Country Listing

Portugal Table of Contents


Social Welfare Programs

Portugal had a fairly elaborate social welfare system, including programs that provided benefits for the elderly and the seriously ill or disabled. However, the benefits paid by these programs were still quite low in the early 1990s, and an estimated 3 million Portuguese lived below the EC poverty line.

The programs' benefits were financed by employee and employer contributions (roughly 10 and 25 percent, respectively). Most of the programs were the responsibility of the Ministry of Employment and Social Security and were administered by regional social security centers. The Ministry of Health was involved in programs concerned with medical care.

As of the early 1990s, men and women could retire at sixtyfive and sixty-two years of age, respectively, and be eligible for old-age pensions. Miners were eligible at fifty and merchant sailors at fifty-five years of age. Benefits ranged from 30 to 80 percent of recent average wages. Permanent disability and survivor benefits were also paid. Unemployment benefits could be paid from ten to thirty months and amounted to 65 percent of earnings, with a maximum of three times the national minimum wage of about US$300 a month in the early 1990s.

As of 1991, maternity benefits amounted to 100 percent of the mother's pay for a period of three months, one month before and two months after the birth. Sickness benefits amounted to 65 percent of wages for up to 1,095 days; after this period, the benefit was converted to a permanent disability benefit. Accidents at work were covered by private insurance carried by employers; payments could amount to two-thirds of basic earnings. Small family allowances were paid to help rear children until they reached the age of fifteen or the age of twenty-five if they were students.

Data as of January 1993