por Portugal aos Órgãos de Controlo da Aplicação
dos Tratados das Nações Unidas em Matéria de
Summary record of the 8th meeting
: Portugal. 09/05/95. E/C.12/1995/SR.8. (Summary Record)
COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND
CULTURAL RIGHTS, Twelfth session
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 8th MEETING, Held
at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Thursday, 4 May 1995, at 3 p.m.
Chairperson: Mr. GRISSA
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS (continued)
(a) REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES IN
ACCORDANCE WITH ARTICLES 16 AND 17 OF THE COVENANT
Portugal (continued) (E/1990/6/Add.6; E/C.12/1994/WP.27)
The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS (agenda item 6) (continued)
(a) REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES IN
ACCORDANCE WITH ARTICLES 16 AND 17 OF THE COVENANT
Portugal (continued) (E/1990/6/Add.6; E/C.12/1994/WP.27)
1. At the invitation of the Chairperson, Mr. de Santa Clara Gomes,
Mr. Ribeiro Lopes, Mr. Botelho, Mr. Menezes, Mr. Coelho, Mrs. Leitão,
Mrs. Varzielas, Mrs. Bras Gomes, Mr. Madureira, Mr. Marrecas Ferreira
and Mrs. Goncalves Martins Faria (Portugal) resumed their places
at the Committee table.
1. The CHAIRPERSON invited the Committee to resume its discussion
of the Portuguese delegation's written replies to issues Nos. 13
to 16 of the list of issues (E/C.12/1994/WP.27).
2. Mr. AHMED suggested that, for greater clarity, the section containing
issues Nos. 14 and 15 of the Portuguese Government's written replies
should be interchanged, in order not to interrupt the discussion
of social security.
3. Mr. ALVAREZ VITA, referring to the remarks by the representative
of Portugal on the treatment of non-nationals, said that he seriously
doubted whether article 2, paragraph 3, of the Covenant could be
interpreted as applying to Portugal. He had had informal discussions
with others members of the Committee, whose opinions were divided
as to whether Portugal should be considered to be a developing country.
The delegation might wish to provide some clarifications in that
4. Ms. TAYA asked whether Portugal distinguished between the nationals
of European Union countries and those of other countries in its
treatment of aliens, and if so, on what grounds.
5. Mrs. BONOAN-DANDAN associated herself with Ms. Taya's question.
On another matter, the report was silent about equality between
male and female aliens from non-European countries. She wondered,
for example, whether women from non-European countries residing
in Portugal had the right to bring their families into the country.
6. Mr. TEXIER said he wished to clarify the last point. The Maastricht
Treaty laid down the principle of freedom of movement within the
16 countries of the European Union. That meant that nationals of
European and non-European countries were in fact given different
7. Mr. de SANTA CLARA GOMES (Portugal) thanked Mr. Texier for his
clarification. Portugal did grant certain rights to nationals of
European countries, such as freedom of movement and residence and
certain political rights. Replying to Mr. Alvarez Vita, he said
that the question whether Portugal was a developed or developing
country was a complex issue. and he did not wish to make a categorical
statement. Portugal was one of the less wealthy countries of the
European Union, but in comparison with most non-European Union countries
it would have to be considered a developed country. In the past
10 years especially, its GDP had grown by 3 per cent per year; that
had made it possible to improve the economic and social situation
of the Portuguese people. However, problems persisted, partly because
there was now a higher awareness of the inadequacies of the system,
and the Portuguese people were more demanding of themselves than
they had been 10 years before. In short, although Portugal did not
fall neatly into either category, it might be said that it was in
a situation of transition from developing to developed country.
8. Mrs. VARZIELAS (Portugal) said she wished to clarify her earlier
remarks concerning the treatment of nationals and aliens under the
social security system. There were two categories of protection
in Portugal, a general system covering all workers without discrimination
and a non-contributory system under which benefits were granted
to destitute persons. The second system was applicable only to nationals
of Portugal and European Union countries, and applied to third countries
only through specific bilateral agreements.
9. Mr. ALVAREZ VITA said that there appeared to be a discrepancy
between treatment of aliens as laid down in the Maastricht Treaty
and the Covenant; that, in his view, formed an obstacle to the implementation
of the Covenant. Any reduction of the rights of foreign workers
from non-European Union countries was a violation of the principle
pacta sunt servanda.
10. Mrs. JIMENEZ BUTRAGUEÑO, noted that Mr. Alvarez Vita's
remarks applied to all the countries of the European Union.
11. She wished to raise a question concerning the non-contributory
social security scheme. In her own country, such a scheme covered
all persons over the age of 65, including individuals who had not
contributed to it, such as widows. She would like to know whether
that was what was understood as being a non-contributory scheme.
In addition, she wished to know whether there was a guaranteed minimum
income per person without resources, and if so whether it was available
to legally resident aliens.
12. Mr. de SANTA CLARA GOMES (Portugal) replied that in his view
there was no discrimination in Portugal's treatment of aliens. Portugal
fulfilled its obligations under the Covenant, but in some cases
went further under bilateral and multilateral agreements.
13. Mrs. VARZIELAS (Portugal), replying to Mrs. Jimenez Butragueño,
said that the non-contributory scheme was available to those who
had not participated in it for historical reasons, certain sections
of the population not having been formerly covered. It provided
recipients with the same benefits as the contributory scheme, provided
they were able to prove that their resources fell below a certain
14. Mr. FERREIRA (Portugal), introducing the discussion of issues
Nos. 17 and 18, said that there was theoretical equality between
men and women in Portugal, but that difficulties persisted owing
to the country's transition from a developing to a developed country.
Less than 10 per cent of the posts in Parliament, the Government
and the local government authorities were held by women; precise
statistics were to be found in paragraphs 52 and 68-69 of the Portuguese
report (E/1990/6/Add.6). Women were also more affected by unemployment
than men, with a rate of 7.5 per cent compared with 6.2 per cent
for men during the third quarter of 1994. Training programmes for
women were conducted by the Institute of Employment and Vocational
Training (IEFP), but it was a fact that in general women had fewer
opportunities for training than men.
15. Violence against women persisted, but the Government attempted
to alleviate it by enacting legislation protecting women against
violent crime and compensating the victims. The State granted compensation
independently of other reparations received; naturally, if it was
shown that alternative reparation was possible, the victim was obliged
to return the compensation received.
16. It should also be mentioned that women had the right of popular
participation as laid down in article 52 of the Constitution, of
which women's associations actively availed themselves.
17. On the positive side, there was a high participation of women
in the labour market, with 42.3 per cent of workers being women,
and in higher education, with women representing 55.5 per cent of
registered students in 1991.
18. Regarding social security, article 5 of the Social Security
Act had been amended to eliminate a discriminatory provision in
favour of women, so that the statutory age for receiving old-age
pensions was now 65 for both sexes.
19. With reference to issue No. 18 and specific government action
to ensure gender equality, the Council of Ministers had adopted
resolution 32/94, promoting equal opportunities for Portuguese women
and their full participation in employment and in all aspects of
economic, social and political life and calling for special measures
such as consciousness-raising and vocational training.
20. Much was being done under the aegis of the various Ministries.
For instance, in compliance with the relevant legislation, the Ministry
of the Interior was giving special training to the public security
police to deal with women who were victims of violent crime, just
as the Ministry of Justice was instructing the judicial police in
the special treatment of such women, including the provision of
immediate psychiatric assistance. The Ministry of Justice had also
published a guide for women who were victims of violence, and was
responsible for all training within the prison system and for overseeing
the handling of problems relating to the equality of women by the
various sectoral services under its authority.
21. It should be noted that, to supplement the family law amended
some years earlier, Parliament was discussing an emphasis on parental
responsibility rather than authority, and the promotion of the new
concept of joint custody.
22. The Ministry of Health provided sex education
and family planning education, especially to young people, and sought
to identify persons with sexually transmitted diseases. It had helped
to introduce a new approach to
voluntary abortion in certain cases into the provisions of the new
Criminal Code which would come into effect in October 1995; it had
also helped to draft legislation on medically-assisted procreation.
The Ministry was sponsoring anti-AIDS programmes and the identification
of addicted or alcoholic pregnant women and of mistreated women
23. The Ministry of Labour and Social Security disseminated information
on the principle of equal opportunity in employment, which was well
established in the law. Through the Commission on the Equality and
Rights of Women, it supported private activities in that field,
and publicized the financial incentives available to organizations
providing vocational training to which men and women had equal access.
24. The Office of the Secretary of State for Administrative Modernization
coordinated with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in its
own promotion of equal employment opportunity, especially by ensuring
that the issue was dealt with in the training provided to officials
employed in public administration at the national and local levels.
25. The Office of the Secretary of State for Youth was, through
the Centre for the National Registry of Youth Associations, seeking
to determine the number of women directors and members in such associations
and the extent of participation by women in the programmes sponsored
by the Institute of Employment and Vocational Training and the Youth
Department. Where such participation was not satisfactory, it took
steps to encourage it.
26. Mr. CEAUSU, commending Portugal on the notable advance it had
made in gender equality, asked about specific progress in achieving
equal pay for equal work. He noted from the report (para. 62) that
there was a 1979 law regulating equal treatment in the civil service
but saw no mention of legislation equalizing pay in the private
sector, although the Commission on the Equality and Rights of Women
had made a proposal to that effect. Information on the current real
wage differentials and salary statistics would also be useful. The
report outlined various steps taken by government agencies (paras.
266-270), but he was not convinced that everything possible had
been done to achieve de facto equality in that area.
27. Mr. RIBEIRO LOPES (Portugal) said that the concept of equality,
including equal pay for equal work, was well established in the
law: for instance, in article 59 of the Constitution, in the 1959
Decree-Law on equality of treatment between men and women in employment,
in the establishment of the same minimum wage regardless of gender,
and in many collective agreements which set equal salary conditions.
He agreed, however, that equality in principle however was not always
achieved in practice. In 1993, women on the average were earning
about 25,000 escudos less per month than men, although that was
as much a reflection of the fact that most older women in the workforce
had been traditionally less educated and more circumscribed by the
family and hence less qualified to fill higher-paying posts.
28. Mrs. JIMENEZ BUTRAGUEÑO said that she was very interested
to hear that the minimum wage law made no distinction between men
and women, and wondered if the Constitution offered the same guarantee.
If so, Portugal would, to her knowledge, be the only other country
besides Costa Rica and Canada to have such a constitutional provision.
29. Mr. de SANTA CLARA GOMES (Portugal) said that he would have
to check that point.
30. The CHAIRPERSON invited the delegation to take up section III
of the list of issues, relating to articles 6 to 9 of the Covenant.
31. Mr. RIBEIRO LOPES (Portugal), referring to the right to work
under article 6 of the Covenant, and to issue No. 19 concerning
ways in which women, young people, the elderly and the disabled
were disadvantaged in employment, said that the key was, as always,
education and vocational training. To overcome deficiencies on that
score, the Government financed 100 per cent of job training programmes
for workers over 45, for women in traditionally male professions
and for the disabled; and 20 per cent of a self-employment creation
programme for the long-term unemployed and for workers over the
age of 45 likely to become unemployed. The Government was also giving
priority to job creation as part of local employment initiatives
under welfare programmes for the community, children and the elderly;
and it helped certain categories of workers set themselves up as
self-employed (the hard-core unemployed, seasonal workers, older
or disabled unemployed and the like). Aware of the discrepancy between
the full equality of opportunity guaranteed by law and the de facto
situation, the Government was making strenuous efforts to rectify
32. Referring to issue No. 20 regarding employment statistics for
the period since the previous report, it could be seen from the
statistical table circulated to members of the Committee that the
total number of employed in the population had declined between
1990 and 1994, across the board, although those worst hit were young
people under the age of 18; that there had been a 41.8 per cent
rise in the total number of unemployed in those same years; and
that the rate of unemployment was greater for men than for women.
33. With regard to issue No. 21 and measures taken to address the
unsatisfactory distribution of the labour force and the aggravation
of urban unemployment, the first step had been to help train long-term
unemployed workers and workers likely to join the ranks of the unemployed
to set up their own businesses, by providing Government-financed
training courses in management and administration. There was also
the gradual reduction of working hours, with the agreement of the
employer, available to employees who were within four years of retirement.
The post involved would be occupied simultaneously by the employee
in question and by an unemployed worker who would benefit from the
shared professional experience and the on-the-job training. The
employer paid a worker on a reduced schedule basic pay and all other
benefits guaranteed by law. Other measures were targeted at the
hiring of specific groups, such as the long-term unemployed or workers
over 45: businesses hiring such workers on open-ended contracts
received a subsidy equivalent to 18 times the national minimum monthly
wage per worker and businesses offering training programmes for
persons under 25, or those under 35 unemployed for more than a year,
received a subsidy equivalent to 12 times the national minimum wage.
As another unemployment measure, the government sponsored appropriate
programmes assigning unemployed workers to useful community work
while they were waiting to obtain work or training. A grant of three
times the monthly minimum wage was given as an incentive to those
who found a job of their own accord. The Government had also set
up non-profit organizations known as Employment Clubs to organize
support activities for the unemployed in areas where unemployment
was widespread and where the long-term unemployed were numerous;
each time such an organization found a job for an unemployed worker,
it received an amount equivalent to ten times the monthly minimum
wage. In addition, the public employment centres provided information
and vocational guidance, realistic assessment of the opportunities
in the job market, and assistance in framing personal and professional
aims. There was also special vocational training to economically
and socially disadvantaged or marginalized persons or to persons
who had not completed the minimum level of education.
34. Mr. CEAUSU noted that article 58 of the Constitution spoke of
a "duty to work", and he recalled that the Romanian Labour
Code had been criticized by the International Labour Organization
(ILO) because the term had forced labour associations. He would
like to know the legal implication of the term in Portugal.
35. Mr. TEXIER said that despite Portugal's wide range of facilities
and mechanisms to help the unemployed find work, he wondered what
happened to the marginal group of long-term unemployed who were
unable to get back into a job. Was unemployment benefit available
to them, and if so, for how long, and were there any subsidies or
other payments which would provide them with a minimum income to
ensure that they were not excluded from society?
36. Mr. AHMED, referring to statistics provided by the Portuguese
delegation since its last report, asked whether the figure of 312,000
unemployed in 1994 included foreign workers or whether the figure
related to Portuguese citizens alone. In the latter case, what proportion
would be accounted for by foreign workers? If the figure included
unemployed foreign workers, were they able to benefit from the various
systems listed to combat unemployment, such as the job creation
37. Mr. de SANTA CLARA GOMEZ (Portugal), replying to Mr. Ceausu
said that the constitutional provision he had referred to was not
a mandatory one but was intended to confer a moral obligation on
Portuguese citizens to work harder in order to make their country
38. Mr. RIBEIRO LOPES (Portugal), replying to Mr. Texier, said that
benefits available to the long-term unemployed depended on the reasons
for their unemployment. If they had been dismissed, for example,
they might be entitled to compensation. Generally speaking, in cases
of voluntary unemployment, people were entitled to unemployment
benefits which varied according to the length of unemployment and
their level of contributions to the social security system. If an
individual remained unemployed up to the age of 60, he would be
entitled to early retirement and would not need to wait until he
reached the age of 65.
39. The statistics provided related to the total unemployed and
therefore included foreign workers. It was unlikely that the proportion
relating to aliens could be ascertained, as an individual's nationality
tended not to be a consideration in compiling such statistics.
40. Unemployment benefit, job creation schemes, professional training
and other services were equally available to aliens under the Constitution,
which provided that foreigners had the same rights as nationals
to social security.
41. Replying to issue No. 22, he said that minimum wages were established
in Portugal by law, for different branches of activity. A minimum
wage had been established for the first time 21 years earlier at
three different levels, for domestic work, agricultural work and
other branches of activity. Only two levels now operated, the domestic
level and other sectors, the agricultural sector having been combined
with the latter. For 15 years an annual rate review had taken place
on the basis of ILO instruments, which required that price trends,
productivity, trends in wages obtained by collective bargaining
and the Government's macroeconomic objectives should be taken into
account. The annual review was prepared by a working group which
submitted a minimum wage bill for the approval of Portugal's Economic
and Social Council. That body, made up of representatives of the
Government, workers and employers, then had an opportunity to consider
the bill and give their views.
42. There were no criteria established in law for reviewing the
minimum wage, but an agreement had been reached between the Government
and its social partners on an incomes policy which took account
of inflationary trends. That agreement had operated in all negotiations
between the Government, workers and employers from 1988 to 1992.
Those framework agreements had been replaced by a collective bargaining
and minimum wage system taking into account inflationary forecasts.
The minimum wage had not always kept pace with inflation: in 1990
it had increased by 16.7 per cent compared with an increase in inflation
of 13.4 per cent. In 1992 it had risen by 11 per cent while inflation
had increased by 8.9 per cent. In 1993 the minimum wage increase
was equivalent to inflation, at 6.5 per cent, but in 1994 it had
increased by 4 per cent as against 5.9 per cent for inflation, due
to the country's economic difficulties.
43. Neither firms nor collective agreements could set wages below
the legal minimum, and any employer attempting to do so was liable
to a fine equivalent to twice the amount not paid.
44. Turning to issue No. 23, he said that in cases where Portuguese
nationals were working abroad, the host country was responsible
for protecting their basic rights under its own jurisdiction. Portugal
had legal provisions intended to ensure that individuals going abroad
to work did not find themselves working in unacceptable conditions.
Employment agencies, for example, were not supposed to send workers
abroad on temporary assignments. If an employer based in Portugal
sent an individual abroad to work, that employer would be required
by law to inform the worker of the working conditions he might encounter
abroad, particularly if the work period was in excess of one month.
45. A more specific area of concern was the situation of Portuguese
citizens working with Portuguese companies in other countries of
the European Union, many of whom had encountered difficulties, as
reported regularly in the press. In such cases it was up to the
national authorities to use all means available to solve their problems.
Under European Community law, companies could operate in any other
member State and could send people to work in that other State.
However, under European legislation the laws of the country of origin
applied to workers even during temporary assignments abroad.
46. Two problems then arose: firstly, Portuguese labour inspectors
were not qualified to work in other countries, and, secondly, the
authorities in the other country might not be familiar with Portuguese
legislation and were therefore not qualified to monitor its application.
Consequently, there were monitoring difficulties on both sides.
A model solution was now being sought within the European Union
and guidelines were being prepared to ensure that the laws and collective
agreements of the host country were applied. The guidelines were
not expected to solve the problems entirely but many difficulties
could be overcome through cooperation between the countries concerned.
In 1994, for example, the Portuguese and German Governments had
signed a protocol under which they had agreed to improve monitoring
in both countries.
47. From the preventive point of view, individuals going abroad
to work were usually informed of conditions they were likely to
find in other countries. The Portuguese Government and other national
authorities had already carried out an advertising campaign through
the media to inform workers about public services and sources of
assistance in other countries, and information could be provided
before contracts were signed on the legality or otherwise of possible
employers and the type of working conditions which might be encountered.
48. Turning to issue No. 24 concerning the length of the normal
working day, he said that the working week in the civil service,
banks, insurance companies and so forth was officially 35 hours,
but was based on collective agreements and depended on the activity
involved. In the agricultural sector, for example, a 40-hour working
week operated in the south and a 44-hour working week in the north.
In factories, an 8-hour day operated, while in mining there was
a 40-hour working week for indoor work and a 43-hour working week
for outdoor work. In the various processing industries, the week
varied from 40 to 44 hours. The length of the working week had gradually
been reduced through collective agreements, and 40 hours was the
average working week at the present time.
49. Turning to issue No. 25, he said that there had been no official
wage freeze policy in Portugal. However, the economic crisis had
in some cases led to a reduction in gross salaries. Salaries set
by collective agreements had, generally speaking, been higher than
inflation for some years, except for 1994.
50. Mr. de SANTA CLARA LOPES (Portugal) added that many Portuguese
workers employed in Europe benefited from Portugal's membership
of the European Union. In addition, Portugal had consulates in many
countries where Portuguese workers could get assistance. Strenuous
efforts were also made under bilateral agreements to ensure better
working conditions for the Portuguese abroad.
51. The CHAIRPERSON asked whether the difference between the minimum
wage and real wages was widening or shrinking.
52. Mr. ADEKUOYE asked whether foreigners and guest workers in Portugal
had been subjected to attacks by skinheads as they had in many other
European countries, particularly during the recession.
53. Mr. TEXIER, referring to the question of hygiene and safety
at work, and noting the increase in industrial accidents, according
to the report, asked what powers the labour inspection services
had, particularly when they found anomalies: could they halt work
on a building site, for example, or refer problems to the legal
authorities with the request that certain safety measures should
be installed? Were violations of safety standards considered to
be crimes, particularly where they had resulted in serious injury
or the death of workers? Did the Prosecution Service follow up such
cases and what was the attitude of the courts to them?
54. Mr. RIBEIRO LOPES (Portugal) said a comparison between the national
minimum wage and the average wage showed that in 1987 the national
minimum wage had been 71.4 per cent of the average wage, whereas
in 1993 it had fallen to 53.2 per cent.
55. The statistics showed that the number of accidents in the workplace
leading to injury or death had declined over the previous six years.
In 1993, there had been approximately 243,000 accidents at work
compared with 282,000 such accidents in 1988. Those figures pointed
to a substantial reduction in the total number of accidents.
56. The laws establishing safety measures set fines for those companies
which flouted that legislation. Safety inspectors were authorized
to order the immediate closure of building sites, for example, if
in their opinion, working conditions posed a threat to the safety
of workers. Employers who did not respect safety standards were
criminally responsible under the Penal Code and were punishable
by the courts.
57. Mr. MADUREIRA (Portugal) in response to Mr. Adekuoye's question
said, about five years earlier, there had been racist incidents
leading to the death of one person. The fatality had been attributed
to a group of skinheads holding racist views and belonging to the
MAN (Movement for National Action). In Portugal, the law banned
organizations or associations which professed fascist, including
racist, ideologies. There had been much public debate on the matter.
The Constitutional Court had at that time determined that the organization
was no longer active and had in fact been dissolved and that there
was therefore no need to consider the case in the Constitutional
Court. He acknowledged that there had been conflicts with racist
undertones, but there was no longer any evidence of skinhead activity.
58. Mr. AHMED said he was very interested in the Portuguese system
of setting national minimum wages and he referred to the second
paragraph of the written reply by Portugal to issue No. 22, which
alluded to the existence of two distinct levels of minimum wage.
He asked whether the Portuguese Government felt that domestic workers
needed special protection, whether those workers could join trade
unions, and whether the minimum wage paid to them was relatively
higher or lower than that paid to agricultural workers or others.
He asked why the system of tripartite negotiations had been abandoned
and why, since 1992, the Government had taken over the responsibility
for establishing the national minimum wage.
59. Mr. RIBEIRO LOPES (Portugal) said at first it had been felt
that families would find it difficult to pay their employees a higher
rate than companies, and the rate paid to domestic workers had accordingly
been set at a lower level. Later on, it had been found that families
were in effect paying much more than the rate established by the
law and so the minimum wage set for other segments of the labour
market was made applicable to domestic workers. In addition to the
protection offered to domestic workers by the general social security
scheme, there were also trade unions for such workers.
60. There had been no agreements between the Government and its
social partners since 1992, and the Government had therefore had
to set the minimum wage on its own. One reason for that situation
was the worsening economic situation which made it difficult for
trade unions to arrive at agreements with the Government on the
percentage of annual increase in the minimum wage.
61. The CHAIRPERSON invited the delegation to respond to issues
Nos. 26 to 27.
62. Mr. RIBEIRO LOPES (Portugal) said specific restrictions on the
right to strike were governed by the Constitution and by Act No.
65/77, amended by Act No. 30/92. That legislation restricted the
exercise of the right to strike in the interests of society as a
whole and in order to maintain and defend company property. Trade
unions and workers were required to guarantee a minimum level of
services during a strike. The definition of the minimum level of
services required could give rise to collective bargaining with
the workers' representatives. If, upon notification of a strike,
there was no agreement on the definition of the minimum services,
the Ministry of Labour and Social Security would take the initiative
to assemble representatives of the workers and employers to negotiate
an agreement, either on the definition of such services or on the
adequate means of ensuring provisions of services. If that attempt
failed and there was still no agreement, the Ministry of Labour
and Social Security and the Ministry responsible for the sector
concerned defined the level of minimum services.
63. Responding to issue No. 27 on the fall in the number of unionized
workers, he said the question was difficult to answer, particularly
in sociological terms. The matter was further complicated by the
fact that trade unions were reluctant to supply statistics on membership
levels because they were considered to be for internal purposes
only and not for publication.
63. He recognized that economic growth had not increased the rate
of trade-union membership and suggested that the segmentation of
the labour market and changes in employment contracts might be responsible
for the declining trends in trade-union membership. Workers might
have acquired a sense of security and might not feel that there
was any need to join unions.
64. The CHAIRPERSON suggested that the fall in trade-union membership
rates in Portugal reflected the trend all over Europe, where membership
rates had declined by 60 per cent or more in some countries. Increased
competition might have been partly responsible for the trend.
65. Mr. WIMER ZAMBRANO said the problem could not be understood
without a knowledge of how trade-union statistics were compiled.
There was a tendency within political bodies, including trade unions,
to magnify their membership. He would like to know what source the
Government used to obtain such statistics.
66. Mr. RATTRAY wondered whether the mood in the country, either
in terms of overall public opinion or in the attitude of employers,
discouraged workers to such an extent that they did not have the
inclination to join trade unions.
67. The CHAIRPERSON said the decline in numbers of syndicated workers
in Europe had started in the 1970s. Trade unions could no longer
defend the interests of workers because of the effects of competition.
68. Mr. RIBEIRO LOPES (Portugal) said that the process of the registration
of trade unionists enabled the competent government department to
form an idea of the numbers involved and general trend over the
years. It was through those sources that they could observe the
decline in membership rates.
69. It was difficult to assess the impact of economic factors because
although there were laws governing working conditions, there were
also collective agreements and the Government would almost always
extend the benefits of these agreements to non-unionized workers.
70. There might also be an element of fear. There were, however,
more convincing reasons, such as economic changes, particularly
the evolution of jobs in the secondary and tertiary sectors, and
the size of companies having an influence on trade-union membership
levels. There were also cultural reasons for declining membership
rates: younger workers had less sense of solidarity than their parents
and were therefore less inclined to participate in trade-union activities.
71. Mrs. VARZIELAS (Portugal), turning to issue No. 28 on the coverage
of the social security system, said that article 63 of the Constitution
and Act No. 28/84 regulated the administration of the social security
system protecting wage earners and self-employed workers in case
of disability and, in the case of wage earners, total unemployment.
Persons in need or with reduced means of subsistence were also protected.
While the social security system aimed at complete coverage, there
were cases that remained outside the scope of the system. Some civil
servants, members of the army, armed forces and the police were
covered under a separate scheme.
72. The objectives of the social security system were achieved through
contributory and non-contributory schemes that awarded cash payments
to beneficiaries. The contributory scheme was mandatory and included
a general social security scheme covering wage earners and self-employed
persons in the private sector and civil servants. Another form of
contributory scheme was the voluntary social insurance scheme which
covered residents of Portugal able to work but not covered by compulsory
scheme. The scheme was optional. The contributory schemes were financed
by contributions paid by workers, employers and the beneficiaries
73. The non-contributory scheme provided protection for persons
suffering socio-economic hardship who were not covered by the contributory
scheme. Participation in the scheme and the award of the corresponding
payments were contingent upon the verification of the beneficiary's
resources. The non-contributory scheme was financed by transfers
from the State budget. As of January 1995, the value-added tax increased
by 1 per cent and the increased receipts were used for financing
the social security system.
74. The social security system aimed at providing coverage for the
population as a whole, but there were still some groups including
housewives, young persons seeking their first job and persons who
had been unemployed for long periods which were not covered. Alternative
sources of social security protection were, however, available to
The meeting rose at 6.05 p.m.