New NAP promotes creation of permanent jobs

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In a context of low unemployment, Portugal's 2000 National Action Plan (NAP) for employment - presented in May 2000 - continues to give priority to active policies to promote employment and employability. Continuing along the lines of the previous NAP, the new Plan seeks to improve the quality of employment in by providing incentives to companies for the conversion of temporary jobs into permanent ones.

At the end of May 2000, the Minister of Labour and Solidarity presented the package of new measures for the Portuguese National Action Plan () for employment for 2000 in response to the EU Employment Guidelines (EU9909187F). The main target of the 2000 NAP will be policies that actively promote employment, job qualification and active measures to help prevent the causes of unemployment. The Plan will focus on:

  • investing in ways to boost employability through continuing training; and
  • providing an early response to the problems of unemployment with special emphasis on unemployment among young people. The integration of socially excluded and long-term unemployed people will also be addressed, involving measures for social protection and initiatives to promote their re-entry into the labour market.

The NAP aims to:

  • widen the range of programmes aimed at young people looking for their first jobs and at long-term unemployed people, with initiatives that will cover the whole country;
  • offer either employment or vocational training to all 330,000 people registered as unemployed with the employment services;
  • offer personalised service, so that young people can be matched up with a specific job or training programme within six months, and other unemployed people within the space of a year;
  • explore the potential for job creation that the new "information society" provides and step up the use of new technology in continuing training; and
  • promote equal opportunity in access to jobs.

The NAP provides concrete figures on the number of offers of vocational training to be made, and specifies the number of centres to be opened for recognising and accrediting qualifications.

An assessment of the 1999 NAP (PT9904137F) indicates positive results in terms of:

  • the professional integration of young people, women and long-term unemployed people; and
  • an improvement in the overall quality of employment

There were 209,208 people involved in special NAP programmes in 1999. In 1999, Portugal had a relatively low rate of unemployment, at 4.4%, an annual economic activity growth rate of 0.5% and an employment rate of close to 70%, and there was an increase of 1.8% in the number of workers in paid employment. Portugal has one of the highest rates of self-employed and independent workers in Europe, though an appreciable number of them can be classified as "false independent workers".

The number of employees on fixed-term contracts in Portugal continues to rise, representing 19% of employment, even though labour law stipulates that these types of contract can be used only in specific circumstances, for example where an enterprise experiences a surge in production. The 2000 NAP contains new measures aimed at transforming fixed-term contracts into open-ended contracts: enterprises that turn fixed-term contracts into contracts of indefinite duration will benefit from incentives such as employer social security contribution exemptions for the worker in question, or a non-refundable grant equal to six months' pay at the rate of the minimum national wage. The trade unions have been made the consolidation of a statute for fixed-term employees one of their high-priority demands.

Even though the social partners have been contributing to Portugal's NAPs by making proposals and demands during their drafting, this collaboration has not gone deeper with regard to practice in the areas of qualification, continuing vocational training, work organisation and reconversion of the economic fabric. Those responsible for the NAP have cited the textiles sector, stating that if no concerted policy in these areas is drawn up when the time is favourable, large-scale problems are liable to arise. However unions in the sector have stressed income redistribution over improving skills and qualification (PT0002181N). The Federation of Unions of Textile, Woolens, Garment, Footwear and Leather Workers of Portugal (Federação dos Sindicatos dos Trabalhadores Texteis, Lanifícios, Vestuário e Calçado e Peles de Portugal, FESETE), affiliated to the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses, CGTP), has stated that enterprises customarily neglect training and that government departments have not been known to generate very effective training policies.

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