take a lot of time. Or you tried to talk to him or her one the phone, which was only possible at certain hours that very often not corresponded to the times that would have been convenient for you. A friend of mine who is studying at the FernUniversität now showed me how many possibilities you got today, from moodle groups to life stream lectures … I think this is a great help for people who study parallel to their jobs, who have got children to care for, who live in smaller cities, who are handicapped in one or another way and many others.

I too use e-learning, even if nowadays only for pleasure: for example I like, a free, interactive Esperanto-course with a lot of funny games and riddles. Nevertheless e-learning must not become the only way to learn along one’s life path. At least the same importance comes to public libraries – without all the stuff I had read thanks to our „Städtische Büchereien” in Vienna my university studies wouldn’t have been the same: I had a large background built up of popular and scientific literature I never would have been able to buy or never would have known about at all. It is important to keep this offer alive, and not only in large central libraries, but above all in your district, in a distance you can easily reach even with buggies, wheelchairs or old and tired feet.

The second pillar that made my general education grow steadily was the program of the Austrian cultural radio station, Ö1. The ideal way would be to combine those possibilities – for example: on the radio you hear about new forms of e-learning, the nice guys in the library help you to look through the technological obstacles; the library at the same time offers w-lan for free so that a low income needn’t be a barrier for entering the World Wide Web.

On the situation of 50+agers

I don’t think it’s possible to generalize the situation of 50+ people. There are those who made career (especially in politics or state-owned companies) and earn more money than they will ever be able to spend; and at the same time there are those who struggle to earn their living by combining two or more jobs with contracts that don’t even include social insurance or any other employees’ rights which in former times would have been self-evident. What I see as a barrier for people who are fit and ready to earn their living by combining jobs and using all their talents and abilities in the most different ways to get along is the real jungle of laws and decrees concerning taxes and insurance fees.

Who lives from freelance work is permanently threatened by official arbitrariness like verdicts of the fiscal authorities or astronomic claims of health insurance funds for self-employed persons. 50+agers who lose their job nowadays will certainly need a lot of luck and good connections to find a half-decent employment for the last years in their working life. I see people with academic degrees do things like working as museum attendants or security personal, only to get around till their retirement. I guess some companies slowly begin to understand an elder worker has the great advantage that you surely needn’t keep him for so long – his „date of expiry” lays in a manageable planning horizon.

All in all I think we are far better off than the generation of now 15 – 30 agers, because we had a much better start into our professional lives. When we were young we were convinced the world needed us, and the better we were educated, the more we could contribute to a better society. Nobody back then would have talked about billions of Euros or dollars to be spent to simply keep us occupied – could there be a sadder message to a whole generation?