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Low-income households throughout Portugal struggle to stay afloat during pandemic

Published on 09/05/2020

One in four Portuguese citizens with a monthly household income of 650 euros or less have lost all their income because of the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, a study by the National School of Public Health showed this week.

“Economic consequences of illness and confinement, such as unemployment or less income sources, can disproportionately affect the most vulnerable groups,” said the study, which surveyed around 4,000 people between April 25 and May 1.

About 22% of Portugal’s 4.9 million workers take home the minimum monthly wage of 635 euros, the lowest in Western Europe.

Since the pandemic hit Portugal, 25% of people with a household income of up to 650 euros lost all their earnings, whereas only 6% of those with a monthly household income of 2,500 euros or more lost it all, the study showed.

“Preliminary data seems to indicate COVID-19 is noticeably unequal,” it said, adding that inequalities can increase people’s risk of being infected by the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus because they might have no option but to leave their homes to work.

“Work that cannot be done remotely or the need to continue to do small jobs to ensure short-term subsistence puts people at risk of greater exposure to infection,” it said.

Portugal, which has reported 27,268 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 1,114 deaths, started cautiously easing its lockdown restrictions on Monday.

The nation’s economy is expected to contract by 8% this year, and unemployment to more than double to as high as 13.9%, according to the International Monetary Fund.

A total of 91,500 people registered as unemployed between the beginning of Portugal’s lockdown on March 18 and the end of April, official figures showed, bringing total unemployment to just under 370,000 people.