Value concepts and expectations of refugees

Objectives and research questions

This large quantitative survey (n=900) is a unique data pool in Austria, focused on refugee experiences, value systems, religiosity, understanding of democracy and gender roles of people from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan recently granted asylum. The project seeks to answer scientific questions, but also to identify problem constellations which are relevant from the perspective of integration policies, mainly in the context of labour and housing market integration and changes in values. It focuses on the challenges of an integration policy now confronted with large numbers of refugees with more conservative and religious dominated value concepts. The questions are analysed from an interdisciplinary perspective.


In this survey, 898 refugees living in Vienna (353), Lower (248) and Upper Austria (254) or Burgenland (43) were interviewed. 397 came from Syria, 325 from Afghanistan and 176 were Iraqis. There is an overrepresentation of men (80%), with the lowest proportion of women (19.1%) in the Syrian group of descent. Concerning the religious structure, the dominance of Sunni Islam (74%) is obvious, 18.2% belong to the Shiite faith of Islam. The age structure mirrors a dominance of young people in this recent refuge migration: about 57% are aged 18-30 years. The level of education is rather heterogeneous.

The vast majority of respondents have not been in Austria for a very long time. 475 of the interviewed refugees (54.2%) arrived in 2015. Why was Austria chosen as their destination? The study shows that coincidence plays a dominant role in the decision-making process. About 38% of the respondents have assessed this factor to be very or quite important. A targeted selection of Austria due to its safety and economic prosperity was mentioned by 31%, most strongly by Afghanis (about 40%), and least by refugees from Syria (23%).

Around 47% of the respondents definitely didn’t want to return to their country of origin and about 10% tended to be unwilling when they were interviewed. The level of education determines income expectations in Austria. These are on the average also lower in case of women compared with men. Education also determines the intention of becoming self-employed.

The coexistence with other religions was evaluated overwhelmingly positively by 75% of respondents. The majority of 53% clearly states the equality of all religious groups, more than 29% indicated ‘rather yes’. The self-evaluation with regard to religiosity makes it clear that for the majority religion is given a high priority in life. 50.7% consider themselves rather religious, but only 9.6% are very religious. 18.9% indicated that they are completely secular. 

Gender roles and equality was a second important focus within the context of value orientations. Gender equality finds a very high approval rate, with 59.4% arguing for complete equality and 25.2% rather agree.

One category of value orientation often mentioned in integration discourses concerns attitudes towards democracy. The clear commitment to democracy as the ideal political state is obvious with 90.3% approval. This applies with some minor variations to all three investigated groups. Only 5.7% advocated for a democratic political system with more influence from religion.


„Wertehaltungen und Erwartungen von Asylberechtigten und subsidiär Schutzberechtigten in Österreich“, Josef Kohlbacher, Gabriele Rasuly-Paleczek, Andreas Hackl, Sabine Bauer, Februar 2017.

ISR-Project team

  • Vizerektor Univ.-Prof. Dr. Heinz Fassmann
  • MMag.DDr. Josef Kohlbacher


  • Institut für Sozialanthropologie (ISA) der ÖAW
  • Institut für Kultur und Sozialanthropologie der Universität Wien (IKSA)


April 2016 to February 2017