socialnet - Das Netz für die Sozialwirtschaft

Country Portrait Portugal

07.12.2020    Helena Belchior-Rocha, Inês Casquilho-Martins and Vanessa Figueiredo

  1. 1. Basic data on the population, expenses and debts
    1. 1.1 Welfare State and Social System - Portugal
    2. 1.2 Effects of demographic and technological change
    3. 1.3 Overview of the Portugal Social Economy
  2. 2. Indicators of the social situation in Portugal
    1. 2.1 Social protection indicators
    2. 2.2 Welfare Index
    3. 2.3 The system of social services and social work
  3. 3. Organization of social services and social work
  4. 4. Institutions and organizations forms of social work
  5. Bibliography
  6. Authors

1. Basic data on the population, expenses and debts

Basic data on the population, expenses and debts
Population 2019 10,29 million
Private households 2019 4,14 million
GDP (gross domestic product) 2018 208 billion
Nominal growth p.a. (GDP) 2018 3,65 %
Total social expenditure (% of GDP) 2018 24,8 %
Educational expenditure (% share of GDP) 2017 3,7%
Health expenditure (% share of GDP) 2017 9,0 %
Public debts (% share of GDP) 2018 119,7%


1.1 Welfare State and Social System - Portugal

The welfare state of Portugal today is the result of a development and the influence of factors, which were carried out in three phases. In 1935, at the time of the Estado Novo, a process started by creating basal forms of social security. “Estado Novo” (New State), created mainly for ideological and propagandistic reasons, marked the entry into a new political period in Portugal, opened with the Revolution of 28 May 1926, characterized by a presidential, authoritarian and anti-parliamentary conception of the state. As a political regime, the "Estado Novo" was also called Salazarism, in reference to António de Oliveira Salazar, its founder and leader. Salazar became Minister of Finance in 1928 and the leading figure in the government of the military dictatorship. He set up a dictatorship characterized by rigid austerity programs and was also called a "financial dictator" because of this type of budget consolidation. The "Estado Novo" also includes the period in which Salazar's successor Marcello Caetano led the government (1968-1974) (Rosas, 1982), before the military dictatorship was brought to an end by the Carnation Revolution in 1974.

The Estado Novo guaranteed a basic insurance of the classical social risks in old age, disability and neediness which combined the minimum social benefits with the integration into the world of work.

The second phase of the welfare state development followed the revolution of April 25, 1974, in which the restoration of the democratic regime led to the consolidation of civil rights and the establishment of civil, democratic and political rights, while at the same time extending and deepening social rights. With the Revolution of 25 April 1974, the economic and social system in Portugal began to take on new forms by extending its protection and improving its social services, starting from a transformation of the welfare state model, in which social policy was one of the "main elements of social integration" (Mozzicafreddo, 1997:71). The most noteworthy are the state-funded protection of the unemployed, unemployment benefits and the creation of social pensions, the first non-contributory benefit and the implementation of the national minimum wage, the increase in the family supplement and the increase in the minimum pension. Other measures such as the Christmas bonus and the prolongation of the maternity pay also emerged during the transitional government (Rodrigues, 2010).

This recognised the universality of social rights, which were accompanied by an increase in public social expenditure and an increase in taxes.

But it was not until Portugal joined the EEC/EU in January 1986, in the third phase of the development of the welfare state, that the full realisation of social and democratic rights began. This third stage was implemented within the framework of the Europeanisation of the Portuguese welfare state (Pereirinha and Nunes, 2006). The central element here was a change in the welfare state context from nationally to more supranationally shaped elements. Thus, science-based and social policy interventions, a political orientation with regard to options and goals, instruments and forms of interventions, and the state coordination of these policies are addressed.

Historically, the first initiatives in the process of welfare state formation in Portugal date back to before the Estado Novo (New State) regime, through the development of mutualist organizations (e.g. cooperatives and self-organizations of mutual help and solidarity) and through the creation of institutions with social task profiles. By intervening with social assistance in the fight against poverty, the state replaced Christian offers of help. A process extending over centuries which changed the church's assistance and the forms of assistance provided from the 17th century to the 19th century. In the 20th century, Portugal reached a status that completely replaced church aid. Social assistance measures have now become an integral part of welfare support from birth to death.

The general basis for organisations with social functions was laid down by Law No. 1.884 of 16 March 1935. In this context, the "new social security system" was part of a corporate system and an instrument for shaping social security and at the same time the first law passed by the National Assembly. After the adoption of the Constitution in April 1933, there were four different categories of social institutions. The first category includes the welfare houses of the trade unions and the so-called "houses of the people" and "fishermen's houses" [1].

What these institutions had in common was that they were corporate work institutions equipped with "professional representation" and "welfare purposes". In the second category, pensions or provident funds are included. The third category was reserved for mutual benefit societies. The fourth and last category included pension schemes for civil servants, military or civil servants and other civil servants and administrative authorities (Law No. 1.884 of 16 March 1935). In 1974, in the time of transition from Salazar's police and persecution state (protector state) to the welfare state, the tasks of the welfare system had to be redefined and corrected.

In this sense, the transition from the protector state [2] to the welfare state took place; from a state of order and police security to an insurance state administering collective services, so that a new social contract could be concluded between state and citizens.

The extension of citizenship rights, especially social and labour rights, extends the quantity and quality of social measures as well as the functional areas of the welfare state. The extension of citizenship creates new freedoms to include new groups of people in existing rights, including new legal forms such as social, environmental and quality of life rights, thus broadening the possibilities for social integration.

The extension of these civil rights also changed the composition of social structures by promoting more equal opportunities, improvements in working conditions and higher direct and indirect money transfers. As a result of this process, the development of individual personality rights, which include civil and political rights, promoted democratic development in Portugal. In addition, the safeguarding of standards aimed at improving equal opportunities through universal access mechanisms and at reducing social inequalities through redistribution of national income. The expansion of civil rights is an expanded building block for the emergence of the constitutional matrix and the principles of action of the welfare state.

The basis of the welfare state has undergone constant changes in the implementation of a redistribution system. Also in the implementation to spread private sector systems into the social sphere. Thus the political structure of the welfare state became pluralistic. Even in the current economic crisis, the welfare state has held its ground. The question remains, however, whether it can continue to carry the weight of social progress and social solidarity in the future.

At present, there is a critical view that the government mandate must change in line with emerging problems and expectations (Rocha, 2015). Since existing social problems such as unemployment and social exclusion have increased in the course of social development (Rocha, 2015). In addition, the bureaucratic centralisation in the administration of the social system is criticised.

In addition to its political relevance, the significance of the social consensus in this regard is directly related to the question of the newly defined role of the state and future tendencies towards its political reorientation for social development.

In the area of social services and public goods policy a structure of service provision and risk coverage of income redistribution in the service sector is sought:

  • a uniform social security system that covers risk situations
  • physical and age-related security, e.g. in the event of disabilities due to insurance, pensions and annuities
  • a system for the provision of social, institutional and direct services in health, education, vocational training, research and development and basic services; and
  • a system of social transfers; social accompaniment and social assistance system for socially deprived citizens.

In Portugal, the welfare state was never understood as such in the true sense of the Esping-Andersen criteria (1990) [3]. Portugal is more in line with the Mediterranean type of welfare state model, which refinances the protection of wage earners at a low level of performance through social contributions and state contributions. The main player in shaping social and health assistance is not the state or the market, but the family. As a result of the delayed development of the welfare state after 25 April 1974, the first steps towards the creation of an expanded social model were taken late and, contrary to developments in other European countries, our country is still suffering from this today. In addition, during the Troika period [4] from 2008 to 2014, legislative reforms were carried out in the field of social security and the labour market, which at times restricted the withdrawal of state influence in public areas such as health and education, financing and access to these services (Estanque, 2017).

With the adoption of the Basic Law on Social Security (Law 4/2007 of 16 January) and the agreement with the social partners [5] on the modernisation of social assistance, the Government declares that it has nevertheless succeeded in increasing resources and strengthening the Social Security Reserve Fund, while at the same time launching a prospect of development towards sustainability.

Moreover, with Portugal's accession to the European Community, the Portuguese society's attitude to poverty has changed as the state has successfully developed poverty reduction programmes [6].

The Maastricht Treaty [7] broadened the scope of social policy by extending the Community's powers in the social field: it should not only contribute to raising living standards but also ensure a high level of social protection. The area of social policy is even broader in the Amsterdam Treaty [8], which recommends that Member States cooperate and prevent poverty. These treaties were instrumental in promoting social policy and further developments.

The new Social Policy Agenda (2019-2024) [9] developed a comprehensive approach that identifies the main points of social development and thus responds to the new challenges of social policy. For example, the need to invest in people to combat social exclusion, to respond to the social changes brought about by the new knowledge-based economy and to renew Portugal economically and socially through the new agenda. In this sense, the profession of social work has been consolidated as an academic education and profession. Social workers create a public ethos in the context of social policy measures, which are predominantly located at the state level (Ferreira, 2011), creating a predominantly public welfare culture, enabling the specialisation and qualification of social workers and defining social work as a registered profession, including the treatment of concrete social issues arising from the heterogeneity and immediacy of daily life.

1.2 Effects of demographic and technological change

Portugal has faced, over the years, periods of political, economic and social instability that have contributed to a reconfiguration of Portuguese society. The moments of conflict felt in the 1970s associated with the revolution of 25 April 1974 marked the beginning of a period of Portuguese economic uncertainty worsen by the nationalization process of the main sectors of the economy. The economic and social restructuring that began in this period was intensified in the following years by the process of modernization of institutions, which was carried out with the main purpose of positioning Portugal in the European context. Aspects such as the consolidation of democracy, the increase of political stability, the opening of the Portuguese economy abroad and the application for membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1977 led to the achievement of these aims.

In the following years, there was a period characterized by the growth of the Portuguese economy and the deep structural changes in employment. The 1980s were marked by growth in the tertiary sector, but the 1990s were characterized by unemployment in the industry (Gaspar, Henriques & Vale, 1998).

The years of 1983 and 2011 also represented periods of turbulence for Portugal. The economic crisis of 1983 led to periods of social protest due to lower wages and subsidies, rising unemployment and interest rates.

In 2011, difficulties in accessing markets, with Portugal presenting unsustainable interest rates, resulted in the request for foreign aid to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission (EC) and the European Central Bank (ECB). This was another unrest moment for the country, which had to adapt to an adjustment program characterized by rigid measures and some moments of tension resulting from the austerity associated with this program (the presentation of motions of censorship and a rectifying budget, political and social crises characterized by a lot of austerity) (Pereira, 2018). Although Portugal's exit from the adjustment program took place in 2014, the consequences of austerity persist in the memory and living conditions of the Portuguese population.

If, on one hand, some of the aforementioned moments gave some dynamism to the Portuguese economy, creating favorable conditions for the emergence of a situation more resistant to adversity, on the other hand, this stability was giving rise to moments of instability that have also extended to demographic trends (Moreira & Henriques, 2016).

In general, the demographic changes in Portugal have occurred slowly when compared to the demographic changes of the countries of Western Europe. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the forms and directions of population growth were influenced by the process of urban growth, industrial development, and migration flows (emigration and immigration). In these centuries, Portugal has experienced moderate population growth, although there have been significant internal variations between the mainland and the islands, the north and the south, the coast and the interior, rural areas and urban areas. The analysis of the rates of natural growth, total growth and net migration allows us to conclude that in the 20th century, changes in the intensity of migratory flows were decisive for understanding the evolution of Portuguese population growth (Fernandes, Moreira & Veiga, 2004).

Contrary to what happened in the twentieth century, a period marked by demographic growth, the demographic trends of the 21st century are characterized by demographic aging.

In 2017, Portugal experienced stagnant natural growth and a decline in fertility rates and mortality levels as well as an increase in the average life expectancy, continuing the trend of progressive aging of the Portuguese population. At the same time, the significant decrease in migration also impedes the growth and reproduction of the population, which is not sufficient to counteract the aging process (Martins, Rodrigues & Rodrigues, 2016).

In December 2017, Portugal had an estimated population of 10,291.027 people, which translated into a decrease of 18,546 people compared to the population of 2016 that was 10,309.573 people. These data correspond to an effective growth rate of -0.18%, confirming the trend of population decrease that had already been observed in Portugal since 2010 [10] (INE, 2018). The reduction in population, such as that observed in Portugal, has a worrying effect on the country, especially low levels of productivity, higher labor costs due to lack of labor and difficulties associated with the installation and expansion of companies.

Although there has been a slight increase in the Portuguese working population between the ages of 20 and 64 between 2016 and 2018 (4,883 in 2016, 4,914 in 2017 and 4,917 in 2018, respectively), projections indicate that in 2050 more than half of the Portuguese population may be inactive (INE, 2018; International Monetary Fund, 2018). The decrease in the number of births, the consequent lack of generational renewal and the increase in the average life expectancy are pointed out as the main causes of this inactivity. These data point to the need to continue focusing on concrete measures of support for the birth coupled with labor and social policies that ensure economic stability but also the balance between family and professional life in a sustained way.

In 2017, there were 86,154 births, a decrease of 972 births over 2016 (-1.1%). However, the crude birth rate was the same in both periods (8.4 live births per 1000 inhabitants). Despite the decrease in the number of births in 2017, the synthetic fertility index showed a slight recovery compared to 2016 (1.37 and 1.36 children per woman of fertile age, respectively) (INE, 2018).

The average age of women at the birth of the first child remained the same in 2016 and 2017, but between 2012 and 2017 there was a slight increase (28,6; 28,9; 29,2; 29,5; 29,6; 29,6, respectively), which shows that in addition to having fewer children, women choose to have children later, thus contributing to the deceleration of population growth, a decrease in the number of young people and, consequently, aging population (INE, 2018). Added to all this is the fact that a more aged population will jeopardize the financial sustainability of the social security systems needed to finance the reforms.

According to Ageing Report 2018, the country will show a marked downward trend and population aging in 2070 compared to the European average (from 10,192.9 in 2020 to 7,984.4 in 2070), with a population growth rate between 2020 and 2070 (-0.3% in 2020 and -0.6% in 2070) (European Commission, 2018).

Social instability, economic and labor barriers, high levels of unemployment, emigration and personal motivations appear as reasons for late or non-existent births. With regard to mortality, in 2017, there were 815 deaths in Portugal (-0.7%) compared to the previous year, which recorded 110,573 deaths while the crude mortality rate remained the same (10.7 ‰). The number of deaths in the first year of life also decreased from 282 in 2016 to 229 in 2017, as did the infant mortality rate, which dropped by 3.2 ‰ in 2016 to 2.7 ‰ in 2017 (INE, 2018). These reductions not only place Portugal in the group of countries with the best global results, but also portray the quality of perinatal medical care provided to women and the progress of medicine and health care. However, in order to maintain the stability of the values presented, it is necessary to ensure fairness in access to health care and the available information about the risks associated with prematurity and habits and lifestyle during pregnancy, eradicate poverty and more conditions, and control the risks associated with medically assisted procreation techniques. At the labor level, conditions can also be created that minimize the risk factors associated with infant and late birth mortality, such as the development and/or improvement of measures for maternity protection and protection at work, which include flexibility of working hours, the decrease in precariousness and the amount of work attributed to pregnant women, and the extension of parental leave.

Labor precariousness has also been pointed out as one of the causes of the phenomenon of emigration. In 2017, there were 16,100 fewer emigrants compared to the previous year (97,151) (INE, 2018). In 2017, of the total number of emigrants, 31,753 were permanent emigrants and 49,298 were temporary emigrants, down from the previous year (38,273 permanent emigrants and 58,878 temporary emigrants).

Although migratory movements can be achieved for a variety of reasons (knowledge of new countries and cultures, interest in and connection to cultural and scientific activities, relational and emotional reasons), in the Portuguese case, emigration, whether permanent or temporary, is a trend which is part of the country's history and is associated with troubled and unstable political and social moments. As noted earlier, historical moments such as the process of democratization and decolonization resulting from the revolution of 25 April 1974 and accession to the European Union (formerly the European Economic Community) in 1986 also contributed to changes in the demographic dynamics of Portugal. The variation between increasing and decreasing emigration and immigration rates is directly related to the less favorable or more favorable situations that the country has faced. If, on the one hand, the deterioration of living conditions, lack of resources and employment, lack of support structures for families and socio-cultural activities, lack of career prospects, unemployment and periods of austerity were responsible on the other hand, the recovery of the economy with the increase of wages, the improvement of the level and the quality of life and the reduction of the levels of unemployment also contributed to the opposite scenario. For many people, international mobility is thus considered as a strategy for upward social, economic and professional mobility.

Over the years, migratory flows, both external and internal, have influenced the demographic and social characteristics of Portugal, reflecting directly on the behavior of the Portuguese population in time and space.

With regard to the understanding of the relationship between immigration and demography, the concept of substitution migrations has assumed a prominent and highly relevant role. According to a report prepared by the United Nations (2000), substitution migrations comprise the proportion of migrants needed to reverse both declines in births and the active population as well as the aging of the population in each country. This report also reveals that Portugal's ability to grow in demographic terms in the European context depends on the existence of positive migratory balances, which is a real challenge. Although the country has recovered from the migratory balances and negative natural balances recorded between 2010 and 2016 with a positive migration balance of 4,886 immigrants (a 22% increase over the previous year), it continues to present a vulnerable situation characterized by a decrease and aging population. Putting well-designed policies to stimulate immigration, with the improvement of efficiency and efficiency of services, can be one of the solutions to combat this situation by entering and fixing people in the country who contribute not only to the rejuvenation of the population but also to the sustainability of the social security system.

Based on the date previously analyzed, it is possible to point out that demographic changes verified over the years in Portugal constitute numerous challenges during the 20th century and in the following centuries. One of the consequences of these changes is the changes in the age of the labor force.

According to the Ageing Report 2018, it is estimated that labor force participation among those aged 55 to 64 will increase from 58.4% to around 70% in 2056 while participation rates of young people aged 15 to 24 years will decline due to longer education periods (European Commission, 2018). Although this situation is already the case today, as in Portugal there are more and more workers over 55, in the future this scenario may continue or even worsen. This means that generational renewal may be concerned as well as adaptability to technological progress.

The technological advance has profoundly altered our ways of life. Technology impacts not only the environment, people, and institutions but also society as a whole. Technology commands the human being creating a high level of dependence.

The technological evolution associated with the generalization of digitization and the use of automation processes in production and consumption activities requires a deep reflection on the policies and institutions responsible for labor market regulation.

The impact of new technologies on the job is related to changes in a set of variables, such as: content and nature of tasks, required skills, work pace, number of workers, workers' distribution and location, and working hours. These changes warn the need to obtain skills that allow people to keep up-to-date with the use of new technologies, especially in a work context, thus accompanying evolution.

However, resistance to change, which characterizes many people, especially older ones, is a barrier to adaptability and acceptance of the changes inherent in technological progress.

Although there are countries that already rely almost exclusively on automation in their systems of production, in the medium and long term this reality can be extended to the rest of the world, materializing in situations such as the extinction of jobs and professional sectors, the number of workers and the change in the organization of labor processes. In the future, technology will replace those tasks that are considered mechanical and routine and that are still currently being executed from human labor.

1.3 Overview of the Portugal Social Economy

The Social Economy is a topic that has deserved special attention in Portugal due to its strategic relevance for the country but also due to the strong heterogeneity that characterizes the national institutions.

Social Economy institutions are entities that, through their activities, seek to satisfy social objectives without profit maximization, such as cooperatives, mutual societies, mercies, private institutions of social solidarity, and foundations and associations, regardless of their nature (recreational, sports or cultural, non-governmental organizations, among others).

In line with their institutional objective, these organizations play a relevant role in building a path towards a more hopeful future through sustainable economic growth, the creation of more jobs and the maintenance of social cohesion.

However, the recognition of the role and work of these organizations by the State has facilitated the proximity and development of partnerships, as well as the implementation of legislative reforms and the definition of cooperation criteria between the State and these institutions. Other achievements have also been achieved for the sector, namely the approval of the Basic Law for the Social Economy, which allowed the updating and revision of these institutions, and the approval of specific legislation.

Within the framework of the "Portugal 2020" community framework, a program exclusively for social inclusion and employment was also developed with the aim of contributing to innovation and entrepreneurship and to more rigorous management based on mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation of results (Fernandes, 2016).

Based on the satellite account for Social Economy launched in 2013 and published in 2016, it is possible to characterize the sector through a set of indicators, perceiving its influence in the national economy. According to the data, in 2013, the Social Economy sector represented 2.8% of the National Gross Value Added (GVA), characterized by a strong heterogeneity that extends to several areas of activity. Action and Social Security was the main economic activity, accounting for 54.6% of paid employment and 44.7% of GVA. With regard to groups of entities, Associations with Altruistic Purposes accounted for 93.4% of the total groups, contributing to 61.0% of GVA and to 64.8% of paid employment (INE, 2016) [11].

The numbers highlight the importance that this sector demonstrates mainly to the level of the implementation of proximity policies converging with the lines of action of modern public policies.

2. Indicators of the social situation in Portugal

2.1 Social protection indicators

The Social Security System offers social protection at different levels of support. These support systems are different not only in their forms of financing, but also in terms of the type of social protection provided. In the contributory system this protection is guaranteed as a counterpart to social contributions from work, such as old-age pensions or unemployment benefits. Through the non-contributory system, which is generally being financed by taxes, its main task is to guarantee social rights and support, namely in the fields of social action, solidarity and family protection, such as family allowance or Social Insertion Income.

Table 1 presents a summary of the main social supports of the Portuguese social protection system based on the monthly information released by the Strategy and Planning Office (GEP) of the Ministry of Labor, Solidarity and Social Security (MTSSS), according to the data September 2020.

Table 1 - General Data on Social Security benefits (September 2020) [12]
Unemployment Benefits 230 303
Holders of Family Allowance 1 036 196
Beneficiaries of Sick Subsidy 175 002
Beneficiaries of Parental Benefit 42 302
Beneficiaries of Social Integration Income (RSI) 211 992
Beneficiaries of Supplementary Solidarity of the Elderly (CSI) 162 154
Old Age Pensions 2 065 140
Social Inclusion Beneficiaries 110 205


  • About 230 303 unemployment benefits were processed in September 2020, revealing an increase of 37.2% considering September 2019. The number of beneficiaries of the unemployment benefit was 197.398. The unemployment benefit aims to protect covered workers by the general Social Security regime for workers who have been on employment and have become unemployed.
  • The family allowance is a monthly cash payment, with the objective of compensating family expenses related to the support and education of children and young people. The number of holders of family allowances was 1 036 196 minus 63 751 (-5.8%) considering September 2019. In total, the number of allowances attributed to female was 507 852 (49.0% of the total) and 528 344 allowances to male (51.0% of the total).
  • There was a total of 175 002 sickness benefits, in which these totals include, in addition to the losses due to contagion owing to the new coronavirus, the prophylactic isolation benefit, combined with the tuberculosis benefit. By gender, it appears that 101 975 women (58.3% of the total) received this subsidy, while 73 027 beneficiaries are male (41.7% of the total). The sickness benefit is a benefit attributed to the beneficiary to compensate for the loss of remuneration resulting from the temporary impediment to work, due to illness. A disease is considered to be any morbid, evolutionary situation, not due to a professional cause or an act of third part responsibility for which compensation is due, which determines incapacity for work.
  • Parental benefit is a cash amount that is paid to the parent or parental guardians, who have a parental license (maybe absent from work) for the birth of a child. It is intended to replace lost earnings from work during the license period. The number of beneficiaries of parental benefits in September 2020 stood at 42,302 individuals.
  • 211 992 beneficiaries of RSI were registered in September 2020. In relation to the same period, there was an increase of 3.2% (plus 6 612 beneficiaries). The RSI is a support designed to protect people in extreme poverty, consisting of a cash payment to ensure the satisfaction of their minimum needs. Simultaneously with this support, an insertion program is drawn up that integrates a contract aiming at a set of actions established according to the characteristics and conditions of the applicant's household, aiming at the progressive social, labor and community insertion of its members.
  • The Solidarity Supplement for the Elderly (CSI) is a cash support paid monthly to the elderly with low resources, aged equal to or above the normal age of access to the old-age pension of the general Social Security regime and residents in Portugal. The CSI covered 162 154 people in September 2020. Analyzing the distribution by sex, 70.2% of the people covered are female and 29.8% male.
  • The old-age pension is an amount paid monthly, designed to protect the beneficiaries of the general Social Security regime, in the old age situation, replacing work remunerations. A number of 2,065 140 old-age pensions were processed and 1 089 985 old-age pensions were given to females, which represents 52.8% of the total, while males covered 47.2% of the total, with 975 155 pensions allocated.
  • The social benefit for inclusion protects all national and foreign citizens, refugees and stateless persons who have a disability resulting in a degree of disability equal to or greater than 60%, through monetary support. A total of 110 205 people received social benefits for inclusion. Considering September 2019, there was an increase of 9.9%, with further 9 968 people included in the social provision for inclusion.

As for social protection expenditure, the data provided by the Social Security Financial Management Institute (IGFSS) of the Ministry of Labor, Solidarity and Social Security (MTSSS), allow us to observe how much Social Security spends, as a percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), on benefits subsidies or other expenses.

Social Security Expenditure in % GDP 2008-2016
Chart 1 - Social Security Expenditure in % GDP 2008-2016 [13]

Chart 1 shows that the period of austerity in Portugal (2011-2014) was also more demanding in social spending as a percentage of GDP. In Chart 2, we can analyze that the main areas in which there is expenditure on Social Protection are in the areas related to unemployment and employment support, with the RSI being the one where the expenditure weighs less.

Social Security expenditure on social benefits (in thousands of euros) 2008-2016
Chart 2 - Social Security expenditure on social benefits (in thousands of euros) 2008-2016 [14]

Table 2 - Spending on social security benefits (in thousands of euros) 2008-2016 [15]
 Social Security Expenditure TotalSocial payments expenditure
TotalFamily membersSickness and MaternityUnemployment and Job supportPensions, supplements and complementsSocial Integration Income (RSI)
2008 26801178,7 18324103,5 942763,2 742577,3 1566573,6 12818152 425721
2009 29577376,8 20110363,5 1136984,5 850875,8 2045184,9 13464650,4 507708,9
2010 31093897,6 20907615 1108523,6 892518,4 2221136 14011912,6 519908,7
2011 29356867,5 20788868,5 812022,1 923268,1 2103793,5 14448733,8 414383,5
2012 36341054,6 21670488,6 807039,6 863817,3 2592952,7 14943607,9 387904,3
2013 45639377,3 22589417,8 806345,7 783911,5 2737667 15831958,8 315143,4
2014 37523665,3 22124364,2 776650,7 825120,4 2238737,2 15953982,5 294448
2015 33095112,7 21506641,4 771183,3 9 16852,2 1 760640,4 15753196,1 287351,1
2016 30030286 21772948,2 797270,5/td> 979530,3 1509656,4 16124291,2 334677,7


The data collected also allow us to understand the expenses of the social security system with the payment of social benefits, verifying that there were fluctuations between the different types of social support (Table 2).

Through this analysis it can be seen that since 2014 there has been an increase in expenditure on sickness and maternity benefits, but that, with regard to unemployment and employment support, spending has decreased.

Regarding pension expenditures, there was a progressive increase with the exception of 2015. And as for the RSI, since 2011 there was a decrease in expenditure on this support, having more weight in 2016.

2.2 Welfare Index

Based on the data provided by the National Statistics Institute (INE), the main results of the Welfare Index for Portugal (IBE) for the period between 2004 and 2017 are presented (Chart 3).

Overall and per capita well-being index (IBE) (2004 = 100) 2004-2017
Chart 3 - Overall and per capita well-being index (IBE) (2004 = 100) 2004-2017 [16]
Source: INE

The data point to the continuation of a slight growth of the IBE, explained by an improvement, although reduced, in the quality of life, and by the substantial improvement in material conditions of life, that since 2013 has contributed to the increase of the Well-Being Index. The data allow us to observe that the Well-Being Index in Portugal evolved almost always positively between 2004 and 2017, having reduced only in the period 2007-2008 and in 2012.

The two perspectives of well-being analysis, translated by the specific indices of material living conditions and quality of life, showed different behaviors. The quality of life index was always higher than that of material living conditions, except for the period from 2006 to 2010, during which these indexes inverted their positions. The two indices evolved in opposite directions in the periods 2007-2008 and 2010-2013.

Table 3- Summary of IBE index indicators (2004 = 100) [17]
Perspective / DomainI2008I2014I2017
Welfare Index 105,2 114,5 131,4
Life material conditions 96 85,3 97,5
Economic well-being 105,0 105,3 113,1
Economic Vulnerability 90,9 77,8 94,3
Work and Compensation 92,0 71,1 85,2
Quality of life 109,1 127,1 145,9
Health 118,0 123,6 137,5
Life-work balance 109,1 104,2 99,9
Education, knowledge and skills 128,1 187,5 215,2
Social relations and subjective well-being 93,5 97,4 112,0
Civic participation and governance 100,0 135,9 173,3
Personal security 101,4 113,6 144,6
Environment 112,1 133,4 139,1

Source: INE

In table 3 we can observe in more detail the indicators that make up some dimensions of the well-being index and in particular in the field of Material Life Conditions and Quality of Life.

If we analyze the indicators that integrate the Material Life Conditions, we see that economic vulnerability and employment are those that were most affected in 2014, compared to 2008, with a slight increase in economic well-being, even in 2014. However, it should be noted that in 2017 this indicator displays increases that contribute to the improvement of this specific index.

Regarding quality of life, there was an increase in the domain of health, education, social relations and subjective well-being, citizen participation, personal security and environment during the years under analysis. Only the Life-Work-Balance dimension has evolved negatively over time. The positive evolution of most indicators allowed this specific index to increase positively.

At-risk-of-poverty rate: before and after social transfers 2004-2017 (%)
Chart 4 – At-risk-of-poverty rate: before and after social transfers 2004-2017 (%) [18]
Source: INE

Finally, chart 4 shows the comparison of the risk of poverty rate before any social transfer, after transfers of pensions and after the transfer of all social supports. Here it is present that the fundamental role social transfers have, namely pensions, lies in fulfilling the social protection of citizens and how it contributes to the reduction of the risk of poverty, cutting it by more than half.

2.3 The system of social services and social work

Currently, the Law no. 4/2007 [19], of January 16, is in force, with the drafting of Law 83-A / 2013, of December 31, succeeding to the 2002 basic social security law (BSSL). The objectives of the system with the BSSL of 2007 are, in addition, to guarantee the right to social security, common to the previous ones, as constitutional right, to promote the sustained improvement of the conditions and levels of social protection, reinforcing the equity and promoting the efficiency of the system and the efficiency of its management.

According to the BSSL of 2007, the structure of the social protection system is organized into three systems: i) Social Protection System of Citizenship; ii) Welfare System; and iii) Complementary System. The Citizenship Social Protection System covers three subsystems: the social action subsystem, the solidarity subsystem and the family protection subsystem.

The objectives of the citizenship social protection system are to guarantee basic rights and equal opportunities among citizens, to promote well-being and social cohesion, by means of: a) the realization of the right to vital minimums of citizens in situation of economic shortage; b) prevention and eradication of poverty and exclusion; c) compensation for family expenses; and d) compensation for costs in the areas of disability and dependency (Article 26, Law no. 4/2007).

The financing of the subsystem of citizenship social protection is carried out by means of transfer of the State Budget and by allocation of fiscal revenues [20], benefiting the social action subsystem of funds from other sources such as social gaming revenues and not through contributory means and aiming to prevent and repair situations of lack and socioeconomic inequality as well as cases of exclusion, dysfunction or social dependence, the subsystem of social action seeks community integration and promotion and capacity building (Article 29, Law 4/2007). This includes protecting the most vulnerable groups (children, young people, people with disabilities, and the elderly) or others in situations of economic or social deprivation, combining their work with other social protection policies and in articulation with other non-public entities. Social services and facilities, programs to combat poverty, social dysfunction, marginalization and social exclusion, the granting of cash benefits of an exceptional nature and benefits in kind are highlighted as forms of response to their objectives (Article 30, Law no. 4/2007). As actors in this process of development of social action are the State, non-profit-making private entities and institutions are designated in a line of proximity, community integration, contracting, efficiency and effectiveness in social services and supports, including services and social responses. Partnerships are valued, as it is the encouragement of social volunteering in line with other entities and services such as health and education. Private Social Solidarity Institutions (IPPS) are indicated as a mediator between families and social protection, emphasizing local intervention, especially through the social network, with articulated partners. It should be noted that "the use of social services and facilities may be conditional on the payment of contributions by the respective recipients, taking into account their income and those of their respective households" (Article 31, Law 4/2007). Beyond the IPSS support to action, it also refers to the role of profit-making entities and corporate social responsibility in promoting social support and equipment.

The solidarity subsystem seeks to ensure forms of prevention and eradication of situations of poverty and social exclusion "based on the solidarity of the whole community ... as well as guaranteeing benefits in situations of proven personal or family need not included in the pension system" or "Situations of social or economic compensation due to contributory shortcomings" (Article 36, Law no. 4/2007). Access to these benefits should contribute to the promotion of the social integration of beneficiary persons and families, in accordance with the principles of social equity and positive differentiation, in order to cover the eventualities of economic inadequacy, disability, old age, death, insufficient income work or contributory career, absolute or definitive incapacity of the beneficiaries of the pension system. [21]

In order to compensate for increased family burdens, including disability and dependency charges, the family protection subsystem aims to ensure that they are compensated when legal contingencies occur through the granting of cash benefits, and can extend the coverage to the granting of benefits in kind. [22] In this subsystem, social protection varies according to the incomes, composition and size of the beneficiaries' households.

The Social Security System is based on the principle of solidarity in the professional context of employed or self-employed workers, self-employed workers, as well as optional enrollment schemes, guaranteeing cash benefits for social protection in case of eventualities such as illness, maternity, paternity and adoption, unemployment, occupational accidents and diseases, invalidity, old age and death. [23] This system is based on a legal obligation to contribute associated with entitlement to benefits, being essentially self-financed by the contributions of workers and employers [24], through the single social tax, limits may be set on their application and the determination of the amounts of benefits. [25] With regard to cash benefits "The amounts of social support, namely the minimum pension amounts, are set based on the index of social support, in the situations and under the terms defined by the law” (Article 68º, Law n.º 4/2007), an annual adjusted reference value is defined: Index of Social Support (IAS), aiming at the principle of intergenerational equity and the financial sustainability of the social security system. These provisions apply to both the social security system and the solidarity and family protection subsystems.

The Complementary System, which comprises a public capitalization regime and complementary schemes of collective and individual initiative, is concretized in the sharing of social responsibilities, and its development must be stimulated by the State through incentives considered adequate (Article 81, Law no. 4/2007). The public capitalization regime is characterized by voluntary individual membership, organized and managed by the State, as a complement to the social security system to reinforce the protection of beneficiaries. [26] The collective initiative schemes are complementary occupational schemes that cover workers on behalf of others of a professional sector or self-employed, that of voluntary basis contribute to a supplement to contributory social protection. [27] Retirement saving plans, life insurance, capitalization insurance and mutual insurance schemes constitute individual initiative schemes which are likewise of an optional nature. [28]

Social Security through its systems ensures and realizes the fundamental right to social protection, aiming at social welfare. Thus, even in periods of crisis and austerity, the guarantee of a universal social protection model that covers social risks will operationalize mechanisms that promote social rights and invest in social policies that are geared to social, economic and territorial cohesion objectives in the national and European context.

Approaching Social Work involves considering the socio-historical process that is at the base of its genesis and trajectory, always complex, whatever the social, economic and political conjuncture, being little perceptible and not immediately the apprehension of the meaning that society attributed to Social Work. For Parton (2002) the emergence of postmodern societies reveals some uncertainties in a complex context and with social, economic, cultural and technological transformations.

A first look can be made by articulating, on the one hand, the analysis of the social relations of capitalist society and its transformations, the social questions and problems that are being posed and how Social Service is incorporated in the answers to be given to these problems; and, on the other hand, the analysis of the forms of work that historically are being built by the Social Wizards, with expression in the exercise of the profession (Martins, 2002).

The genesis of Social Work starts from social assistance activities, initially philanthropic and charitable in nature that has evolved over the last century, making Social Work a recognized profession and a discipline of scientific production. This knowledge was and has been, matured, progressing in a complex system and an increasingly global world based on ethical principles and values (Dominelli, 2005).

The construction of Social Work is not a linear and continuous process; since its genesis, the purposes of what it is, what it serves, and what it comes to respond to are put differently, depending on the various projects for society, social groups and movements of a social and political nature, becoming translated into professional practices differentiated.

However, today we are facing a very complex scenario - the scenario of Globalization or Post-Modernity - whose main characteristics are mobility, flexibility, fluidity, relativization, small reports, fragmentation, ruptures of borders and barriers, mergers, short-term, immediacy, decentralization and extraterritoriality of power, unpredictability and consumption. These characteristics have direct consequences on the personal plane, identifiable through feelings such as uncertainty, insecurity, anxiety, and fear, among others. These feelings stem from the incompatibility between long-term life projects and the immediacy of work in the new flexible capitalism mode.

The risks associated with the labor market, austerity and demographic aging and the rigidity of the models themselves are a matter of debate about the responsibilities of political intervention. “For these reasons, recognition of the significance of new risks alongside old risks adds an important rider to the bleak conclusions of work on permanent austerity” (Taylor-Gooby, 2004:24).

It is to the market that the individual must seek the means of life, the survival, without counting on the public funds that assured him rights. Thus, one of the guiding principles of Social Service (Human Rights) is questioned by the valorization of social intervention in the individual and no longer in law.

This idea reflects the thinking of Netto (2015) for Social Work as a professional project, in which social workers continue their action based on their values, social functions, goals, theoretical knowledge, norms and practices, promoting its exercise in an institutional framework (social, private and public) articulated with the corporate context.

This is the change that is occurring in professional practice, that is, it is intervened, not due to the adaptation of the individual to the norm, nor to the guarantee of their rights, but so that it has some conditions and motivation to compete in the market and generate their own livelihoods.

Belchior-Rocha (2018) warns that industrial and capitalist societies typically present problems associated with economic growth, social inequalities, quality of life, among others, for which neither systemic processes nor a sustained view in an economic model have been considered, encompassing universality, action and integration as basic concepts. These concepts relate directly to the issue of values and ethical principles, the intervention and goals and objectives of Social Work.

The crisis of our days means the rupture of the way of life of industrial capitalist society and the transition to another way of life, demanded by a process of accumulation of capital and new forms of consumption, under financial capitalism. It is simply a crisis of exclusion and social distancing between the richest and the poorest, which seemed to be diminished by the growth of the welfare state. There are changes at the level of stable employment, the family and the citizenship contract in its political, civil and social dimensions.

With regard to the family, there are also profound changes brought about by the entry of women into the labor market, the increase of single-parent families, with the influence of school and television and the emergence of new patterns of consumption. Family continuity is less and less valued due to individualization, precarious work and the loss of family living conditions. The individual thus, relies more on himself and less on the family.

In the social field, facing the capitalist scenario, rights are not universalized; on the contrary, these have been increasingly reduced, the social protection network is fragmented, changing the social security framework. Thus, the "new social contract", imposed by globalization, consists in making the individual less secure, less protected, more competitive in the market, with a lower guarantee of rights. Along with cheaper labor, poor working conditions, permanent job deregulation, the subjectivity of fear, fear of being out of work, the shame of not being able to deal with day-to-day commitments, to starve and see your family starving and struggling.

This scenario implies that the exercise of Social Work is thought of in a much more complex way than in the twentieth century. If at that time the reconceptualization movement of Social Work (from Latin America in the 60s, 70s) was founded, there is now a need for a new reconceptualization to criticize what has been done, to the right and wrong, to the risks and opportunities and needs that are emerging (Netto, 2015).

In this process of transmutations, it is fundamental to open space for an economy of proximity and solidarity and for the practice of social interaction, integrating local and global, considering both the destruction of references and the structuring (Giddens, 1984) of the society that is produced. This is the central question of dialectical thinking, which makes the global not seen as inevitable. The market is not the only basis of social relations and is linked to culture and institutions. Culture, local production and social relations react to the global market, but are also embedded in it. The meanings in all the above fragmentations can have strategic visibility for their overcoming in action.

Social Work needed to reorient and deepen its enabling tradition, so as to avoid the character of adaptation, reinforcement of habits, adopting the critical, formative perspective of learning in the complexity of everyday conditions, where changes of perspective, changes in trajectory and changes in conditions. And to do this it was necessary to work on individual and collective projects in networks, rediscovering and re-articulating forces of change and facing the crisis. Undoubtedly, capitalism has been putting new demands on social policies and Social Service. The perspective of changing power relations allows the strengthening of citizenship, autonomy and identity in a complex context. This process necessarily implies the guarantee of rights, development of the basic conditions of the subject (Darling-Hammond, 2019).

It is necessary to look at globalization, not as a fatality or capitalism as the end of history, but as a complex, dynamic and contradictory process, where Social Service is also inscribed in a contradictory way, thus making possible the perspective of empowerment dominated by the strengthening of their power, in the form of resistance.

Social Work in Portugal, as a profession, comes together with a socio-historical and political course. In this way, its insertion in the social division of labor, accompanies the progressive confrontations and vicissitudes, characteristic of a society in constant change. In this way, in Portugal the genesis of Social Service is given as scientific philanthropy. It is precisely when the Church "cuts" with assistance, thus giving rise to the formation of lay agents to develop their action in social organizations, without being under the tutelage of the Church (Branco, 2018), so it appeared relatively late (1930s, 20th century) and during the Estado Novo (dictatorial regime). However, the profession has grown and established itself, consolidating a work and academic path associated with democracy and civic, political and social rights (Martins, 1995; Branco, 2009; Carvalho and Pinto, 2015).

With the Estado Novo (new state), the Salazar develops a social assistance strategy, unlike that developed in other countries, as a way to combat the threat of communism. Thus, the Social Workers worked with the workers and families, where they played an important role in spreading the Church's social doctrine (Branco, 2018).

For Carvalho and Pinto (2015), the period between the 60's and 1974 marked a new stage for the Portuguese Social Service, which saw the expansion of industrial development and the recognition of social sciences in education in Portugal. It is, however, with the Estado Novo (new state) that Social Work is institutionalized, with the emergence of Social Work schools in Lisbon (1935), Porto and Coimbra. In the Post-25th of April 1974, a bet on Research in Social Work arises, due to the emergence of new social problems, arising from mutations in the own society and also to the emergence of new ideologies, such as Marxism or as the reconceptualization movement of Social Work in Latin America. After April 25, 1974, Portugal regains a democratic regime, which is a remarkable transformation in Portuguese society and a revolutionary historical moment for the “affirmation and scientification of Social Work” (Amaro, 2012: 101). In the 80s, the academic degree is recognized and the training begins to integrate the research strand, through theses or monographs of undergraduate, master and doctoral degrees and postgraduates. It begins the dissemination of scientific production that is carried out through publications of scientific journals and through the holding of seminars (Branco, 2018).

According to Branco (2019), a new phase of Social Work in Portugal was marked, both by changing the political paradigm and by influences in the formative and professional field: the currents of critical and radical Social Work of Latin American origin gained space in the formation and new fields of professional intervention and action aimed at institutional sociopolitical change.

The Social Worker finds himself in its field of intervention, with great wealth in terms of research instruments. The professional must be constantly updating the knowledge inherent to his professional practice, since he has to keep up with the changes that occur in society. Research is thus a practice complementary to the work done on the ground. “Critical ability and reflective thinking” are fundamental skills for a professional and quality response to a global society (Ferreira, 2011: 67). In this sense, the demands to which territories, services, professionals and citizens are exposed reveal a new challenge to contemporary Social Work.

The Social Worker is able to carry out scientific research, which must be developed on a consistent and preferably theoretical basis, carried out in multidisciplinary teams. Thus, the Social Worker through the study of problems, based on scientific steps and procedures, can apply them and solving them.

The interest of social workers in the study of social policies reflects, on the one hand, that it is through their immediate relationships that it acts and, on the other hand, that it is the methodology itself that generalizes their professional activity. The tradition of Social Service is based on interpersonal relationships, and it is through them that the relationship takes the relationship as a form of privileged professional action. Social Service and social policy are thus two forms of interconnection. The field of social work intervention becomes more and more vast.

Robertis (2003) calls attention that the social changes require social work to prepare for new situations of social vulnerability. Among them are technological, demographic, family models and health transformations that reflect an increase in poverty and social exclusion.

Currently, the Social Worker faces one of his greatest challenges, a challenge that translates into the need to develop his capacity to interpret reality as well as his creative capacity. The professional works daily on social issues, that is, it witnesses the inequalities of individuals with regard to work, family, housing, health, public assistance, among others.

Ferreira (2011) says that the current social problems are complex and need adequate and rigorous methodologies sustained in the study, diagnosis and social responses, combining the involvement of the attention subjects and valuing their potential and knowledge to approach and solve the problems. . This activity must not be devoid of critical thinking in the course of professional activity, as innovation and the monitoring of scientific progress, as well as the production of new knowledge, are fundamental to ensure responses to new situations of social risk.

The theoretical and methodological bases that are the set of knowledge and skills acquired by the Social Worker throughout his training process, and the techniques are work tools that allow him to know the reality and practice the profession. It is important to emphasize that the Social Worker does not perform his or her work in isolation it is part of a combined work, assuming him/herself as a worker that integrates a multidisciplinary work team.

Societal projects can be broadly transformative or conservative. Among the transformers there are various positions that have to do with the forms (tactics and strategies) of social transformation. Thus, we have a presupposition of the ethical-political project that is its irreplaceable relation with the projects of transformation or conservation of the social order. The ethical-political project of Social Service is linked to a project of transformation of society. This linkage is due to the very requirement imposed by the political dimension of professional intervention.

3. Organization of social services and social work

The universality of the social protection models of modern societies, aimed at maximizing social welfare, has become an end for States that have sought to establish services that promote social justice, integration and redistribution. It was in this context that professions were founded that contributed to these innovative mechanisms of operationalization and social regulation, such as the Social Work, which acted on various issues. Over the course of time new areas have been developing scientific and theoretical knowledge and technical skills in the commitment of their action in favor of citizenship, solidarity and equality (Parton, 2002). The emergence of organized forms of Social Work follows developments in modern and contemporary societies, social problems and their resolution along with the expansion of Welfare States (Hopkins, 2002).

State intervention is currently combined with private and civil society initiatives such as the Misericórdias (mercies), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Private Institutions of Social Solidarity (IPSS), among others. The action of the third sector has had an important role in the plan of the "primary" sociability or solidarities, combining the State, the market and the community, where the social and the economic are mixed "(Pond 2012:57). We can say that the crisis of 2008 brought a new paradigm in the field of social protection through political choices and the role of the State itself. Following this new paradigm, emerging from times of crisis and austerity, there were a privatization of services that contributes to the increase of poverty and unemployment in Portugal along with the loss of social rights and manifest social insecurity (Castro, Tomé, Carrara, 2015).

According to Joaquim (2008), this scenario led to the emergence of nongovernmental organizations "as a way of responding to situations of marginalization and the failure of existing responses" (Joaquim, 2008:25), and emphasizing the role of society civil society in cooperation with the State "as a partner in the application of social policies" (Joaquim, 2008: 26). Santos (2013) considers that there is a move away from the State through the process of privatization of its social functions, to which individuals are obliged "to their own survival: each by itself, with the only tangential participation of the State" (Santos, 2013:332). For the author, the private, for-profit sector has been increasing its niche through the allocation of Public Private Partnerships in the field of health and social security, which, although in expansion, do not correspond to an improvement in the efficiency of services provided (Santos, 2013).

Carvalho (2016) points out that neoliberalism led to "the dismantling of the Social State, orienting itself towards a recomposition of responsibilities between the State and society, families and the market" (Carvalho, 2016: 7). This brings us to a process of transformation among social actors that corresponded to the transfer of competences from welfare production and social protection from the public sector to the private sector and to the third sector. The agent of this mechanic: "The action of the actors of social protection and intervention are located in the field, not always symmetrical, sometimes conflicting, from different perspectives of reality" (Carneiro, 2017: 108).

The third sector assumes a role as a social actor of great relevance in matters of social solidarity and in the field of social action in multiple aspects that reinforce its activity. Joaquim (2008) points out some of these aspects, such as the fact that they have a less bureaucratic and faster functioning in adapting to social problems and needs, are not intended to be profitable but a goal of well-being and act as a mechanism to alleviate state functions. However, Santos (2013) considers that the privatization of social protection services refers to a weakening of the universality of social rights when it is verified that deregulation and profitability for the private sector in areas such as Social Security.

Amaro (2012) questions the current paradigm of social policies, namely regarding the transfer of skills from the public sector to other sectors stressing that:

a policy of decentralization of a set of competences is beginning to take place, which is more territorial in nature, in which, based on a technical foundation justifying the advantages of a policy of proximity, it responds to economic interests universalism is cheaper), transferring to civil society or local power issues that are fundamental rights (Amaro, 2012236).

In addition to this issue, there is also concern about an excess of "manageralism" as a form of political action of a new public management that favors the market and the public partnerships that are profitable and not profitable for the satisfaction of social needs. From this conception, Carvalho (2016) considers that Social Service is facing a risk in what its ethical foundations are, since "social workers are also evaluated for their efficiency in the implementation of these neoliberal, discriminatory and unjust policies that select and sanction citizens "(Carvalho, 2016:2).

The participation and proximity in communities or territories and as promoters of social policies through the informal sector have been important. This presents itself as an informal social actor, constituted by elements with whom individuals have a support relationship in their microsystem, in what can be called "primary network" (Guadalupe, 2009: 52-54). The informal sector ends up gathering non-formal resources that attenuate and act in situations of social support. "From here we can consider networks of kinship (based on affinity), neighborhood, friendship," fellowship "(referring to work and leisure relationships), etc." (Guadalupe, 2009:55). Informal levels of informal support can be considered as a "beneficial resource" that refers to a position of social support unit, but which does not guarantee and cannot replace the actual existence of a formal support system (Guadalupe, 2009).

In analyzing the foundations and principles of Social Service for social development and Human Rights, the struggle for political reforms to improve living conditions and well-being was a mark of the professionalization of Social Service in the present time as an area of knowledge within the framework of social sciences and humanities. Payne (1996) emphasizes that "Social Service needs to be involved in political activity to gain an adequate influence over its own nature and development and to influence relevant social change" (Payne apud Amaro, 2012:175).

Therefore, it is important to keep up with the trends of political concepts associated with welfare state policy, in order to deepen the role of the social worker in influencing social policies, bearing in mind that “Social work is linked with social policy through the legislation which implements policies” (Adams, 2002:32). Social workers face a number of serious situations and problems that manifestly or latently affect the well-being of people and the balance of social structures. It is in this scenario that the Social Service assumes a technical-scientific role in affirming its ethical-political dimension, as influential and transmitter of its principles to the models of welfare and social protection: “Social Workers are able to translate this practice wisdom into a powerful tool to influence public policy” (Colby, 2013:3).

Regardless of which sector the social worker integrates (public, private or third sector), his social role in social policies and social protection measures is unquestionable, taking into account his action to combat social inequalities, poverty and social exclusion and to the promotion of social welfare based on the principles of social justice and the defense of Human Rights. Social workers as promoters of human dignity, human rights and social justice must be able to acquire knowledge that allows them to intervene socially: “Even in the simplest of cases, there’s usually much to think about. To practice well, social workers have to think well, and to think well, they have to know a good deal” (Howe, 2009:5).

Rethinking social action in the framework of social protection as the construction of an integrative social model and for the affirmation of Human Rights can lead to the reinforcement of social relations and the sense of social justice that refer to a participation based on the social rights of citizenship and for improvement well-being and living conditions. In this sense, Social Service is attentive and present for the prevention, mitigation and resolution of old and new social problems that appear as risk factors before a scenario of complex relationships as what societies experience (Iamamoto, 2001; Amaro, 2012; Carvalho and Pinto, 2015). With the 2008 crisis, coupled with a reduction in social spending and cuts in the public sector, Carvalho and Pinto (2015) indicate that currently the third sector, as well as the lucrative private sector, are expanding in the area of well-be promoting a space for the intervention of the social worker, although with more restricted working conditions and lower salaries. The contemporary Social Work is facing a moment of important critical reflection on what its ethical principles are determinant for the professional affirmation.

4. Institutions and organizations forms of social work

Social workers seek to overcome certain conditioning influences on critical reflection such as overcoming beliefs, discernment in the use of technological information and time management to concert political action for the benefit of the people. "Fair policy is achievable by the melding of practical wisdom with objective, critical thinking guided by justice theory that mandates we promote the interests of the least advantaged (Adams, 2002:16). The time factor is determinant, not only for the social worker's own need for action, but also for the time of social policies. These may have to act in short term, almost with immediate effect on instant action in critical and urgent situations, or long-term with coordinated and concerted actions for sustainable development (Kwok, 2013:99).

Based on Thompson (2009) we can highlight the role of social workers in the political dimension not as a separate domain, but as an integral part of their multi-dimensions, which allow them to pursue their deontological goals, namely to promote social welfare through human relations and their potential for social and human development.

Additionally, securing these improved relationships in practice requires us as social workers to connect our interpersonal interactions with our political objectives and thereby model and demonstrate increased sociality to remove barriers that cause inequalities and promote social change (Adams, Dominelli & Payne, 2005:2).

Social Work is equipped with its own competences and values of a humanitarian nature supported by scientific knowledge and a professional systemic and reflexive conduct, which gives its action direction and meaning, thinking it critically. Social justice is a fundamental principle of Social Service which Thompson (2009) considers, alongside a framework of values, such as: combating inequalities, discrimination, oppression, exclusion and other forms of social injustice. It advocates the use of people empowerment tools (including families, groups and communities), promoting emancipatory forms, as opposed to the social disadvantages emerging from these situations.

Faced with these situations of transformation and evolution of social problems, social work responds, actively, through three lines of force: New social policies, the redefinition of social work missions and a different way of addressing certain fields of intervention (Robertis, 2003:171).

About the current social and professional complex scenario Restrepo said that “The strength with which these practices and experiences are inserted in the individual and collective subjects, disarticulating and fragmenting the social fabric, should constitute a hard core or flux axis of the disciplinary reconfiguration of contemporary social work.” (Restrepo, 2003:38). One of the salient aspects of contemporary Social Workers is the question of reflexivity, that some authors define as “reflexiveness is a cycle in which experiences and actions affect thinking, which changes subsequent experiences and actions, in turn affecting subsequent thinking” (Adams, Dominelli & Payne, 2005:9).

Reflexivity allows us to change our ways of thinking and acting through critical reflection on experiences, which will consequently be conditioned by them in a cyclical and correlated way. Reflexivity is closely linked with critical thinking as a way of interpreting experiences, actions, and thoughts. "Critical capacity and reflective thinking" are fundamental competences for a professional and quality response to a global society (Ferreira, 2011:67). In this sense, the demands to which the territories, services, professionals and citizens are exposed reveal a new challenge to contemporary Social Work.

Adams (2002) explores this question by considering that social workers are more than just enforcers. Critical reflection allows Social Work to contribute to the framework of social policies in many aspects that transcend pure legislation, such as reconciling legal issues, promoting advocacy and empowering people:

Social workers are not simply lawyers, working on people’s problems. Social workers draw on a range of social science perspectives and research in their practice. As part of this process, social policy contributes to the critical practitioner’s grasp of the context of practice (Adams, 2002:4).

Social workers work with people in situations of vulnerability or social exclusion, leading them to recognize their needs and to find solutions and potentialities for problems, seeking to achieve or recovering personal and social well-being as the product of their work (Beckett apud Howe, 2009). According to Cardoso (2012), social assistance and social action are represented in society as directed to the most vulnerable groups, which includes their acceptance and logic of responses in the field of social benefits, social facilities and social responses. "The globalization, economic and financial crises are systemic and constant increasing uncertainties" (Carvalho, 2016:11).

The political dimension of the "professional project" lies in promoting the principles of social justice and equity and in accessing, guaranteeing, realizing civil, political and social rights for citizenship. In the context of globalization, the aggravation of social phenomena, such as poverty, social exclusion and inequalities warns the analysis of social policies, social intervention methodologies and Social Service itself. As Colby (2013) states: "The core mission of professional social work is the promotion of social, economic and political justice for all people" (Colby, 2013:1), reinforcing what are its principles.

The concept of social justice, regardless of the perspective of its agents, is transversal and reflected in political conceptions (Colby, 2013). The principle of social justice considers that people should have equal opportunities and social participation, seeking an equitable and fair distribution and combating social asymmetries.

The elimination of obstacles, such as the absence of concerted social policies, the lack of updating and scientific knowledge, the difficulty of giving visibility to social issues, and the lack of instruments for evaluating the quality of programs and responses often prevent the achievement of greater objective of social action, which is only the promotion and effectiveness of the quality of life and well-being of individuals and communities.

For citizens, new social risks have a strong impact on their needs, and it is important to consider that the management of new risks, in particular the most vulnerable groups “affect more people and because failure to cope with them successfully can have substantial implications for poverty, inequality, and future life chances” (Taylor-Gooby, 2004:8), conflicting with Human Rights, the principles of Social Work and questioning the path of societies towards a sustainable social and human development.


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Helena Belchior-RochaHelena Belchior-Rocha
Professora Auxiliar/Assistant Professor
ISCTE - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa
Coordenação do 1º ano da Licenciatura em Serviço Social/
1st year Coordinator- Social Work graduation
Sub-directora do Laboratório de Competências Transversais-LCT/
Sub-director of the Soft Skills Lab
Coordenadora do Núcleo de Competencias Transversais - LCT/
Soft Skills Coordinator
Investigadora integrada do CIES/Integrated reseacher of CIES
Departamento de Ciência Política e Políticas Públicas
Escola de Sociologia e Políticas Públicas
Avª das Forças Armadas, 1649-026 Lisboa
Ala Autónoma Gabinete 303
Cacifo 311A - Ala Autónoma
Extensão: 221367 - telefone 21

Inês Casquilho-MartinsInês Casquilho-Martins
Investigadora Integrada, Lecturer Docente
ISCTE - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa
Departamento de Ciência Política e Políticas Públicas
Escola de Sociologia e Políticas Públicas
Avª das Forças Armadas, 1649-026 Lisboa
Ala Autónoma Gabinete 303
Cacifo 311A - Ala Autónoma

Vanessa FigueiredoVanessa Figueiredo
Assistente de Investigação
Departamento de Ciência Política e Políticas Públicas
Escola de Sociologia e Políticas Públicas
Avª das Forças Armadas, 1649-026 Lisboa
Ala Autónoma Gabinete 303
Cacifo 311A - Ala Autónoma


[1] The Fisherman's House was the primary territorial-based element of the corporate organization of maritime labor in the corporatist regime of the Estado Novo in Portugal. Created by Law No. 1953 of March 11, 1937, and regulated by Decree No. 27 978 of August 2 of the same year, they had, in relation to maritime work, similar functions to those of the Casas do Povo to rural work. They were social cooperation bodies - made up of fishermen, fishing companies, shipowners and boat owners - whose main purposes were education, assistance to seafarers and also the social security function of fishermen.

In the dependence of the Central Board of the Fisherman's House several services such as schools of fisheries, fish auction and fish ventage and gathering and concentration of marine plants. (Garrido, 2012)

[2] In contrast to the economically liberal view in times of the Portuguese protector state, the welfare state focuses on the political, economic and socio-cultural organization of social aid, which positions the state as an actor of social as well as economic development.

[3] The best known and most frequently used distinction today comes from the Danish sociologist Gøsta Esping-Andersen. He distinguishes between three types: liberal, conservative and social democratic welfare states. The categorisation is based on the logic of the relationship between state and market in the provision of social services, on the mode and quality of services, and on the impact of social policy on social stratification and social power distribution.

[4] The troika of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund argue that internal devaluation, i.e. the reduction in salaries, wages and pensions, will increase the country's low level of competitiveness - and thus increase employment again.

[5] The Holy House of Mercy, private institutions of social solidarity (continuous health care, palliative medicine, home care, child care, drug addiction, victim support), NGOs.

[6] Since the 1990s programmes in partnership with the European Poverty Reduction Network with the creation of the National Poverty Observatory and the National Program against Poverty.




[10] As the latest available data on the Portuguese population in 2017 are available, the analysis is carried out here on the basis of these data by comparing them with the data for 2016.

[11] Latest data available.

[12] Daten abrufbar unter

[13] Data available at

[14] Data available collected at Conta da Segurança Social (from to 2009 until 2017) available at

[15] Data available collected at Conta da Segurança Social (from to 2009 until 2017) available at

[16] Data available at

[17] Data available at

[18] Data available at

[19] Basic social security law

[20] Article 90º e Article 105º, Law n.º 4/2007

[21] Article 37 and Article 38, Law no. 4/2007 of January 16.

[22] Article 48, Law no. 4/2007, of January 16.

[23] Article 50, Article 51, Article 52 and Article 53, Law no. 4/2007, of January 16

[24] Substitution of occupational income, as part of the social security system, as well as active employment and vocational training policies, is financed by workers' contributions and contributions from employers. (Article 90, Law no. 4/2007)

[25] Article 54, Article 55, Article 56, Article 57, Article 58, Article 69 and Article 62, Law no. 4/2007, of January 16

[26] Article 82º Law n.º 4/2007, 16 January

[27] Article 83º Law n.º 4/2007, 16 January

[28] Article 84º Law n.º 4/2007, 16 January

Cite this publication
Belchior-Rocha Helena, Inês Casquilho-Martins and Vanessa Figueiredo, 2020. Country Portrait Portugal. In: socialnet International [online]. 07.12.2020 [Date of citation: 26.01.2021]. ISSN 2627-6348. Available from Internet: