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Although unemployment has increased significantly in virtually all occupational groups, due to the current pandemic situation, a few workers are still required in the following occupations:

  • in the Information and Communication Technologies sector (particularly informatics engineers with very specific specialist profiles);
  • in the health sector (doctors with various specialisations, as well as nurses);
  • in the agricultural sector (seasonal employment), particularly fruit and vegetable picking;
  • in the Call and Contact Centres / Business Support Centres and Shared Services Centres sector (covering administrative, human resources, accounting and management supervisory functions), some professionals with very specific linguistic skills which are difficult to find in Portugal.

In offers from companies in the Business Support Centre sector, knowledge of Portuguese is not necessary, since the working language is the native language (and, very often, the English) and during preliminary training in companies the language needed is normally English. In other positions, language skills in Portuguese are very important, particularly in occupations requiring contact with the public. A knowledge of other languages, such as English, Spanish, French or German, may be an advantage, particularly in tourism.

Text last edited on: 10/2020

Kurzer Überblick über den Arbeitsmarkt

NOTE: in view of the high level of uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the information provided is subject to a degree of risk in the forecasting of economic and labour market trends.

In this context of volatility, continual adaptation and resilience, both for businesses and organisations and workers and for the population in general, the only certainty is that the economy and the labour market – at national level and in the various regions – was negatively impacted throughout the first half of 2020 and will probably continue to suffer in the coming months, despite positive signs that Portuguese businesses are adapting in response to the new conditions and needs.

According to the INE (National Statistics Institute) Employment Survey, Portugal had a total resident population of 10 286 000 in the second quarter of 2020, comprising 47.1% men and 52.9% women.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the period most affected by the lockdown measures (April-May), the active population fell to 5 009 600 (4.5% less than the same period in 2019), while the employed population fell to 4 731 200 (185 500 or 3.8% fewer jobs compared to 2019).

The unemployment rate was 5.6%, continuing the falling trend prevailing since 2014. Youth unemployment (young people under 25 years of age) stood at 19.1% while long-term unemployment represented 31.7% of the total unemployment figure.

It should nevertheless be pointed out that the number of workers covered by the simplified (total or partial) layoff scheme, a measure that sought to offset the impact of the pandemic on unemployment, rose during this period to over 1.3 million (a figure that remained constant during the summer months), and it is expected that some of these workers may progressively become unemployed by late 2020/early 2021.

Prior to the pandemic, according to the European Labour Force Survey (data for the fourth quarter of 2019), Portugal’s activity rate (75.8%) was higher than the then EU-28 average of 74.2%. The participation of women in the labour market (73.4%) was also significantly higher than the EU-28 average of 68.8%. The data for the second quarter of 2020, however, reflect a significant decrease to 72% (comparative data at European level are not yet available).

As far as new forms of work organisation are concerned, part-time work in the country is still limited (only 7.3% of total employment compared to 19.1% for the EU-28), particularly among women (9.9%), when compared to the average of 31.2% female employment at EU-28 level.

The pandemic has also brought about a significant increase in teleworking which, according to the INE Employment Survey, involved 23.1% of the working population in the second quarter of 2020, particularly in the services sector in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area and in the most highly skilled professions. It remains to be seen whether this trend will continue in the Portuguese labour market.

At the end of June 2020, the number of unemployed persons registered with the employment services in Portugal stood at 406 665 (an increase of 108 500 – or 36.4% – compared to June 2019). Of these, 44.3% were men and 55.7% were women, and 33.4% of them had been registered for more than a year.

Around 9.7% of the unemployed registered in continental Portugal were foreigners. 4 169 were EU citizens (particularly from Romania, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria), while 2 739 were from Eastern European countries (particularly Ukraine). More than 23 300 people from Portuguese-speaking countries, particularly Brazil (14 853), Cape Verde (2 558), Angola (2 085) and Guinea-Bissau (1 780), were also registered as unemployed.

In terms of the country’s employment profile (INE Labour Force Survey, second quarter of 2020), agriculture, animal production, hunting, forestry and fishing employed 5.5% of the working population, industry, construction, energy and water 24.7%, and services around 70% (69.8%) of the working population.

Portugal continued to develop towards tertiarisation and digitisation, with a particular emphasis on vehicle trade and repair (close to 20% of employment in services), health and social support services (14.2%) and education (12.5%).

Hotels and restaurants (8.4% – representing over a quarter of employment in services in 2019) was the most affected sector in this period, with a loss of around 40 500 jobs compared to the same period in 2019. The real estate business sector was also affected, with a loss of around 6 000 jobs.

By contrast, information and communication activities (involving a high number of small and medium-sized businesses operating in software, web design, digital marketing and multimedia development, for example) recorded an increase of around 7% compared to 2019, with a net creation of over 9 000 jobs.

Transport and logistics showed a certain stability, without significant losses, and now represents 6.5% of employment in the services sector.

The industry, construction, energy and water sector, which has recorded an upturn since the beginning of 2014, posted significant losses compared to 2019, both in the manufacturing industry (net reduction of around 33 800 jobs in the year) and construction (14 700 fewer jobs but still representing 16.2% of total employment).

Manufacturing industries (which represent 16.8% of total employment), while not being one of the most dynamic sectors of the Portuguese economy, have nevertheless modernised and focused on innovation. They are showing signs of a capacity for regeneration in response to the new needs in the context of the pandemic.

In current circumstances the health ‘cluster’ is significant, with pharmaceutical industries, moulds, plastics, electric and electronic equipment, textiles and the emerging biotechnology sector showing signs of vitality, focusing in this period on the production of diagnostic and serological tests, masks and visors, protective equipment for health care workers and even ventilators.

Traditional industries, such as footwear and clothing, have also committed to modernisation, innovation and internationalisation in recent years, resulting in more highly-skilled new jobs being created. In the coming months and years it will be seen whether this commitment is sufficient to counter the effects of the pandemic on international trade.


Text last edited on: 10/2020

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