EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Obra Diocesana de Promoção Social, Portugal: Redeployment/Training and development


Case study name: 
Ageing workforce
Organisation Size: 
Health and social work
Target Groups: 
Initiative Types: 
Comprehensive approachdevelopmentetcFlexible working practicesRedeploymentTraining


Organisational background


The social organisation ODPS (Obra Diocesana de Promoção Social) was founded in 1964 by the Bishop of Oporto, Don Antonio, at a time when the first social housing projects for low-income people started in the northern city of Porto, also known as Oporto. The main tasks of ODPS are social and personal care and help, particularly for socially weak people. The organisation’s headquarters and 12 social centres are located in the Porto area; at these centres, OPDS provides kindergartens, schools and youth centres. Furthermore, the organisation supports families and older people, for example in domestic work. Almost 3,000 people benefit from the organisation’s activities.

To manage all of its activities, ODPS employs 410 workers of varying qualifications. Most of the employees (about 70%–80%) are operational staff, for instance in the areas of maintenance, domestic work and cooking, with a relatively low level of qualification, generally secondary education. Overall, 108 employees (26%) are older than 50 years, while the average age of the workforce is 40 years. The vast majority of the staff, at 95%, are women and many have worked in the organisation for a number of years.

Social responsibility is not only important for the organisation’s service activities but also in terms of its personnel policy. To retain its employees, ODPS adopts two key measures, which are described below. Furthermore, the organisation pursues an integrative recruitment approach and does not apply any age barriers. It also recruits disabled persons and people who once have been supported by ODPS. Recently, the organisation restructured its human resources management and implemented a health service for its employees.

Various trade unions represent the employees of ODPS, to relatively good effect.

Good practice today

The primary tenet of ODPS is social responsibility. This objective underlines the organisation’s activities in personal and family care, and also guides the organisation’s personnel policy. ODPS seeks to retain its staff for as long as possible; for most employees, working at ODPS means employment for life. The high job tenure may serve as evidence in this regard. Moreover, sometimes two or more generations of a family work at the organisation. Indeed, some women continue working at ODPS even beyond retirement age in part-time employment.

To enable ageing in employment, the organisation has implemented two measures which particularly underpin a life-course oriented perspective: redeployment and career development.


Working in social care is a physically and mentally demanding job. In most cases, it is not possible to do the same task or job throughout the entire working life. If an employee expresses a wish to change the allotted task because he or she feels exhausted or just needs a change, the organisation takes note of the employee’s needs in its personnel planning. In this respect, the redeployment initiative aims to take care particularly of older, long-term employees who need a change in their daily routines. It thus focuses on offering these workers alternative tasks, for example from baby care to childcare or from mobile to residential care of elderly people. An important feature of this horizontal career option is that the alternative tasks and new areas of work should take into account the employee’s competences and interests, as well as supporting their health and their motivation to continue working.

Career development

In addition to such horizontal forms of redeployment, ODPS also provides upward career options and supports its employees in training activities, including on-the-job training, evening school or vocational training. Upward mobility not only enables employees to change or reduce the workload but also provides a higher status, as well as increasing motivation. It is possible, for example, to develop from being a kindergarten teacher assistant to a kindergarten teacher with more responsibility and higher autonomy. Another option would be the advancement from cleaning to nursing after one year of evening school. The organisation always tries to consider the employees’ needs and wishes, supporting their activities, as job satisfaction and identification with one’s work are of great importance for the good quality of social services.

Alongside these two initiatives, ODPS also provides the possibility of changing location if such a move is more convenient for the employee; the organisation maintains 12 different social centres around Porto.

The high job tenure and the lack of workers taking early retirement underline the success of a personnel policy that is socially responsible and that seeks to retain employees for as long as possible.

Further information

Contact: Mónica Taipa, Human Resources Manager, email:



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