Portugal: Latest working life developments – Q1 2017

Promoting gender equality, upgrading education and skills and a Green Paper on labour relations are among the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Portugal in the first quarter of 2017.

Gender balance in corporate decision-making positions

On 18 January, the government presented Law Proposal 52/XIII to establish a scheme for gender-balanced representation in management and supervisory bodies in public sector companies and in listed companies. It is proposed that the proportion of either gender cannot be lower than 33.3% in public sector companies, from 1 January 2018. In listed companies, this percentage cannot be lower than 20% after 1 January 2018, and cannot be lower than 33.3% after 1 January 2020. The Law Proposal is being discussed by the Parliamentary Commission for Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees.

This legal development embodies one of the policy priorities set out in the Agenda for Equality in the Labour Market and in Companies, presented by the Minister in the Cabinet of the Prime Minister to the Standing Committee for Social Dialogue of the Economic and Social Council on 25 May 2016. This agenda aims at preventing and combating gender inequalities. It addresses five main areas:

  • pay gap;
  • occupational segregation;
  • parenthood;
  • reconciliation of personal, family and professional life;
  • parity in decision-making positions.

On 8 March, the Prime Minister announced, in the Assembly of the Republic, that new proposals for laws on the gender pay gap and on parental rights will be presented up until next May.

New adult training and qualification programme

On March 2017 the government formally launched the QUALIFICA programme, which focuses on adult education and training, complementing a process of certification with training.

The training and qualification of adults is one of the priorities included in the government programme (PDF) and one of the priorities of the National Reform Programme (PDF).

The QUALIFICA programme aims to:

  • increase skill levels and improve employability;
  • reduce illiteracy rates;
  • promote greater investment of young adults in education and training pathways;
  • recover the structural backwardness in schooling, towards a greater convergence with European reality;
  • match the supply and training network with the labour market needs and development models, at national and regional level.

Other objectives include increasing participation in lifelong learning and ensuring that the process of certification of competencies, based on work experience, includes formal education or training.

The QUALIFICA programme aims to reach the following targets by 2020:

  • 50% of the active population completing secondary education;
  • 15% adult participation rate in lifelong learning activities, extending to 25% by 2025;
  • a rate of 40% of higher education graduates aged 30–34;
  • to enlarge the network QUALIFICA centres from the current 261 to 300 by the end of 2017.

Debate on labour relations and tripartite commitment

The Tripartite commitment for a mid-term concertation agreement (PDF) (signed in January) in conjunction with the Amendment to the tripartite commitment (PDF) (signed in February) include an agenda of immediate measures, such as increasing the minimum wage by 5% and a fiscal measure benefiting small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

The government and the social partners also made compromises to promote joint actions to improve collective bargaining and modernise the labour market. For example, trade union and employer confederations made a bipartite commitment (plus the State as an employer) to commit their members to refrain from unilaterally requiring the expiry of collective agreements for a period of 18 months starting in January 2017. They also agreed to conclude another tripartite agreement in 2017. This would be based on the Green Paper on labour relations (PDF) and focus on:

  • measures to combat labour market segmentation;
  • revision of the wage guarantee fund;
  • revision of the framework and legal deadlines on extending collective agreements.

The Green Paper on Labour Relations, published by the Office of Strategy and Planning of the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity (GEP/MTSS) encompasses an in-depth and comprehensive diagnostic of the labour market and industrial relations trends, identifying the problems which need to be urgently tackled. It will be the most relevant official study to frame the forthcoming debates and political decisions in these two domains.

Next steps to combat precarious work in the public sector

Following the decision included in the budget law, Law no. 42/2016 (PDF), to combat the use of precarious work and subcontracting in the public sector, the government took preliminary steps to initiate the regulation of precarious employment relationships in public administration – a process that must be initiated by October 2017 and end on 31 December 2018 (Resolution of the Council of ministers no.32/2017 (PDF)). The first step taken was publishing an official report evaluating the extension of precarious work in public sector (PDF).

The next step will be to evaluate each individual case to see if it corresponds to that of staff performing full-time functions under hierarchical supervision and corresponding to permanent service needs. Public sector trade unions and representatives of relevant ministries will play the central role in this evaluation. The social movement, Precários do Estado, has been at the forefront of social dialogue with the government on this issue, claiming that ‘nobody can be left behind’ and organising initiatives to help precarious workers to stand up for their rights.

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