New law reduces minimum pay discrimination against young people

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In August 1998, Portugal's law on the national minimum wage was amended in order to correct the discrimination against young people in the existing legislation.

Under Portugal's legislation on the national minimum wage (salário minimo nacional) - Decree-Law no. 69-A/87 and Decree-Law no. 411/87 - young people could hitherto be paid less than the standard adult rate. The minimum rate could be reduced by 25% for those aged under 18, or for those aged under 25 if they were receiving vocational training outside their work.

Under new legislation passed by the Portuguese Parliament - Law no. 45/98 of 6 August 1998 - all discrimination against young people under 18 is now forbidden when establishing the minimum national wage. This amended legislation now provides only for a reduction of 20% in young people's pay if they are apprentices or trainees under 25 and are receiving practical training for qualified occupations. This reduction can be maintained for one year, which may include training time with different employers, or for six months if the young person has already completed a vocational training course.

In order to apply this reduction, the employer must prove that the young person's work is not the same as that done by other workers. If the employer does not do so, the principle of "equal pay for equal work" prevails and there can be no reduction.

As usual, this law was discussed by the specialised parliamentary labour commission and in the plenary session of the Parliament. The results of the discussions indicated that not only was the principle laid down in the Portuguese Constitution of "equal pay for equal work" being violated, but that young people today are subject to worse conditions than others because their employment relationship is unregulated and less stable, and offers fewer career prospects. Some people have said that it is necessary to go further with coherent structural labour policies, and that one of the reasons for the existence of the law in the past was to encourage employers to hire young people. The right-wing parties - such as the Popular Party (Partido Popular, PP) - say that the new legislation will close the doors to jobs even more than before, because the law only protects those who are already in the labour market.

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