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50% of Portuguese live below the poverty line

The first year of the pandemic affected all European countries, but it had a more negative impact on Portugal and the Portuguese. On October 17, the world celebrates the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. In Portugal 50% of the Portuguese live below the poverty line. 

Indeed, one has to go back to 2014, the year of the end of the third troika intervention in the country, to find such a significant increase in the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

50% of Portuguese live below the poverty line 

Poverty in Portugal, which had been following an upward trend since 2017, continued after two years of pandemic and with the arrival of the war in Europe, the situation has even worsened and the forecast is that it will get even worse.

This is a new global crisis, which hits the most vulnerable segments of society in a very particular way, accelerating the deterioration of an already precarious situation. Portugal, which has already registered a worrying trend in terms of poverty increase, has also been affected by the current panorama, which not only makes it difficult to improve this situation, but also makes it worse, warns Pordata in a study published Monday.

To reach these conclusions, data such as "age, family, work or daily life of citizens" were analyzed to understand that three groups are most affected: 

  • families with children; 
  • the unemployed; 
  • people over 65 years of age.

Luísa Loura, director of Pordata, revealed more concrete data on television last night. Portugal has a poor population, based on income alone - that is, without counting social benefits, of about 4.4 million people, a figure that, according to her, drops to about 1.9 million people if social benefits such as the "Rendimento Social de Inserção (RSI)" are taken into account.

This is almost half of the Portuguese population. If we take a closer look: 40 % of households earned in 2020, according to Pordata data about €833 per month. 

As for the unemployed, the year 2020 saw a reversal of the trend. While since 2014, the number of registrants at the job center had been declining, the arrival of the pandemic saw an increase of 22.5% compared to 2019. And last year, not only was there no decline, but it increased by about 23 % compared to the pre-pandemic period.

Although with a less expressive, but significant increase for the overall scenario, in 2021 there are more people receiving the Social Insertion Income (SII), which represents an increase of 1.6% compared to 2020. This is another trend that has not been seen since 2012, which means that while the numbers are currently a far cry from a decade ago, the downward trend since then was interrupted last year.

For the elderly (over 65), in 2021 there were an additional 1.6 million Social Security pensioners living on pensions below the national minimum wage (665 euros).

Are the Portuguese able to face the winter?

If we go back to 2020, Portugal was one of the countries the lowest ranked. It had the second highest number of people living in poor housing conditions (25 %) among the EU-27 and the fifth highest number of people living in cold (16 %). One year later, in 2021, the picture remained the same.

This number increases a little if we add the people who, in spite of income and social aid, remain above the poverty line, but who then do not have the material conditions, housing, food, heating in their homes, this number amounts to about 400,000 people taking into account the 1.9 billion", says Luísa Loura.

But there is one statistic where Portugal stands out on the positive side: food deprivation. We are the second country among the 27 where more poor people manage to guarantee a meal of meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every other day (6% do not).

Inflation: a phenomenon that has lasted for several years

Pordata shows in figures what the parties of the left and right have criticized about the draft state budget (OE) for 2023. In other words, the inflation rate is increasing, but the national minimum wage, as well as old age and disability pensions, are not keeping up.

This is not new, however. Since 1978, the year from which records are available, until today, counting the "main peaks of inflation that took place in 1984 (28.5% and the year of the Troika intervention in Portugal) and in 1990 (13.6%)", there are "several periods in which its increase has been lower than the rise in inflation".

In the current situation, with inflation at 9.3 % (September INE data), i.e. at the 1992 level (9.6 %), the loss of purchasing power for minimum wage beneficiaries is real.

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