Portugal Country Guide Part 2

New risks of social polarization and unemployment

The growth of the salaried middle classes was one of the most important reflexes of the recent evolution of the Portuguese economy. The effort to modernize and restructure production has been accompanied, however, by the accentuation of inequalities in the distribution of income, aggravated by the growing segmentation between stable and precarious employment, as well as between formal and informal economy. Thus, new risks of social polarization arise between stabilized and protected sectors, on the one hand, and, on the other, precarious and excluded sectors in terms of the economy and institutional protection. Among the recent socioeconomic dynamics, the recent but rapid growth in unemployment, which increased 74% between 1992 and 1994, stands out, however, standing at relatively low levels (7%) compared to the European Union average. . From a regional point of view, the problem is more serious in the metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto. Another process of great relevance is that related to schooling and the dynamics of professional qualifications. The increase in schooling in the younger generations was accompanied by the growth of functional illiteracy and the reinforcement of the marginalization of individuals with school failure and without specific professional qualifications.

Urbanization, city and new forms of settlement

According to localbusinessexplorer, Portugal is the least urbanized of the EU countries, with an estimated 49% of the population residing in metropolitan areas and in places with more than 2,000 inhabitants (slightly more than 55% if we still consider the population of the municipalities where it is located). “diffuse urbanization” is more intense). The economic, demographic and social changes that have occurred in the last 20 years have, however, had important effects from the point of view of the occupation of the territory, having led to a relatively accelerated urban development and with some original characteristics.

The coastalization of the Portuguese settlement

The structure of the Portuguese settlement essentially reproduces the regional asymmetries in the distribution of the population and economic activities: it is on the Littoral, especially in the territories between the Cávado River and the Setúbal Peninsula, which is concentrated around 74% of the resident population in Portuguese territory and the essential of economic activity, where the most important urban centers in the country are found, as well as the most extensive and complex phenomena of “diffuse urbanization”; inland, on the other hand, human occupation is more sparse (with densities generally below 50 inhabitants / km2), with the population concentrated in rural settlements or in small urban centers.

A bipolarized urban network

In addition to these asymmetries, the Portuguese urban network is also characterized by the existence of important functional imbalances: the two metropolitan areas bipolarize the Portuguese urban network, concentrating together 37% of the total population resident in the country and around 67% of the population. urban population. They correspond, moreover, to the two main economic centers of the national territory, jointly generating more than half of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP); the urban level immediately below is made up of the urban centers of Funchal, Coimbra and Braga, each of which is around 100,000 inhabitants. Faro, in the Algarve, tends to form a conurbation with Olhão and Loulé, also approaching this group of 100,000 inhabitants. Évora, although smaller in size (about 45,000 inhabitants), it also corresponds to an urban center with some protagonism on a regional scale; in addition to those, only 10 urban centers exceed the threshold of 40,000 inhabitants (Viana do Castelo, Guimarães, Barcelos, Santo Tirso, Famalicão and S. João da Madeira, in the Northwest; Viseu and Leiria in the Litoral Center; and Portimão in the Algarve; most of the remaining urban centers have a dimension of less than 20,000 inhabitants and have some sub-equipment, generally having functions that only serve the local population.


According to the 1976 Constitution, revised in 1982, Portugal is a republic governed by a democratically elected president for a period of five years. The president appoints a prime minister, who is the administrative head of the country and chairs a cabinet made up of 15 ministers. Usually the nominee is the leader of the parliamentary majority.

The unicameral Parliament is called the Assembly of the Republic. Its 230 members, elected under a proportional representation system, remain in office for four years.

The judiciary is led by the Supreme Court, composed of its president and 29 members. Subjected to it are the appellate courts and the ordinary and special district courts.

The highest authorities at the local level are district governors and district legislative assemblies. The district is subdivided into municipalities, which in turn are made up of a variable number of parishes.

Administratively, the country comprises the autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira (with 30 municipalities and about 200 parishes) and 18 districts (with 275 municipalities and about 4,000 parishes). The situation of Macau – Chinese territory under Portuguese administration, which will pass to the sovereignty of China on 12/20/1999 – and East Timor – territory occupied militarily by Indonesia in late 1975, and for which Portugal must be considered claims the right of its people to self-determination.

Portugal Country Guide 2