Country Listing

Portugal Table of Contents


Civil Service

According to Article 266 of the revised constitution, public administrative authorities shall "seek to promote the public interest, while observing those rights and interests of citizens that are protected by law." Furthermore, the next article states that the structure of public administration shall be such as to avoid bureaucracy, to bring the state's services close to the people, and to involve the people in decision making. Citizens are entitled to be informed of proceedings in which they are directly concerned and of decisions affecting them.

These provisions were a reaction to Portuguese administrative traditions and to the abuses and favoritism of the Salazar era. As of the early 1990s, however, opinions remained divided about whether the Portuguese state was less "bureaucratic" than it had been in the past. The 1970s saw a tremendous increase in the number of persons employed by central and local governments (from 205,000 in 1968 to 550,000 in 1986) and the issuance of many regulations that slowed public administration. To counter these trends, numerous reforms were enacted in the 1980s to streamline government services and make public employees more responsive to the public's needs. For example, civil servants were encouraged to see themselves as servants of the public rather than as wielders of state power. Moreover, many trivial but timeconsuming and otherwise onerous bureaucratic regulations were revoked. An example of this kind of reform was that photocopies rather than original documents could be used when dealing with government offices. Portugal's entry into the EC was also forcing a modernization of the public sector.

Portugal's public employees were classified as either public functionaries, those employed by the national government; or as administrative functionaries, those employed by local authorities. In 1986 national government employees accounted for 83 percent of government employees. Some 70 percent of these government workers were employed by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of Health. As part of a concerted effort to reduce Portugal's traditional centralization of government, Lisbon's share of public employees of all kinds was reduced from 52.7 percent in 1978 to 44 percent in 1986.

The civil service's cumbersome and unfair classification and pay structures were also reformed during the 1980s. The pay of public employees came to be taxed more than it had been in the past. Career structures were simplified. Care was taken, however, that no public employee receive less pay than under the old system.

The recruitment of new public employees was also newly regulated. Candidates vied for state positions in public competitions. Juries selected candidates in a way that guaranteed fairness. Public employees were also allowed to be members of the main Portuguese labor unions.

Data as of January 1993