It is what workers at the country’s social security offices have been saying for years, but at last the “truth” is being accepted on a political level. Portugal’s “perfect demographic storm”, prompted by austerity, threatens the collapse of the country’s welfare state.
Financial Times journalist Peter Wise explains that “the stakes could hardly be higher” – adding that efforts to reach a political consensus “on measures to address the crisis” ahead of the October 4 elections “have failed”.
Nonetheless, the message of the damage austerity has done is being waged by all the country’s opposition parties.
According to the FT, the bottom line of a country that stands to lose another two million people in the next 45 years is “definitive impoverishment”; a country “unsustainable in terms of economic growth, social security and the welfare state”.
“If nothing changes, the worst-case projection by the National Statistics Institute (INE) sees the population of Portugal dropping from 10.5m to 6.3m by 2060, while the number of over-65s for every 100 under-15s — the so-called ageing index — would soar from 131 to 464, the highest in Europe”, the paper adds.
What was intriguing was news that the coalition government had tried to “encourage couples who would like to be parents” by introducing the idea of a four-hour working day for public sector workers, at 60% of their usual salary.
According to the FT this suggestion was “rejected by the Opposition Socialists”.
The paper added that PM Pedro Passos Coelho sees Portugal’s falling birth rate as “the most serious challenge” facing the country, and he has “called on the EC to make the issue an EU-wide priority for the next five years”.