November 16th 2022

AK Science Award 2022 for CSHI – Vulnerable groups in the corona pandemic

With the topic “Social impact of the Corona pandemic on vulnerable groups in Tyrol", the Center for Social & Health Innovation at MCI is among the three winners of the AK Science Award 2022

The annual science award of the Upper Austrian Chamber of Labor (AK Oberösterreich) aims to honor research projects and work that contribute to improving the living and working conditions of employees. This year, with the leadership and collaboration of Lukas Kerschbaumer, Sascha Gell and Pia Reichmann, the CSHI succeeded with a highly topical contribution. The pandemic as well as the measures and effects linked to it, have left massive traces in the areas of the labor market, education and the fight against poverty - according to the assumptions, insinuations and only gradually the scientific evidence. A central element is to give affected people the opportunity to act as experts for their own life situations. This is why the CSHI launched a large-scale survey on the "social impact of the Corona pandemic on vulnerable groups in Tyrol" in 2021. In the course of the survey, the broad spectrum of negative consequences became clear, which is why active efforts were made to ensure a comprehensive and diverse composition of participants. In the end, qualitative interviews and a qualitative online survey were used to record 179 people and their experiences. The focus was on five sub-areas: (1) poverty dynamics under COVID-19, (2) working poor, (3) non-take-up, (4) child poverty (schools in the pandemic), and (5) people with disabilities along with their relatives. In addition, 36 persons from the administrative sector (e.g. social service providers, representatives from politics and administration) were included in the survey.



Children and adolescents (9-15 years)


Poverty despite employment


Poverty (income below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold)


Front Desk Employees


People with disabilities and their relatives




Yes, the pandemic has and has had many negative consequences for the vulnerable groups interviewed, although there are also individuals who have used the pandemic to "turn the tide" and pursue new orientations. In summary, the pandemic is by no means the sole source of all problematic life situations. Structural challenges to poverty reduction existed before, the pandemic just made them more apparent, or more difficult. The lessons that can be drawn from the insights and experiences of our interviewees can also point the way for future challenges, especially for the current designs of relief packages in the wake of the massive inflation of 2022.

In summary, it can be stated that although support services were available in many places, eligible persons avoided receiving benefits due to shame, bureaucratic hurdles or a lack of insight into possible support services and a lack of digital skills. Remaining in precarious life situations or financial bottlenecks and problematic situations led, in some cases, to a "family trade-off", i.e. to refraining from starting a family or children not pursuing higher qualifications in order to support their family financially. Children in particular felt the effects of the pandemic strongly, lacking not only financial resources for home schooling but also places to retreat due to cramped living conditions and social contacts. People with disabilities and their relatives also reported experiencing social isolation and restrictions on their self-determination, triggered among other things by a general classification as belonging to a risk group and the corresponding restrictions on services and work.

The province of Tyrol and the Chamber of Labor Tyrol (Arbeiterkammer Tirol) supported the study and the exchange with the Tyrolean Poverty Research Forum (TAFF) was intensive. In addition, efforts were made to support vulnerable groups and to make them participants in the discourse on the challenges of poverty as experts on precarious living conditions. We would like to thank all respondents for their participation, trust and openness.

For more articles on poverty dynamics, the working poor, people with disabilities, and precarious realities in the context of the corona pandemic, click here:

 Poverty dynamics:

Working Poor: 

People with disabilities: 

Precarious realities:



Lukas Kerschbaumer, BA, MA
Center for Social & Health Innovation
+43 512 2070 – 7421



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AK Science Award 2022 is presented to Pia Reichmann (second from left) and Lukas Kerschbaumer (third from left). Photo: © Upper Austrian Chamber of Labor (AK Oberösterreich)

AK Science Award 2022 is presented to Pia Reichmann (second from left) and Lukas Kerschbaumer (third from left). © AK Oberösterreich