Portugal warns jobless must do 'useful' work to keep aid

23rd August 2012, Comments 0 comments

Portuguese receiving a jobseeker's allowance must engage in "useful" voluntary work such as cleaning parks if they want to keep receiving the benefit, the government warned Thursday.

Minister of Solidarity and Social Security Pedro Mota Soares told a press conference that the benefit "came with obligations".

"Those who refuse to carry out activities that are useful to society will lose the benefit," he said.

The clampdown on its jobless population comes as Portugal seeks to tighten its belt through a series of tough austerity policies in return for financial bailouts to help its troubled economy.

People with children and ageing relatives to take care of will be exempt from the rule, said Soares.

Types of work that people could be called upon to do include "cleaning public gardens, renovation work in social institutions and the organisation of sports and culture events", he said.

At the end of June, 339,000 Portuguese were registered for the unemployment allowance, which pays an average of 92 euros ($115) a month.

The government measure -- an election promise by the centre-right administration which came to power in June -- also aims to root out an estimated 60,000 jobseekers who have not taken action to find another job.

Like other European Union nations including Greece, Spain and Italy, Portugal is struggling against a double whammy of government spending cuts and mass layoffs as it tries to rescue its economy, forecast to shrink by three percent this year.

Its unemployment rate rose to a record 15 percent in the second quarter, meaning 830,000 people are now looking for work, compared to 440,000 at the end of 2008.

The government has also hiked taxes and cut spending on civil service salaries and social welfare to meet the terms of a 78-billion-euro bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

© 2012 AFP

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