Poverty in Portugal? By any account, Portugal is a developed nation. With 10.61 million citizens, Portugal produces $220 billion in products and services, and the country’s GNI per capita is slightly over $24 thousand. All of Portugal’s citizens have access to clean water, and life expectancy is 80 years old, just below the average for high-income countries.
According to the United Nations Development Program, Portugal ranks 41 for human development and is considered to have very high development. By economic and social indicators, Portugal is well above the world average for human development.
Despite Portugal’s high human development, many of its citizens live in, or are in danger of, living in poverty. In 2012, roughly a quarter of Portugal’s population were “at risk” of poverty or social exclusion, according to Eurostat data. Individuals are often at risk of falling into poverty because social programs and spending have been cut.
In 2011, for example, the Portuguese government cut public sector wages, increased taxes and slashed spending on social welfare programs that provided social security benefits. The austerity measures were adopted as part of a larger goal to reduce the deficit below 5.9 percent. Although successful in reducing the deficit, the austerity measures severely harmed the status of Portuguese workers and those in need of public support.
Spending for education and family support programs decreased, and child poverty subsequently increased. According to UNICEF data, over 15 percent of children under the age of 17 years old lived in households earning less than the national median. That means a substantial share of the nation’s youth lived in unfavorable conditions because of aggressive policies.
Moving forward, for the poorest to receive the attention and services they need, Portuguese officials must prioritize their interests when addressing spending debacles. Addressing the greater issue of inefficient government spending and programs necessitates a prudent approach to policy decisions. The Portuguese can continue their growth of high human development and maintain healthy levels of government spending concurrently. However, policy officials need to be creative and show deference to the poor.
– Joseph McAdams