Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform


4. Social Inclusion

4.1 General context

Last update: 28 November 2023
On this page
  1. Main challenges to social inclusion
  2. Definitions and concepts

Main challenges to social inclusion

In the last decades, Portugal has shown improvements in the living conditions of citizens, in part as a result of the implementation of a set of public policies in the area of poverty and social inclusion, and the consequent improvement of the social protection system, in accordance to the Social Inclusion and Employment Operational Programme (PO ISE 2014).

It is important to underline the significance of the progressive extension of the educational system, the expansion of compulsory education until the twelfth year of secondary education in 2009, the increase in the supply of equipment and services for social support, and the development of the National Health System, among others. 

In recent years, with the implementation of a coordinated set of measures to increase employment, restore income, provide greater justice and fiscal equity and defend and strengthen the Welfare State.

These facts contributed both to the recovery of household income and to the stabilisation of the social situation, allowing the fulfilment of important objectives both in the reduction of poverty risks, with the at-risk-of-poverty rate after social transfers being reduced to the lowest levels of the last 6 years and set at 18.3%, and in the reduction of inequalities in the distribution of income, with the S80/S20 ratio falling, reaching values identical to those of 2010. (PNR, p.154).


In 2015, 26.6% of the Portuguese population was living at risk of poverty or social exclusion, which was particularly high among young people (Rodrigues, 2016). In the last decade, there has been a sharp rise in young people aged between 15 and 29 at risk of poverty or social exclusion: in 2005, these were 24.3% and, in 2015, 30.7% (Eurostat (ilc_peps01)).

According to the “Living Conditions and Income Survey 2018” (ICOR 2018), prepared by the National Statistics Institute (INE), it is observed that the at-risk-of-poverty rate fell from 19.5% in 2014 to 17.3% in 2018. The national social protection system has played a fundamental role in reducing inequalities and the risk of monetary poverty. (Source: MTSSS/GEP).

One essential factor for a full inclusion in society is the access to education and participation in the labour market.


Many young people leave the education system with a low level of education, which puts them at a disadvantage in terms of access to the labour market. 

Portugal presents one of the lowest rates in the European Union in terms of qualifications of the active population, being that the levels of education among young people are still low compared to the European average. In 2015, 33.3% of the population aged between 25 and 34 had a level of education (ISCED 0-2) below mandatory education, compared to 16.6% among the EU28 (edat_lfs_9903).

The levels of school failure and early dropout from the educational system are also high compared to the European average. In 2015, in Portugal, the rate of young people aged between 18 and 24 who stopped studying without completing the secondary school level was 13.7% (Eurostat (t2020_40)).


Regarding the labour market, the last few years have been characterized by a continuous decline of the unemployment rate since 2013, from 16,4% (2013) to 6.5% in 2019 approaching the rates of the European Union (EU28) – 6.3% in 2019 (Eurostat_TPS00203).

Unemployment particularly affects young and older workers. In 2019, the unemployment rate of young people from 15 to 24 years stood at 14.4% in the EU28, reaching, in Portugal, a value of 18,3%. Regarding the unemployment rate of the age class from 25 to 29 years, Portugal presents similar values to those of the EU28 - 8.3% in 2019 (Eurostat_ TEPSR_WC170).

The conditions for the insertion of young people into the labour market have been characterised by precariousness, particularly by the increase of part-time and temporary work. The recent coronavirus pandemic has emphasised the difficult start in the labour market of young people and Portugal is aligned with the EU recovery plan for young people – A Bridge to Jobs: Reinforcing the Youth Guarantee.

Young NEET

Despite the difficulty of integration into the labour market, Portugal has made an appreciable improvement since 2013 regarding the percentage of young people who are not working, studying, or training (NEET). In 2019, 9.2% of young people aged between 15 and 29 years were in a NEET situation in Portugal, below the average percentage in the EU28 – 12.5%.

The least qualified young people are the most vulnerable to the NEET situation. (Rowland et al, 2014) and the NEET situation increases considerably with age, being that young people aged between 15 and 19 in a NEET situation are only 3.4%, this rate increasing to 12.7% when young people are aged between 20 and 24 (Eurostat_edat_lfse_21).

Young people from vulnerable socio-economic context

In recent years, policies for youth social inclusion have been directed to sectors of the youth population living in more vulnerable socio-economic contexts, which makes them more susceptible to structural conditions of poverty, unemployment and education, with effects on their safety, health, training, education or development.

Among these groups, one can find children of immigrants, young people from Roma communities, children and young people who live in households of single-parent families or large families. Another particularly vulnerable group is children and young people who live in households where there is a low intensity of work or where unemployment is present. These situations increase the reproduction of intergenerational poverty, making young people’s school and professional paths more complex (Cerdeira et al, 2013).


Definitions and concepts

Descendants of immigrants: In Portugal, since the 1980s and until the end of the 1990s, intense migratory flows were witnessed, which led to a significant increase of the foreign population residing in the country, between the years 2000 and 2010. As a result of family reunion processes or by constituting new families in Portugal, most immigrants have children. These are children (aged between 0 and 14) and young people (aged between 15 and 30) who were born and/or grew up in Portugal (Machado and Matias, 2006). Although it is difficult to calculate the proportion of descendants of immigrants, the Portuguese population data from the 2011 Census allows us to gauge that 92,700 citizens of Portuguese nationality had at least one parent of foreign nationality (2011 Census; Strategic Plan for Migration, ACM, I.P., 2015).

Nationality law: in 2006, a new Nationality Law was introduced, which marks the change of principle for granting the nationality: from a principle of ius sanguinis to a principle of ius solis. Under this amendment, there has been an increase in the number of descendants of immigrants born in Portugal that have acquired the Portuguese nationality, which until then were subject to limitations on access to citizenship (Ferreira, 2014).

In 2018 came into force the Organic Law 2/2018, of 5th July, that extends access to original nationality and naturalization to people born in Portuguese territory, making the eighth amendment to Law No. 37/81, of 3 October, which approves the Law on nationality.