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Only tourism can save Portugal’s economy, says union leader

Growth incentives not austerity measures can save the Algarve from its economic and social problems, says the leader of a workers’ union in the region.

During a debate on the Algarve’s economy on February 18, Daniel Santana from the União Geral de Trabalhadores (UGT) said that “without growth and competitiveness we cannot expect to meet job creation goals and combat the region’s escalating unemployment levels”.

The unionist spoke a day after the National Statistics Institute (INE) announced that unemployment in the region had reached 17.5% in the last quarter of 2011, representing over 34,000 jobless people.

“Such austerity can only lead to recession and rising unemployment due to business bankruptcy,” he said. “It’s imperative to invest in tourism, the industry that can save our economy.”

Support for small and medium-size enterprises, better use of existing EU funds and a more active role on the part of job centres to help the unemployed get back into the labour market are some of the measures proposed by Daniel Santana.

Carlos Baía from the regional Employment and Training Institute (IEFP) explained that the high number of people without jobs in the region is a result of the downtrend in the construction, hotel and service sectors.

According to IEFP figures, the downward trend started in 2007 and has been accentuated by the problem of tourism seasonality in the Algarve.

Several reasons that have led to a lack of competitiveness and growth in the region were pointed by the president of the Algarve Hotels and Resorts Association AHETA, Elidérico Viegas, who said that the Algarve has been suffering from poor productivity levels from its “many undertrained workers”.

“The economy needs a boost so that more jobs can be created in the private sector,” he said.

João Guerreiro, Dean at the University of the Algarve, concluded by saying that degrees should reflect the needs of the economy and businesses, but always providing additional expertise so that students can be in a position of advantage over the rest.

Do you have a view of this story? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected].

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