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Portugal lies in the southwest corner of the European continent on its most extreme periphery. The country is nearly rectangulatur and has a total area of 92,389 sq km, thus occupying about 20 per cent of the Iberian Peninsula. Geographically the country is bordered by the Atlantic, a location which has for centuries shaped its orientation towards Africa, Asia and South America. The geopolitical location of Portugal made it difficult for the country to maintain national independence from Spain in its endeavour to unite the Iberian Peninsula. Thus, only after severe struggles in 1640 Portugal was able to become an independent nation with the assistance of its ally England. Portugal is thus one of the oldest nation states in Europe, dating in principle back to 1179 (except for the Spanish interlude lasting from 1580 to 1640), a country that has, in addition, kept its territory unchanged since the middle ages. The occupation by the Romans brought with it language and later on Christianity, which could be preserved during Islamic domination. Thus, the basis for a rather high socio-cultural homogeneity could be laid.

In its long history, Portugal was able to keep its monarchical system until the republican revolution of 1910. The first republic lasted only 18 years, then Salazar inaugurated his autocratic regime which lasted for over 50 years. While Portugal was urged by the British to engage in World War I, the regime kept neutral during World War II. Despite its nondemocratic regime, Portugal early became a member of the UN and of EFTA, an important factor for economic development. After the death of Salazar in 1970, the revolution of 1974 finally lead to the second republic with the constitution of 1975. The democratization made possible Portugal's membership in the European Community in 1986. In the last ten years Portugal succeeded in catching up with the most advanced European countries and benefitted from a rather positive economic development with growth rates above the European average. Thus, although compared to advanced European countries Portugal's industrial development is weak - as is the case with other southern European countries - it is higher than for example in Greece. Especially female employment has grown tremendously since the 1960s. This is a consequence of the country's industrial structure, with light industries such as textiles, footwear and clothing being crucial; heavy industries and machine construction are of minor importance, only agriculture is still highly important, especially in the inner regions on the Spanish boarder. Industrial employment growth was mainly a result of the lowest labour costs in the European Union.

Population growth was only modest during the demographic transition, although the natural population increase was high, but so was emigration. The family structures in Portugal differ strongly. In the Norte and Centro the family structure is based on small family farms. In the South (Algarve, Alentejo), where big latifundia prevailed, the family structure was more open insofar as people did not marry; this is why births out of wedlock are so widespread there.

The four graphs illustrating the demographic developments (figures 1 to 4) show that Portugal's demographic developments deviate substantially from the European average. This is the result of structural differences and a retardation of development which together lead to substantial deviations from the "average European" development path. Thus, for instance, for a long time marriage in Portugal was not as important as in central Europe as a precondition of family formation. The low marriage ratio and the high illegitimacy ratio until the 1960s are symptoms of this pattern. In addition, there were fewer divorces. The divorce ratio shows the influence of Salazarian legislation, when only non-catholics were permitted to divorce. As is the case with illegitimitate fertility, legitime fertility, too, was high in Portugal. Both these factors added up to a high natural population growth whose outlet could only be emigration. Only from the 1970s onwards Portugal moved towards the central European pattern of demographic behaviour. The decline in the fertility rate is considerable, the increase in the divorce rate is even higher than the average European divorce rate which has meanwhile reached a new stage and is declining. Both legitimate and illegitimate fertility rates are now below the European average; a similar development can be observed in all southern European countries. What is exceptional is the marriage boom of the 1970s and the high marriage rate afterwards. The postponement of marriages has not yet proceeded as far in Portugal as in central Europe.

As in other southern European countries, emigration is a significant characteristic of Portugal. Until the mid-20th century most emigrants went to Brazil. The first half of the 20th century saw emigration to the newly established African colonial empire. It was only since the 1960s with African decolonization that Europe, mainly France, became the major destination of Portuguese emigrants. Emigration was so strong that there was a population decline in the early 1970s. Because emigration was always male-dominated, it had tremendous negative effects on the sex and age structure of the population, leading to a strong overrepresentation of women and the elderly. The absence of men also had negative effects on the possibilities of women to get married. Emigration also had and still has the effect that many children in Portugal did not and still do not live with their natural parents; instead they live with their grand-parents or other relatives.

While the Portuguese economy in several respects is a top performer within the group of the southern European countries, the living conditions of the population are worse in comparison. This applies mainly to the health status of the population; life expectancy is rather low, the infant mortality is rather high. This also applies to the educational status of the population and therefore also to the educational system. Illiteracy is remarkably high, and the general educational level is still very low. Social services and social security improved especially after Portugal's accession to the European Union in 1986, but social benefits are rather low due to the low level of living standards. The low labour costs attracted investments, and job growth became possible, but due to the low wage level living standards are rising only slowly. The new employment opportunities enhanced further migration from the countryside to the towns and coastal regions.

Regional Disparities

What is typical for Portugal is its strong internal heterogeneity in economic terms. This dates back in history to times when family farms prevailed in the North while large agricultural estates ("latifundia") dominated in the South. Apart from agriculture, there are at least three factors which influence the economic structure of Portugal for the time being: tourism industry in the Algarve and coastal regions, the agricultural orientation in the Centro, Alentejo and Norte. The service sector is strongly developed in the Algarve, Lisboa e Vale do Tejo and the Alentejo. Industry is underdeveloped, a characteristic feature of all southern European countries, and is in Portugal only in the North of high importance.

Fig.1 - Fig.2

Notes to figures 1 to 4

Marriage Ratio=number of persons marrying per 1,000 unmarried population 15+; Divorce Ratio=number of persons divorcing per 10,000 married population 15+; Illegitimate Children Ratio=Live births out of wedlock per 1,000 unmarried women 15-44; Legitimate Children Ratio=Live births within marriage per 100 married women 15-44. The European rates are calculated in the same way as the national rates, i.e. the European divorce rate=all divorces in Europe related to the married population 15+ in Europe. Europe is defined as all European countries without the states of the former Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, and former Yugoslavia. - The time series have been smoothed by moving averages of 3 years.

The population is very unevenly dispersed over the country, and the population density therefore differs tremendously. The North is densely inhabited as opposed to the Algarve or the Alentejo. Lisbon and the Vale do Tejo are of course densely populated, with Lisbon being inhabited by over 800,000 people. The Açores and Madeira are very densely populated.

Fertility differences are also marked, with fertility rates being substantially higher in the North and in the Açores and Madeira. Centro, Algarve and Alentejo are facing a natural population decrease. Portugal is still an emigration country: in 1992 9,600 more people emigrated than immigrated, which is about 1‰ of the population. The emigration

rate is very high in the autonomous provinces of Açores and Madeira, but the Algarve is the only region with migratory gains.

Regional differences persist especially with respect to family structure and family behaviour, as the number of births out of wedlock demonstrates: there are marked differences between the individual regions, and there is a North-South divide, with lower figures in the North than in the South (contrary to the overall European pattern with high rates in northern Europe and low ones in southern Europe).

The demographic processes and migratory patterns also influence the age structure considerably. In the North and on the Islands the share of children is high due to high birth rates. In the Centro and the Alentejo emigration of the young leads to a high proportion of elderly people. The Algarve seems to be a special case with labour migration and obviously immigration of the elderly as well.

Due to the strong economic diversity of the country, the economic wealth differs a great deal from region to region, with Lisbon nearly reaching the European average, the Alentejo and the islands regions remaining the poorest. This can only partly be explained by the extent of agriculture with a lower GDP intensity, but seems mainly to be dependent on the size of the industrial sector, being very limited in these regions.

One significant characteristic of Portugal is the high activity rate and especially the high rate of female employment. Thus, unemployment on the whole is no major problem in Portugal, with the exception of the Alentejo in general and especially with respect to youth unemployment.

Statistical Sources

The main provider of statistics is the National Statistical Institute which was founded in 1935 and was reformed and modernized fundamentally between 1986 and 1991. Portugal has a long-standing tradition in statistical data production. Population censuses were held every ten years since 1864, the last one was conducted on 15 April 1991. Adaptions to EU statistical requirements and the general modernization of Portuguese statistics has led to the extension of social statistics, as the introduction of the labour force survey or the publication of the social report "Portugal Social" show. The main statistical sources are the "Anuário Estatístico de Portugal" and the "Boletim Mensal de Estatística", but there are statistical series covering all main statistical fields such as population movement, education, etc. The statistical office is not the only data producer, although it is the most important one. Ministries also publish statistics: the Ministério do Equipamento, do Planeamento e da Administração do Território ("Informação Económica", "Portugal: Economic and social indicators"), the Ministério do Emprego e da Segurança Social publishes the social security statistics. The Banco de Portugal has its own statistical series as well ("Estatística e Estudos Económicos. Boletim trimestral").


National Statistical Institute: Instituto Nacional de Estatística (INE), Av. António José de Almeida, 2, 1000 Lisboa Telephon +351-1-847-00-50, Fax +351-1-847-85-78. Publications are directly available from: Instituto Nacional de Estatística, Secção de Distribuição em Vendas de Publicações, Av. António José de Almeida, 2, 1000 Lisboa. INE publishes an annual "Catálogo das Publicações".


Social Science Research Institutions: Universidade de Lisboa - Instituto de Ciências Sociais (ICS), Avenida das Forças Armadas, Edif. I.S.C.T.E., Ala Sul, 1.°, 1600 Lisboa, Telephon +351-1-793-22-72, Fax +351-1-796-49-53
Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia/Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa (CIES/ISCTE), Avenida das Forças Armadas, 1600 Lisboa,
Telephon 351-1-7935000, FAX +351-1-7964710
Faculdade de Economia da Universidade de Coimbra, Centro de Estudos Sociais (CES), Lg. D. Dinis-Apartado 3087, 3000 Coimbra, Telephon (039) 26459, FAX (039) 29076
Universidade de Coimbra, Faculdade de Economia, Av. Dias da Silva W, 165, 3000 Coimbra, Telephon (039) 7000500, FAX (039) 403511
Faculdade de Economia da Universidade do Porto, Centro de Economia e Desenvolvimento Regional, R. Dr. Roberto Frias, 4200 Porto, Telephon (02) 5509720, FAX (02) 5505050
Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão (ISEG), Lisbon Technical University, R. Miguel Lupi, 20, 1200 Lisboa
Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Faculdade de Ciências Económicas e Empresarias, R. Palma de Cima, 1600 Lisboa CODEX, Telephon (01) 7270250/1; FAX (01) 7270252
Universidade de Évora, Departamento de Economia, Lg. dos Colegias, 2, 7000 Évora,
Telephon (066) 742494, FAX (066) 742494


Social Science and Political Journals: Análise Social. Revista do Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa (bi-monthly ISSN 0003-2573); Sociologia. Problemas e Práticas (CIES/ISCTE, fourmonthly); Revista Crítica de Ciências Sociais (CES, Coimbra); Notas Económicas (Economy Faculty, Coimbra University); Cadernos de Ciências Sociais (Economy Faculty, Coimbra University); Estudos de Economia (ISEG, Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão, Lisbon Technical University); Economia (Catholic University); Economia e Sociologia (Evora University).


Further Reading

Birmingham, David 1993: A Concise History of Portugal. Cambridge: University Press.

Bruneau, Thomas C. and Alex Macleod 1986: Politics in Contemporary Portugal. Parties and Consolidation of Democracy: Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Mário Babtista Coelho (ed.) 1989: Portugal. O Sistema Político e Constitucional 1974-1987. Lisboa: Instituto de Ciências Sociais, Universidade de Lisboa.

European Commission, EUROSTAT, Directorate General for Regional Policy 1994: Portrait of the Islands. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

Livi Bacci, Massimo 1971: A Century of Portuguese Fertility. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Manuel, Paul Christopher 1995: Uncertain Outcome. The Politics of the Portuguese Transition to Democracy. Lanham: University of America.

Maxwell, Kenneth 1995: The Making of Portuguese Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nataf, Daniel 1995: Democratisation and Social Settlements. The Politics of Change in Contemporary Portugal. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Pitcher, M. Anne 1993: Politics in the Portuguese Empire. The State, Industry, and Cotton, 1926-1974. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sapelli, Giulio 1995: Southern Europe since 1945. Tradition and modernity in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey. London and New York: Longman.

Silva Lopes, José da 1993: Portugal and EC Membership Evaluated. London: Pinter Publishers; New York: St. Martin's Press.

EURODATA Newsletter No. 5 Article 8, p.28-29