Unemployment through the roof

UNEMPLOYMENT in Portugal has increased to more than seven per cent of the total working population, according to a recent report. Statistics divulged by the Portuguese National Statistics Institute (INE) show that the number of jobless people rose to 7.1 per cent in the final quarter of 2004 – the highest it has been for six years.

The current economic crisis, Portugal’s waning competitiveness and the closure or downsizing of the country’s textile businesses, in the face of competition from Asian and Far Eastern markets, are all partly to blame.

Economic Activities Minister, Álvaro Barreto, officially said recently that the unemployment rate was around what the government had anticipated From page 1

for 2004 and would fall in the second half of this year.

It now means that there are probably around 500,000 jobless, although the figures could be higher as there are many illegal immigrants living in Portugal that are not included in the statistics.

On the other hand, it is believed that the parallel economy, representing some 22 per cent of the nation’s generated wealth, could also be distorting the figures since many Portuguese and foreign workers, technically claiming benefits, could be moonlighting on the side.

In 2004, the unemployment figures rose from 6.3 per cent in the first quarter to 6.7 per cent in the second quarter. The government officially accepts that there are 400,000 unemployed, or 9.6 per cent more than there were in 2003.

Álvaro Barreto said it was nothing beyond the expectations the government had for the 2004 budget, which stated unemployment was between 6.5 per cent and 6.75 per cent.

Former Prime Minister, Pedro Santana Lopes, said last week that the increase in unemployment could be attributed to “the political instability that the country has been suffering since November last year, thanks to the President’s decision to dissolve parliament.” But the new Socialist Prime Minister, José Sócrates, called the unemployment figures “tragic”. Paulo Portas, of the conservative right-wing CDS-PP Party, said that unemployment figures “reflected a Europe-wide tendency”, while left-wing PCP leader, Jerónimo de Sousa, blamed it on “the policies of the past few governments”. C.G.