Portugal’s low-income households struggle to survive pandemic

FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective masks wait at a bus stop, as the country eases the lockdown due to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Cais do Sodre station in Lisbon, Portugal

One in four Portuguese with a monthly household income of 650 euros ($705) or less have lost all their income because of the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, a study by the National School of Public Health showed on Saturday.

“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, and 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.

Portugal’s economy is expected to contract by 8% this year, and unemployment to more than double to 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.

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