Where do the poor people live in Portugal? The obvious answer is in rural areas.
In the past, poor people were always visible in the public life and on the streets of the cities and villages, however Portugal has been since centuries a country of migration from rural to urban areas. For example, in the last 10 years (2001-2011), there were an increase in population living in Lisbon of 159 849 habitants (INE, Censos 2011). Cities became manufacturing centers with more availability of facilities, offering more job opportunities than villages. Nonetheless, poverty is nowadays an increasing reality in urban areas, as Lisbon and Porto rather that in rural areas (AMI, 2010).
Unavailability of employment in rural villages has resulted in an influx of people in search of jobs in towns, from people looking for a better standard of living. The population living in Lisbon increased 6.01% in the last 10 years (INE, Censos 2011). Additionally, the lack of school education is an important issue since it is the main method of obtaining urban employment. Despite the huge growth in education in Portugal between 1960 and 2008, INE data shows that Portugal is exactly in the same starting point of 50 years ago (ionline, 2010).
Who are the poor in Portugal? Only the homeless who we witness everyday sleeping on the streets? They are long-term unemployed or young people looking for their first job, single parent families, certain ethnic minorities and especially disabled and elderly people with insufficient resources to ensure a standard of living above the poverty line (Amnesty International, 2009).
Urban poverty affects directly 1/3 of urban population in Portugal, but it also has high invaluable indirect impacts felt by all society. The metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto are the areas most affected by poverty and social exclusion. There were 12 300 people supported by AMI in 2010, which represents 45% in Lisbon and 40% in Porto (AMI, 2010).
What can be done? First, to overcome urban poverty a possible solution is to control rural poverty aligned with the control over influx to cities, by developing better survival opportunity in villages. The education system needs to be job-oriented in rural and urban areas. Encourage set up of small industries (pollution free) in rural villages that can create jobs and at the same time, discourage industries in urban cities to control population flows.
In my opinion, there is a huge number of hidden population that is poor, because of shame. These families could be helped and then start having better conditions of life if they look for social help and support from any of all social institutions that exists, rather that live in secret.
But is the ability to respond to the challenge of eradicating poverty and providing basic needs sufficient to promote the viability of urban centers?
by Rita Loução de Almeida
Amnisty International: http://www.amnistia-internacional.pt/files/Relatoriosvarios/RelatorioPobreza_com_indice.pdf