Around one in five (22 per cent) of Portuguese are at risk of poverty, or survive on less than 60 per cent of the average annual income of 7,200 euros, according to a report issued by the United Nations’ Habitat agency. Sociologist Jorge de Sá warns that this is a potentially explosive situation. “It is disturbing for the fabric of society. It risks creating pockets of violence, arising from social disintegration. When one arrives at the threshold of misery, the only preoccupation is survival. This leads to a loss of self-esteem. Our society will have to confront this question – reduce poverty or spend more on dealing with crime,” he says.
The report places the Portuguese in second place in the poverty ‘ranking’ among the old 15 members of the EU (only Greece ranks lower). The statistics put Portugal among six nations (Greece, UK, Italy, Ireland and Spain) with poverty levels above the average (15 per cent) of the original European Union countries. The lowest level occurred in Sweden, where poverty only affects around eight per cent of the population.
However, the report also shows that poverty has increased dramatically in all EU countries over the last three decades.