Learn more about specific causes in Portugal that you can get involved in.
EnvironmentAir and water pollution remain the greatest threats to Portugal’s environment. These problems are particularly pressing in urban centers where the concentration of industrial pollutants like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, and sulfur dioxide is higher.1 Climate change has also negatively impacted the environment and cost the government millions of euros in damages. Increased temperatures, accompanied by less rainfall, have triggered droughts and wildfires in the country.2 Portugal is taking significant measures to reduce the effects of climate change and is considered a leader in renewable energy.3 In 2016, the country ran entirely on renewable energy for four straight days as a demonstration of their capabilities to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.4
FamilyPortugal is a family-centric culture, and it is common to find multiple family generations in the same household.1 One major threat to Portuguese family life is domestic abuse. In 2015, 2,700 cases of domestic abuse were reported to police, but only 240 of the cases resulted in charges being brought against the accused parties.2 Another threat to the unity of the family is divorce. Recent statistics indicate that 70% of Portuguese marriages end in divorce, the highest rate in Europe, and 49% of children are born out of wedlock.3
Human RightsPortugal publicly advocates for and advances laws concerning human rights. In 2016, it became one of the first nations in the European Union to open its borders to limited amounts of asylum seekers in an attempt to stop the European refugee crisis.1 Domestic violence and discrimination against the disabled are among the most prevalent human rights violations in Portugal. There have also been reports of torture and lack of hygienic conditions in prisons.2 Additionally, Portugal has been identified as a source, destination, and transit country for human trafficking. They do not meet the minimum standards for convicting offenders but are working to improve compensation and protection for victims.3
EducationThe Portuguese educational system provides nine years of free and compulsory education.1 Portugal has an overall 95% literacy rate. Men have higher literacy rates of 97%, while females have lower literacy rates of 94%.2 Language acquisition and instruction is crucial to the education system in Portugal. In secondary school, learning a foreign language becomes a key component of their education. Towards the end of their secondary schooling, some students even study a second foreign language.1 Estimates from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) state that, while the educational system is commendable in Portugal, only 43% of 25-34 year olds in Portugal had attained an upper secondary education.3
PovertyDespite experiencing a low unemployment rate compared to previous years, Portugal still has a significant number of citizens below the poverty line.1 It has one of the highest wealth inequalities in the European Union, with the wealthy minority maintaining a high percentage of the country’s income.2 Middle class individuals will often work 2-3 jobs, and may even attempt to grow their own food in efforts to save money.3 Around 20% of the population lives below the poverty line, and one-quarter of these are children.4
ReligionOver 80% of the population in Portugal is Roman Catholic, 3.3% are other Christian, 6.8% are nonreligious, and the remaining number include Judaism, Protestantism, Muslims, Buddhists. The government protects religious freedom, and there have not been notable reports of abuses of religious freedom.The government has been very respectful of the citizens right to freedom of religion.1
Clean Water99.7% of the population in Portugal has sustained access to improved water sources and 100% of the population has access to sanitation facilities.1 In Portugal, everyone has access to water through both public and private sources.2 Although almost all Portuguese can access clean water, they often pay for more than they receive. Due to damaged infrastructure, millions of liters of water leak out of the pipe systems before they reach they reach their destination, and people still pay for the lost water.3
EconomyPortugal finally showed signs of emerging from an economic recession starting in 2015 under the government of a ruling Socialist party. In spite of refusing to cut government spending, the country is reaping the benefits of fresh entrepreneurship and increased tourism that have finally helped cut down public debt. In 2017, public debt only amounted to 2% of the GDP and the unemployment rate was down to 10%, the lowest it had been in years.1 Still, economic growth is hindered by an inefficient public sector and banking system, which required a multi-billion dollar bailout.2
GovernmentThe government of Portugal is centered on a system of parliamentary democracy.1 Staff shortages and inefficiency have contributed to a slow and unproductive judicial system.2 Corruption is reported by Portuguese citizens as being especially present in an unbalanced allocation of government positions to the wealthy. Although 80% of citizens believe this to be a problem, 50% are afraid of the consequences that would occur if they were to speak up about it.3
HealthPortugal has both public and private health care available to citizens. Universal healthcare access is available through the National Health Service (NHS).1 Health care spending accounts for 10% of the country’s GDP, and the average life expectancy is 79 years.2 Obesity is an increasing health problem in Portugal due to inactivity and increased saturated fat intake. The World Health Organization estimates that over 20% of the population could be obese by 2030.3 Noncommunicable diseases have become the leading cause of death among both adults and children.4 The drug-induced death rate has decreased since 2001, when a new law decriminalized drug abuse and mandated health care instead of jail time for anyone found in possession of less than a ten-day supply of drugs.5
ChildrenChild abuse is a consistent problem in Portugal. In one year, nearly 1,000 cases were reported. Abuse ranges from physical and sexual violence to forcing children to beg on the streets. In 2014, the government started several campaigns to raise awareness about child abuse and sexual exploitation and created a database to register sex offenders. There are laws in place to prosecute child abusers and those who participate in child pornography. However, laws against forced child labor are not often enforced.1 A third of all children are below the median income poverty level, and families with more children are most at risk for poverty and food shortages.2
AnimalsPortugal is home to a variety of animals in its diverse landscape. Wild pigs, foxes, deer, and goats are the most common species, although deforestation has taken away the natural habitats of many creatures. The Desertas Islands are a designated nature preserve and are home to an endangered seal species as well as many species of birds and fish.1
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