Inspection programme to combat undeclared work, Portugal


Target Groups: 


The Inspection Action Plan 2008–2010 of the Authority for Working Conditions includes a specific measure aiming to combat undeclared and irregular work in Portugal. The inspection programme to combat undeclared work (Programa inspectivo para o combate ao trabalho não declarado) has a national scope and covers all sectors of economic activity, with a special focus on the construction sector and hotels and restaurants.



The Portuguese Inspection Action Plan 2008–2010 is the main instrument of reference for the Authority for Working Conditions (Autoridade para as Condições de Trabalho, ACT) to accomplish its mission ‘Promotion of the Improvement of Working Conditions’ over a three-year period.

The second axis of the plan refers to the promotion of decent work, in line with the Lisbon Strategy goal of ‘more and better jobs’. It also refers to the prior objective of the European Union and Portugal of combating undeclared work and promoting sustainable jobs with employability guarantees for workers.

Undeclared work contributes to social segmentation, as it leads to groups of workers without social protection, a deficit in the public receipts and unfair competition for those complying with their obligations. One of the measures of the action plan specifically aims to enhance inspection activity regarding undeclared work.

ACT is responsible for the development and implementation of the measures contained in the inspection plan. The implementation of measure 6.1, regarding undeclared work, envisages the participation of other entities such as: ACT’s Directorate of Support Services to Inspection Activity (Direcção de Serviços de Apoio à Actividade Inspectiva), ACT’s Training and Human Resources Division (Divisão de Formação e Recursos Humanos), the Social Security (Segurança Social) and the Tax Authority (Direcção-Geral dos Impostos, DGCI).


The main aim of Programme 6 – Undeclared or irregular work is to develop strategies to combat undeclared work and irregular contractual flexibilities in order to integrate such cases into regular employment, according to the legal framework.

Specific measures

Programme 6 of the Inspection Action Plan 2008–2010 includes four areas requiring attention:

  • 6.1 – Totally or partially undeclared work;
  • 6.2 – Irregular use of fixed-term employment contracts;
  • 6.3 – Temporary work, assigning or placing workers;
  • 6.4 – Posting of workers to provide services.

Measure 6.1 is specifically directed towards combating undeclared work. The main concern is to identify and develop inspection actions with regard to the following situations:

  • work that is not declared to the labour administration and social security;
  • work that is partially undeclared;
  • remunerations that are under declared;
  • irregularities regarding the employment contract.

This measure has a national scope and concerns all economic sectors. However, priority is given to the following fields of economic activity: construction, hotels and restaurants, hairdressing and other beauty treatment, car wash centres, call centre activities, forestry, agriculture and farming, communications, wholesale and retail trade, the organisation of events, manufacturing, financial intermediation and seasonal activities.

Evaluation and outcome

Achievement of objectives

It is too soon to assess the achievement of objectives, or to identify problems arising or lessons learnt.

Impact indicators

The Inspection Action Plan 2008–2010 set the inspection of 12,000 establishments as an annual target for Programme 6. In general, 36,000 establishments shall be inspected but a minimum of 60% of these must be carried out under measure 6.1 concerning undeclared work.

It is also expected that an increase of 15% of the regulatory capacity will be achieved, according to indicators still to be defined.

Finally, at least one national coordinated action shall be carried out in each three-monthly period.

At the time of writing, no results were yet available.


This kind of measure reveals the prevalence of undeclared work in Portugal. The National Action Plan for Employment 2005–2008 already defined as one of its goals the development of an inspection programme regarding undeclared work. In fact, one of its priorities is the reconciliation of workers’ rights with increased flexibility for companies, which should be achieved through the following means: public information and awareness-raising campaigns, reinforcing prevention measures, combating illegal immigration and illegal or undeclared work through specific inspection activity, and developing a basic information system in order to assess and monitor the problem. A further way of achieving this objective is by minimising the tax and social contribution effects favouring false independent work, that is, when a worker is officially self-employed but in effect acts as an employee. Such a situation can encourage tax evasion.


Autoridade para as Condições de Trabalho

Avenida Casal Ribeiro, 18-A 1000-092 Lisbon



ACT, Plano de Acção Inspectiva 2008–2010 [Inspection Action Plan 2008–2010], available online at:

Heloísa Perista and Jorge Cabrita, CESIS


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