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Portugal - National Level

Short overview of the labour market


According to the INE (National Statistics Institute) Employment Survey, Portugal had a population of 10 294 100 in 2018, comprising 47.3% men and 52.7% women.

In that same year, the active population was 5 232 600 and the employed population was around 4 866 700 (+2.3% compared to 2017). The rate of unemployment was 7% (7.4% for women), representing a fall of 1.9% on the previous year and continuing the downward trend observed since 2014. Unemployment among young people under 25 years of age stood at 20.3%. Youth unemployment is a particularly sensitive issue, although there has been an improvement in recent years (down 3.6% from the previous year). Long-term unemployment has also fallen, but still accounts for 51% of total unemployment (the EU-28 average stood at 44.7% in 2017).

According to the European Labour Force Survey (data for the fourth quarter of 2018), Portugal’s activity rate (75.1%) is still higher than the EU-28 average (of 73.8%). The participation of Portuguese women in the labour market (72.3%) is also higher than the EU-28 average (of 68.4%).

As far as new forms of work organisation are concerned, part-time work in the country is still limited (only 8.1% of total employment compared to 19.1% for the EU-28), particularly among women (10.7%), when compared to the average of 31.3% female employment at EU-28 level.

At the end of 2018, the monthly average registered by the Employment Services in Portugal was 357 325 unemployed (almost 77 200 less than one year ago). At the end of December 2018, of the 339 035 people registered as unemployed, 44.3% were men and 55.7% were women. Of these, 43.8% had been registered for more than one year.

In December 2018, around 5% of people registered as unemployed on the mainland were foreign nationals. 3 607 were EU citizens (particularly from Romania, Bulgaria, Spain and Italy), while 2 160 were from Eastern European countries (particularly Ukraine). There were also around 9 400 registered unemployed from Portuguese-speaking countries, especially Brazil (5 017) and Cape Verde (1 393).

A sectoral analysis of the employed workforce in 2018 gives an idea of the country’s employment profile: agriculture, animal farming, hunting, forestry and fishing represent 6% of the employed population; industry, construction, energy and water 24.8%; and services 69.1%.

The country’s tertiary sector continues to gain in importance, particularly vehicle trade and repair, transport and storage, hotels and restaurants (25.3% of total employment), and public administration and defence, social security, education, health and social support services (24.6%).

The real estate business was responsible for the largest job creation compared to 2017, followed by public administration and defence, social security, education and health and social support services. Employment in vehicle trade and repair recorded one of the largest falls in employment, thus reversing the trend seen in previous years.

Industry, construction and the energy and water sectors, which have been recovering since the beginning of 2014, recorded a year-on-year increase of 32 400 jobs, and the construction industry, which has been recovering since last year, saw a small drop in employment, due to current stagnation.

Manufacturing (representing 17.1% of all jobs), not one of the most dynamic sectors in the Portuguese economy, has been undergoing modernisation and provided an increase of 40 100 jobs in the year under analysis. Some sectors should be highlighted, not only in terms of employment (the number of jobs and the skills required), but also with regard to their contribution to wealth creation in the country, in particular because they focus on exports:

  • information and communication technologies, with a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises developing software, for example, or working in web design, digital marketing and multimedia;
  • the moulds sector in the Centre region;
  • life sciences, the pharmaceuticals industry and the emerging biotechnology sector;
  • the automotive ‘cluster’ (with the presence of makes such as Volkswagen, but also some component production plants);
  • electrical and electronic equipment industries.
  • the transport and logistics sector, which experienced significant growth driven by the increase in tourism, the internationalisation of the economy and the improvement in the economic situation.

Traditional sectors, such as footwear and clothing, have also committed to modernisation and internationalisation, resulting in new jobs being created.


Text last edited on: 06/2019

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