por Portugal aos Órgãos de Controlo da Aplicação
dos Tratados das Nações Unidas em Matéria de
Summary record of the 59th meeting
: Portugal. 21/11/2000. E/C.12/2000/SR.59. (Summary Record)
COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL
AND CULTURAL RIGHTS, Twenty-fourth session
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 59th MEETING, Held
at the Palais Wilson, Geneva,
on Tuesday, 14 November 2000, at 3 p.m.
Chairperson: Mrs. BONOAN-DANDAN
The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.
CONTENTS: CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS:
(a) REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES IN ACCORDANCE
WITH ARTICLES 16 AND 17 OF THE COVENANT (agenda item 6) (continued)
Third periodic report of Portugal (E/1994/104/Add.20;
E/C.12/Q/POR/1; written replies to the list of issues prepared by
the Government of Portugal (document without a reference number);
1. At the invitation of the Chairperson, the
members of the delegation of Portugal resumed their places at the
2. The CHAIRPERSON invited members of the Committee
and the delegation of Portugal to continue their discussion of questions
11 to 16 of the list of issues relating to articles 6 and 7 of the
3. Mr. CEVILLE said he would like to raise an
issue not included in the list. According to NGO reports, many children
under 15 years of age were working illegally in Portugal, especially
in the north of the country. Could the delegation comment on those
4. Mrs. JIMÉNEZ BUTRAGUEÑO said
that the written replies to number 14 of the list of issues gave
statistics on employment in various population sectors, whereas
the Committee had asked for statistics on unemployment, disaggregated
by economic sector, gender and age. She was particularly interested
in unemployment among those aged 45 and above.
5. Mr. DOS SANTOS PAIS (Portugal), providing
answers to questions raised at the 58th meeting, said that over
the past 15 years the courts had handed down a total of six decisions
on issues covered by the Covenant: five on article 8 and one on
article 13. That figure related exclusively to decisions of the
Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Lisbon Court of
Appeal, but lower courts followed the same general lines in their
6. The delegation had also found that seven
of the legal opinions issued by the Office of the Attorney-General
in response to questions on legal matters from Government officials
and members of Parliament related to issues under the Covenant.
Such opinions were binding on Government agencies and ensured the
uniformity of their policies and actions.
7. Consultations were currently being held among
governmental agencies on the ratification of International Labour
Organization (ILO) Convention No. 118: Equality of Treatment (Social
Security), 1962, which, it appeared, would pose no problems, primarily
owing to the strict European regulations on such matters, with which
Portugal complied. He had sought further information on why Portugal
had not ratified ILO Convention No. 107: Indigenous and Tribal Populations,
1957. As the delegation had stated earlier, since the end of the
colonial period, Portugal no longer had indigenous populations,
and in bilateral discussions, ILO had urged it to denounce both
ILO Convention No. 107 and Convention No. 104: Abolition of Penal
Sanctions (Indigenous Workers), 1955. Convention No. 169: Indigenous
and Tribal Peoples, 1989, was unlikely to be ratified, for similar
8. Ms. ALBUQUERQUE (Portugal) said that in its
funding of international cooperation Portugal focused on such values
as solidarity, peace, promotion of democratic institutions, the
rule of law, respect for human rights, sustainable economic development
and environmental protection. In the past, support had been given
for educational activities and the health sector, particularly reproductive
health; for enhancing the rule of law, good governance and efficient
administrative practices; for the development of the private sector;
and for the restructuring of legal systems, including technical
and legal assistance to judges and public prosecutors. Twenty-six
per cent of the aid provided by Portugal was directed to infrastructure
and social services. Her country also provided support for NGOs,
debt relief and environmental protection.
9. Mr. DOS SANTOS PAIS (Portugal) said that
the Social Employment Market had served as a predominant theme during
Portugal's presidency of the European Union. Concerning the impact
of measures to promote greater flexibility in labour relations,
legislation had been adopted in the early 1980s on the dismissal
of workers who failed to keep pace with technological advances,
but very strict general criteria governed their dismissal. The current
Government, like the one before it, sought to resolve employer/employee
disputes through a strategic dialogue aimed at improving employment
opportunities. That direct approach had largely minimized the adverse
impact of increased flexibility in labour relations.
10. On relations with the International Monetary
Fund (IMF), in the late 1970s, Portugal's budding democracy had
solicited aid from the IMF in restructuring its economy. However,
as a member of the European Union Portugal was now subject to very
strict criteria for governmental intervention in the economy, and
was no longer borrowing from the IMF: indeed, it was lending to
other countries in the context of international cooperation.
11. Concerning migrant workers abroad, around
4 million out of a total Portuguese population of 10 million now
resided abroad, but no statistics were available on how many of
them were working.
12. Lastly, figures on employment, rather than
unemployment, had been provided in response to the French language
version of number 14 of the list of issues, which differed from
the English version.
13. Ms. FIGUEIREDO (Portugal) said that measures
to promote flexibility and improve employment opportunities had
been introduced within a framework of social dialogue. Concerning
the broadening of the range of tasks that workers could perform
within their skills category and remuneration level and variations
in annual working schedules, the legislative framework had been
expanded in full consultation with labour. When the application
or interpretation of the legislation had given rise to disagreement,
expert opinion had been sought. As to the preparation of the Portuguese
labour market for globalization, there had been a discussion at
the recent European Union Lisbon Summit on upgrading skills through
training in new technologies.
14. Unemployment had steadily decreased as a
consequence of economic growth and the adoption of active employment
policy measures. From 7.3 per cent in 1996, it had fallen to 6.7
per cent in 1997, 5 per cent in 1998 and 4.5 per cent in 1999. Of
that 4.5 per cent, men accounted for 4 per cent and women for 0.5
per cent; while long-term unemployment represented 37.6 per cent
of the total figure: 36 per cent for men and 39 per cent for women,
mostly in the 15 to 44 age group.
15. Of the measures recently adopted to promote
continued reductions in unemployment, Decree-Law No. 190 of 14 April
1999 provided that the total amount of unemployment benefits could
be paid as a lump sum when the beneficiary was enrolled in a self-employment
project. Within certain limits, unemployment benefits could also
be drawn in combination with part-time job remuneration. New measures
were available to support young enterpreneurs under the European
Union support arrangements.
16. Ms. BRÁS GOMES (Portugal) said that
the Social Employment Market referred to in the written replies
comprised a number of measures undertaken by non-profit institutions
to provide opportunities for people who, owing to their lack of
academic qualifications and professional skills, would have difficulty
in competing in a normal market relationship. Non-profit institutions
were by far the largest providers of social services in Portugal,
and were heavily supported by the State. The aim of the "integration
enterprises" - themselves non-profit institutions - was to
provide opportunities for groups such as the long-term unemployed
or persons receiving the minimum guaranteed income to find a sustainable
income and a way out of poverty and social exclusion by developing
personal, social and occupational skills that would later enable
them to compete in the normal labour market. Each worker admitted
to such an enterprise was provided with an individual integration
programme. In order to qualify as an integration enterprise, an
establishment must have between 5 and 20 workers involved in a social
integration programme. The measure had been introduced as recently
as 1998, but in that year 67 projects involving 555 persons had
been approved. The activities undertaken were mostly community services.
In 1999, 308 new enterprises had catered for 2,640 long-term unemployed
or disadvantaged persons. Social integration enterprises had an
important twofold role: to provide integration opportunities for
unemployed persons; and to meet the needs of various target groups
- such as children, the elderly, and disabled persons - that were
not adequately covered by the normal operation of the market.
17. Ms. FIGUEIREDO (Portugal), replying to questions
on child labour, said that steps had recently been taken to extend
the period of compulsory schooling and that the age for entry into
the labour market had been raised to 16 years. Children under 16
were allowed to perform only "light" tasks, after having
completed the period of compulsory schooling and on the basis of
a restricted work schedule. Breaches persisted, however, and labour
inspectorates were making greater efforts to enforce the law, especially
in the north.
18. Mr. DOS SANTOS PAIS (Portugal) said his
country had been one of the few in Europe to acknowledge openly
that problems that existed with regard to child labour. There were
three districts where child labour remained a problem. Following
concerted action between the Government and relevant NGOs, the incidence
of child labour had now been greatly reduced,
though in some cases it appeared that it was being continued surreptitiously
as labour in the home, for example in the shoe industry. It was
difficult for the labour inspectorate to tackle that problem, although
relevant information was immediately acted upon.
19. Ms. ALBUQUERQUE (Portugal) said that Portugal
had ratified ILO Convention No. 138: Minimum Age, 1973, and was
currently in the process of ratifying Convention No.182: Worst Forms
of Child Labour, 1999. Article 152 of the Criminal Code expressly
prohibited the ill-treatment and exploitation of minors and imposed
a sentence of one to five years' imprisonment for such offences.
20. According to statistics compiled by the
General Labour Inspectorate, 80 per cent of all child labour was
concentrated in three districts. Since the extension of compulsory
schooling, a trend towards children's starting to work at a later
age could be observed: fewer 10-to-12-year-olds were entering the
labour market. In the period 1993 to 1995, 65 per cent of all working
minors had already completed their compulsory schooling. Between
1990 to 1996 there had been a drastic reduction in the number of
21. Mr. DOS SANTOS PAIS (Portugal) said that
the Portuguese Government was trying to address the problem of vocational
training, and had allocated considerable budgetary resources to
training, not only for young people but also for the elderly and
the long-term unemployed. Portugal had also targeted an initiative
on adults unemployed for less than 12 months. It was keen to provide
people with new skills to enable them to cope with technological
innovation in enterprises.
22. Ms. VARZIELAS (Portugal) said that employment
could be terminated either through early retirement or through retirement
at the statutory age, which was 65 for both men and women. However,
it was possible to continue working after the age of 65. There had
been cases in the past of enterprises imposing early retirement
on employees because of insolvency. However, such measures were
currently being called into question throughout western Europe.
Nevertheless, it should be said that Portugal had a higher percentage
of actively employed persons over 64 years of age than the rest
of Europe. According to EUROSTAT, that group accounted for 25 per
cent of the working population, as against a European average of
6.5 per cent.
23. The high proportion of older people still
actively employed was attributable to the flexibility exercised
by the Government in respect of the age of retirement. Decree-Law
No. 999, passed in January 1999, had established the statutory retirement
age at 65 for both men and women but made it possible for employees
with at least 30 years' social security contributions to their credit
to apply for retirement at 55, in which case they would be penalized
for each year not worked before the age of 65. Alternatively, employees
could request permission to continue working after the age of 65,
which would earn them a bonus for each additional year worked up
to the age of 70.
24. Mr. RIEDEL said that the European Committee
of Social Rights, in handing down its decision in the case brought
against Portugal by the International Commission of Jurists in 1998,
had pointed out that "light work" could no longer be considered
light if it was carried on for excessively long periods, namely,
20 to 25 hours per week during the school term, 3 hours per day
on school days, or 6 to 8 hours per day during vacations in the
case of a child under 15; that would constitute a violation of the
European Social Charter, and also of the Covenant. Although the
State party was to be commended for its efforts to combat child
labour, when the time came for it to submit its next report, the
Committee would appreciate more concrete replies and indications
of benchmarks used for the various categories of child labour, especially
in the construction and tourist industries, in order better to assess
the State party's progress in that regard. It was not enough to
devise strategies; results had to be examined so as to determine
whether the objectives set had been realistic.
25. Mr. ANTANOVICH said it had been reported
that Portuguese workers had very little bargaining power because
of the lack of trade union clout and job insecurity. Apparently
Portugal paid some of the lowest wages in the European Union, in
spite of the strong wage growth registered since accession, and
there was still a wide gap between men's and women's wages. The
Committee of Independent Experts of the European Social Charter
had noted with concern that the Portuguese gender wage gap had not
narrowed since 1985. How did the Government intend to deal with
the problem and why was the gap being closed so slowly in spite
of the economic growth of the past five years?
26. Mr. AHMED, noting that the minimum wage
was fixed by the Government, rather than through collective bargaining,
and that only 9.2 per cent of the workforce earned that wage, inquired
about the income level of other workers.
27. Mr. DOS SANTOS PAIS (Portugal), replying
to Mr. Riedel's question on child labour, said that the figures
were now falling to more acceptable levels; compulsory education
not only prevented children from entering the labour market but
also equipped them with skills, thus avoiding their exploitation
as unskilled labour. Concerning the wage gap between men and women,
the Constitution and new legislation laid down measures aimed at
correcting the imbalance, but the State party was aware of some
unresolved cases in the private sector. As for the low wage levels
recorded, it should be remembered that Portugal had been a small
economy prior to its accession to the European Union and that the
transition had brought certain adjustment problems. However, employers
and trade unions were negotiating to increase wages so as to bring
them gradually into line with those of other European countries.
28. A mere 9.2 per cent of workers earned the
statutory minimum wage. All other workers earned more - some far
more - than the minimum wage. By contrast, the "minimum income"
was supplementary income provided by the Government to unemployed
persons not earning the minimum wage, subject to certain conditions,
such as attendance of training courses to facilitate their re-entry
into the job market.
29. Ms. FIGUEIREDO (Portugal) said that collective
bargaining took various forms; an employer and a trade union could
decide on the minimum wage for an entire sector, or one or more
trade unions and the employer could set the minimum wage for one
particular enterprise. The statutory minimum wage was determined
through consultations with the social partners. It served merely
as a guideline, and was adjusted annually so as to outpace inflation.
30. Mr. WIMER ZAMBRANO said that the Committee
of Independent Experts of the European Social Charter had found
Portugal to be in breach of the European Social Charter in respect
of paid public holidays and the quality of labour inspection. Portuguese
enterprises with more than 10 employees awarded workers compensatory
leave equivalent to only 25 per cent of the hours they worked on
public holidays, rather than the 100 per cent laid down by the Charter;
and the high incidence of accidents at the workplace seemed to point
to poor labour inspection. Both situations also constituted violations
of article 7 of the Covenant.
31. Mr. DOS SANTOS PAIS (Portugal) said that
the number of industrial accidents had fallen, although it was admittedly
still high. Inspections had increased over the last few years, but
more steps needed to be taken to address the concerns raised by
the Committee on Independent Experts.
32. Ms. FIGUEIREDO (Portugal) said that there
had been extensive training of labour inspectors, who had been familiarized
with recent legislation so as to equip them to do their job more
33. The CHAIRPERSON invited members to put supplementary
questions on articles 9 and 10.
34. Mr. RIEDEL, noting the disparity between
paragraphs 293 and 297 of the report (E/1994/104/Add.20), asked
about the outcome of the Social Security White Paper Board proposals
and the status of the draft legislation. He would welcome explanations
of the background to the Decree-Law setting time limits for employers
to notify social security agencies of the hiring of new workers.
It would also be interesting to know the current status of labour
legislation governing the employment of non-nationals, as, to judge
from the written reply to question 17 of the Committee's list of
issues (E/C.12/Q/POR/1), Portugal seemed to operate on the principle
of reciprocity in that area, which was usually ineffectual because
of differences in standards between countries.
35. He also wished to know whether illegal immigrants
were guaranteed a minimum level of subsistence. Lastly, in connection
with the written reply to number 19 of the list of issues and bearing
in mind the Europe-wide problem of aging populations and the funding
implications for pensions, did the Government plan to tackle the
problem through the use of private insurance, State pensions, or
a combination of both?
36. Mr. HUNT, while welcoming the commendable
measures taken to combat domestic violence outlined in the written
reply to number 23 of the list of issues, pointed out that no data
had been provided on the extent of the problem, or on the legal
powers of the courts to judge such cases. He would like to know
the root causes of domestic violence in Portugal, as, although the
problem was universal the underlying factors differed from country
to country. Lastly, he asked whether domestic violence against children
was widespread, and if so, what measures the State party had taken
to combat it.
37. Mr. GRISSA, recalling that before Portugal's
accession to the European Union most of the workforce had not enjoyed
social security coverage, wondered about the current level of coverage,
especially for workers who had not been able to make sufficient
contributions to qualify for a retirement pension. When had social
security coverage been made compulsory?
38. Mrs. JIMÉNEZ BUTRAGUEÑO said
she shared the concerns just expressed by Mr. Riedel and Mr. Grissa,
and would expect Portugal's next report to the Committee to contain
far more extensive information on social security provision, reflecting
progress in the implementation of recommendations made by the Social
Security White Paper Board. In its gradual reform of the social
security system, the Portuguese authorities might be well advised
to bear in mind paragraph 9 of the Committee's General Comment No.
3, which, in referring to States' "progressive realization"
of the rights recognized under the Covenant, stated that "&
any deliberately retrogressive measures [&] would require the
most careful consideration and would need to be fully justified
by reference to the totality of the rights provided for in the Covenant
and in the context of the full use of the maximum available resources".
In that regard, the maintenance of acquired rights was an issue
of paramount importance.
39. Citing a recent case in her own village
in Spain, in which an 84-year-old man had been sent to prison for
killing his wife, having been unable to cope with her Alzheimer's
disease, she also asked what assistance was provided for families
in which an elderly person had to be cared for.
40. Mr. WIMER ZAMBRANO, noting that there seemed
to be an increase in paedophilia, child pornography and trafficking
in women in Portugal, asked what was the reaction of the Government
and society at large to such problems.
41. Ms. VARZIELAS (Portugal), replying to members'
questions and concerns about social security, said that a number
of important interim measures had been introduced as a result of
studies carried out by the White Paper Board. First, the Decree-Law
of 30 September 1999 required all those engaged in voluntary work
in Portugal to join a social assistance scheme for volunteers. Also
in 1999, additional dependency allowances paid in cash had been
introduced for those receiving invalidity, old age and survivor
pensions. They were payable under both the general and the non-contributory
schemes, and were indexed to the value of social security benefits.
The level of allowances varied with the level of dependence, and
consideration was currently being given to increasing the higher
42. As to insurance coverage in respect of industrial
injuries, under a framework law adopted in 1997 and implemented
in 1999, all self-employed workers were now required to take out
private insurance against industrial injuries and occupational diseases.
Workers whose employers became insolvent or who could not fulfil
all the necessary conditions could receive assistance through a
special fund financed from the contributions of the life insurers
and the premiums paid by members. Benefits in respect of occupational
diseases came under the social security system. Once again, a back-up
fund existed, but self-employed workers joined the scheme on a voluntary
43. New social security legislation enabled
unemployed persons who obtained part-time work to continue to receive
unemployment benefit, adjusted in accordance with the number of
44. Under Decree-Law No. 341 of 25 August 1999,
the family allowance was now payable after payment of only one day's
contributions, rather than of six months' contributions, as had
previously been the case. With regard to notification of new employment,
the regulations stated that the employer and employee must declare
the presence of a new worker to the Department of Social Security
within one month of the commencement of work. Since that regulation
had been approved as recently as 1999, no data were yet available
to indicate how successful the social security inspectorate had
been in enforcing it.
45. The matter of foreign and Portuguese workers'
right to social security was regulated by Framework Law No. 24 of
14 August 1984, which was still in force, although it would soon
be superseded by a new framework law adopted in 2000. Both laws
required all workers, irrespective of nationality, to contribute
to the social security system. In accordance with the principles
of equality that underlay both the old and new social security systems,
a foreign worker who fulfilled the social security requirements
in Portugal enjoyed the same rights as Portuguese workers in a similar
situation, whether or not those rights were recognized in the foreign
worker's country of origin. However, once a non-national worker
returned home, the maintenance of his acquired rights was conditional
upon the signing of a reciprocity agreement between Portugal and
his country of origin. The delegation would be pleased to provide
the Committee with a list of the many bilateral and multilateral
reciprocity agreements that Portugal had signed with other countries.
46. Concerning the threat to the stability of
the Portuguese social security system posed by the growing number
of retirees and the dwindling number of working contributors, her
Government had concluded that, even in the unlikely event of a resurgence
in employment, Portugal would experience problems in financing its
pension system over the next 15 years. The Government had calculated
that payments to the elderly would account for 74 per cent of the
social services budget by the end of 2001. A number of other measures
had already been taken in addition to those being studied by the
White Paper Board. Thus, the reserve fund set up in the early 1990s
had been replaced, under a Decree-Law of 4 November 1999, by an
institute responsible for managing a new capitalization fund covering
all social security payments. The new institute already had funds
equivalent to 3 per cent of Portugal's GDP, and would have assets
totalling 75 billion escudos by the end of 2001, 50 per cent of
which would be allocated to pensions. The decree-law also authorized
the institute to manage other capitalization funds for the purpose
of maintaining the financial equilibrium of the social security
system. As a result of measures introduced recently, social security
resources were now managed more strictly and levels of fraud and
evasion had decreased significantly.
47. Following extensive national debate of proposals
submitted by the Social Security White Paper Board, the National
Assembly had finally approved a new Framework Law on Social Security,
Law No. 17/2000 of 8 August, due to enter into force in February
2001 to supersede Framework Law 28/1984. The Council of Ministers
had very recently set up a national commission empowered to issue
decrees relating to implementation of the new framework law, which
would also examine thoroughly all the measures proposed, with a
view to introducing them gradually.
48. The main principles of the new framework
law, which built on the old one, were: the primacy of the State's
responsibility to create the conditions needed to ensure full realization
of the right to social security, applying equal treatment where
situations were equal, and differentiating where situations were
not equal; differentiating positively in favour of high-risk populations,
by granting additional resources to those in greatest need; and
eliminating the causes of marginalization and social exclusion,
thereby ensuring all citizens' integration into social life.
49. The first pillar of the social protection
arrangements provided for under the new Framework Law comprised
three sub-systems. One sub-system covered families or individuals
with few or no economic means, those on the minimum wage or who
had paid insufficient contributions to other regimes. The sub-system
also provided for social welfare measures designed to prevent and
eradicate poverty and social exclusion. The second sub-system covered
family protection, providing compensation for costs incurred by
families in looking after disabled dependants. The third, social
insurance, sub-system provided for benefits in the event of illness,
unemployment, maternity, industrial injury, occupational disease,
invalidity, old age and death. The first two sub-systems covered
the entire population, regardless of nationality. The third covered
employed and self-employed persons, also without regard to nationality.
Workers received graduated pensions based on lifetime contributions,
and retained their rights acquired under the old system.
50. The first sub-system and family protection
benefits under the second sub-system were funded by the State out
of tax revenues. The social insurance sub-system was funded from
contributions made by employers and employees. The new Framework
Law provided that between 2 and 4 per cent of all employees' contributions
must be paid into a capitalization fund designed to protect future
51. The new Framework Law also provided for
the possible introduction of supplementary public social security
schemes, under a second pillar of the new arrangements. The White
Paper Board was examining the issue, and in particular the possible
introduction of a ceiling on contributions. The Framework Law also
made provision for the development of a third pillar in the form
of private pension schemes to complement the existing arrangements
under the third sub-system.
52. Lastly, on the question of minimum and maximum
pensions, the Framework Law obliged the Government to maintain a
minimum non-contributory pension until 2003. In the absence of a
maximum pension, provision existed for pensions to be differentiated
according to income.
53. Ms. TAVARES DA SILVA (Portugal) said that
the authorities had devised a Plan to Combat Domestic Violence,
attesting to the high priority assigned it by the Government Programme.
The Plan's goals were awareness-raising and prevention, intervention,
and research. A campaign, aimed mainly at young people, had been
launched by the Portuguese Youth Institute with the cooperation
of the new Commission on the Equality and Rights of Women (CIDM).
That body held briefing sessions for schools, health professionals,
police officers and, on occasion, magistrates. Similar activities
were also conducted by some NGOs.
54. With regard to protection for victims of
violence, Law No. 107/99 provided the legal framework for a network
of shelters, although few had yet been established. A 24-hour telephone
hotline was staffed by CIDM by day, and by an NGO, the Portuguese
Association for the Protection of Victims, at night. Reports
emanating from studies and research provided an overall picture
of the situation regarding violence against women, the places where
it occurred most frequently - principally the home - and the main
aggressors, usually the spouse or partner.
55. The causes of violence had not been thoroughly
researched, but the figure of 16 per cent of violent acts attributable
to drugs or alcohol consumption was a sizeable, under-estimate.
Another cause was unemployment, although domestic violence was rife
in all social strata. Psychological violence against women was more
common in the upper social brackets, physical violence more common
among the poorer sectors. The Government was undertaking a study
of the social costs of violence, and one university had introduced
the topic in its postgraduate programme. Eighty-one per cent of
the victims of acts of violence reported in 1999 had been women,
and 87 per cent of the aggressors men.
56. Mr. DOS SANTOS PAIS (Portugal) said that
the Government was extremely disturbed at the high incidence of
sexual exploitation of women. The phenomenon was linked to the Russian
Mafia, which had infiltrated Portugal and used women as a means
of subsistence. The authorities were well aware of the need to combat
criminal associations of that type.
57. Ms. ALBUQUERQUE (Portugal) said that Decree-Law
No. 98/98 had established the National Committee for the Protection
of Children and Youth at Risk, which came under the Ministry of
Justice and the Ministry of Labour and Solidarity and was responsible
for planning, coordination, and follow-up. The Law concerning children
at risk was based on the relevant principles of the Convention on
the Rights of the Child. Article 3 of that Law was explicit: if
the parent or legal guardian posed a threat to any aspect of the
child's well-being, the Committee was required to intervene and
provide the parents with support. Placement in a foster home or
institution was a measure of last resort. Nationwide telephone hotlines
for children, some of which were confidential, steered the child
towards the relevant social services.
58. Regarding child pornography, paedophilia
and child prostitution, not only did article 69 of the Portuguese
Constitution lay down that children had the right to the State's
and society's protection from all forms of ill-treatment, but the
Portuguese Government was also taking action to combat those scourges,
adopting domestic legislation and signing up to international treaty
obligations. Custodial sentences were imposed on persons involved
in such crimes, the length of the term varying with the age of the
child. If the acts were performed for economic gain, the penalty
was more severe, and even more so if the perpetrators had a child
aged 14 to 18 in their charge. Decree-Law No. 98/98 was also an
important text in that regard and explicitly regulated situations
in which children were involved in pornography or activities that
affected their health, education or development and their parents
took no effective measures to remedy the situation.
59. The police, the judiciary and all public
or private bodies dealing with children and young people were obliged
to report any such cases to the local committees which, in turn,
were required to intervene at the request of the child or parent
or with their consent. The courts intervened only if that consent
was not forthcoming. The 1998 revision of the Criminal Code provided
for the prosecution of Portuguese citizens who trafficked in children
or encouraged child prostitution. Moreover, at the recent Millennium
Summit in New York the Prime Minister had signed the Optional Protocol
to the Convention on the Rights of the Child concerning the sale
of children, child pornography and prostitution. One of the many
measures the Government had taken to reduce vulnerability to commercial
sexual exploitation was to encourage young people to continue their
studies beyond the mandatory age.
60. Ms. BRAS GOMES (Portugal) said that while
it was no secret that illegal immigrants existed, that status did
not deny them access to social services. Replying to Mrs. JimÚnez
Butrague±o's question concerning the elderly, she recognized
the great store older persons set by living in their own environment
with all the support they could muster; accordingly, the conditions
for the implementation and functioning of home-help services had
been reviewed in 1999 and some improvements recommended. However,
institutional care sometimes became a necessity, and programmes
were under way to enhance both the quality and number of such residences.
61. The Programme for Older Persons in Residential
Care (PILAR) encouraged non-profit institutions to increase the
number of places in homes for the elderly and to develop new solutions
such as short-term care. That programme had provided 9,300 new places
since 1997. Similarly, the Programme to Support Private Social Initiatives
(PAIPSS), scheduled to end in 2001, sought not only to increase
the number of places, but also to provide new employment and professional
training opportunities for persons working in those services.
62. The quality of such services was of the
utmost importance. Accordingly, the initial aims of the new Av
("Grandfather") Plan were to evaluate progress, identify
and locate older persons, and organize services. The final target
was to develop a process for quality certification of existing institutions,
in cooperation with the Portuguese Institute for Quality. Progress
towards that target would be reported in the country's fourth periodic
63. Regarding services for dependent persons,
two measures had been implemented. Under the first, since 1997 recipients
of the various pensions under the general social security scheme
had been entitled to a supplementary dependency benefit. As already
mentioned, two degrees of dependency were taken into account, and
the legislation was being revised with a view to increasing the
benefit for the most severely dependent. The second measure, undertaken
jointly by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour and
Solidarity, was the development of the Integrated Intervention Model
for Social Support and Health Care for Dependent Persons. The objective
was to improve dependent persons' living conditions and assist their
families. Two types of service were being developed: small units
providing residential care for disabled and elderly persons and
psychiatric patients; and integrated services, provided by multidisciplinary
teams, combining home help with a social and health-care component.
Although it was a two-year experimental scheme, regional and subregional
plans were afoot to transform it into a permanent and effective
64. In connection with Mrs. JimÚnez Butrague±o's
reference to an incident in her own village, she stressed the special
attention paid to particularly difficult situations in certain geographical
areas. For instance, in Alentejo, a region with an ageing population,
a two-year pilot Help Network had been created in 1999 to increase
home-help services for dependent persons and ease the burden on
65. Mr. GRISSA said that while all countries
possessed legislation to prevent child abuse, the phenomenon still
persisted. Laws were all very well, but his question concerning
the problems encountered in their enforcement had still not been
66. Mr. WIMER ZAMBRANO pointed out an anomaly
between written reply No. 22.3 to number 22 of the list of issues
and the statement in the report concerning the dismissal of pregnant
women, which conflicted with article 10, paragraph 2, of the Convention.
Could the delegation clarify the implication that although Law No.
322/95 provided for a general prohibition on such dismissals, they
were still legally possible?
67. Mr. DOS SANTOS PAIS (Portugal) said that
the problem was the result of a typographical error and that there
was indeed a general prohibition on the dismissal of pregnant women.
68. Ms. FIGUEIREDO (Portugal), citing a series
of laws and decree-laws and the Constitution, said that pregnant
women could be dismissed only on the basis of misconduct. Dismissal
was presumed to be unfair unless proven otherwise. If it was found
to be unfair, the employer must pay the victim compensation, as
well as reinstate her. In the event of failure to comply with the
latter requirement, the amount of compensation payable was doubled.
Employers were required not only to comply with the law concerning
termination of contract, but also to receive the approval of the
Commission on Termination of Employment, which considered the employer's
views in the presence of a representative of the employee.
69. Either party could seek redress in the courts
if the decision went against it. The courts would always grant a
suspension of the dismissal order unless the judge was convinced
that the employee's behaviour had warranted dismissal, and would
enforce the payment of the employee's salary pending the final ruling.
If the employer did not comply, the penalty would be increased.
70. Mr. WIMER ZAMBRANO reiterated his request
for clarification of the apparent contradiction in paragraph 22
of the written replies to the list of issues, regarding the dismissal
of pregnant women.
71. Ms. FIGUEIREDO (Portugal) said that dismissal
was prohibited unless there was due justification, which must be
recognized by law. The prevailing factor in such cases was usually
the seriousness of the alleged misconduct. The law was intended
to protect pregnant women and to make it more difficult to dismiss
The meeting rose at 6 p.m.