The Economic Empowerment of Portuguese Women at the Crossroads: An Accomplishment Facing the Tourniquet of the Crisis

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:50 PM
Room: 413
Oral Presentation
Lina COELHO , Center for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal
M. Alexandra FERREIRA-VALENTE , Center for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal
The gradual integration of Portuguese women in the labor market has enabled remarkable levels of economic autonomy, producing profound transformations in their economic and social roles. In the 1960s, Portuguese women still shared the backward position of Southern European women. The evolution observed since then has brought Portuguese women closer to the status of their Scandinavian counterparts, while Italy, Spain and Greece have evolved at various and disparate rhythms (Maruani, 2000, pp.25, Travail et Emploi des Femmes, Paris, La Découverte).

The economic crisis is threatening the sustainability of that process. On the one hand, new generations of graduated women are facing more and more difficulties in entering the labor market, particularly in sectors more favourable to female employment, such as the public sector, including the education sector, which is also being severely affected by the sharp decrease in birth rates. On the other hand, the failure of many SME’s in traditional manufacturing and services sectors is generating high levels of unemployment and inactivity for many middle aged and low skilled women.

Moreover, the government priority given to the elimination of state budget deficits in a short period of time is causing abrupt wage and benefit cuts and a general decline in public services with a very detrimental impact on the middle classes. The reduction of women’s purchasing power is, in turn, damaging numerous domestic jobs traditionally performed by less educated women (housework, catering, care for children and other dependents, etc.).

In this communication we intend to characterize and discuss the on-going multidimensional processes that are threatening Portuguese women’s achievements in terms of economic autonomy and empowerment.