Country Listing

Portugal Table of Contents


Middle Class

Portugal was long an essentially two-class society consisting of elites and peasants, between which existed a small class of artisans, soldiers, and tradespeople. With the acceleration of industrialization and economic development since the 1950s, this middle class began to grow. It provided the strongest opposition to the Salazar-Caetano regime as it came to prefer democracy and a more open West European society. As a result, the middle class participated strongly in the Revolution of 1974 and the political maneuvering that followed. After the old elites were shunted aside by the revolution and labor organizations lost power the following decade, the middle class emerged as Portugal's most important class.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the middle class constituted some 25 to 30 percent of the population. The most important Portuguese institutions were middle class-dominated: the military officer corps, the Roman Catholic Church, political parties, public administration, the universities, and commerce and industry.

The middle class remained divided on many social and political issues, however. For example, political leadership in Portugal was solidly middle class and spanned all parties from the far left to the far right. The success of the PSD under Cavaco Silva both in parliament and in the election of 1987 was perhaps an indication that Portugal's new socially significant middle class was developing a degree of social cohesion.

The commercial segment of the middle class defended its interests through the PSD and the CDS and also through some large representative organizations. The leading organizations of this type were the Portuguese Industrial Association (Associação Industrial Portuguesa--AIP), founded in 1860, the much larger Confederation of Portuguese Industry (Confederação da Indústria Portuguesa--CIP), founded in 1974, and the Portuguese Confederation of Commerce (Confederação do Comércio Português-- CCP), founded in 1977. These organizations, and others like them, met with important labor groups and with government officials and lobbied behind the scenes to better the conditions under which Portugal's new middle class had to work.

Data as of January 1993