- Download our Moving to Portugal Guide (PDF)
Portugal is a unique and fascinating country. For new arrivals, social norms may be confusing at first. Read on to learn about diversity and inclusion in Portugal.
Accessibility in Portugal
Portugal is considered a fairly accessible country and is making continuous improvements to available infrastructure. In 2019, Portugal was chosen by the UN World Tourism Organisation as the year’s “Accessible Tourist Destination”.
A programme known as ‘all for all’ has been in place since 2016, with the programme’s main mission being the transformation of Portugal into an accessible country. More than 200 beach areas have been made completely accessible with facilities such as reserved parking, walkways on the beach, pedestrian access and adapted toilets. Most of these beaches even supply special equipment allowing those with limited mobility to swim in the sea with assistance.
When travelling by train, those with mobility limitations can arrange to be assisted by the centralised Integrated Mobility Service (SIM – Serviço Integrado de Mobilidade) when boarding and leaving the train. This service needs to be booked a minimum of six hours in advance. Airports have a similar service, known as MyWay, which should be booked when buying a plane ticket or at least 48 hours before departure. Some taxi companies in Portugal have fully equipped cars available for those with limited mobility – similarly, these should be requested specifically and in advance.
LGBTQ+ in Portugal
Portugal is one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in the world. There are anti-discrimination ordinances in place to protect people from being treated unfairly on the basis of their physical sex or gender identity. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2010, when Portugal became the eighth country in the world to make this progressive change.
LGBTQ+ couples have the same rights as straight couples when it comes to adoption and IVF treatment. Since 2011 and as recently as 2018, various laws have been passed to make it easier for transgender individuals to change the gender listed on their ID documents.
Lisbon and Porto in particular have exciting and lively gay nightlife scenes, as does the Algarve, but the country, on the whole, is considered a safe and accepting area for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community.
Gender equality in Portugal
For the first time in Portugal’s history, there are more women than men serving as ministers in the country’s cabinet. This is a great step towards gender parity since the country's constitution, which guarantees gender equality between men and women, was first adopted. One of the biggest wins for women in Portugal was the legislation of abortion in 2007 following record high maternal mortality rates.
The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) ranks Portugal 13th for gender equality out of the EU's 20 countries, and the country has taken the top spot in the category for women's participation at work. That said, there is still work to be done in truly achieving gender equality in Portugal. The gender pay gap currently stands at 11.4 percent, and young girls and women spend 7 percent more time on unpaid labour than their male counterparts.
Even so, the Portuguese society continues to modernise and introduce new laws to tackle gender inequalities. A landmark Supreme Court case in 2021 ruled that a woman who performed unpaid domestic work and childcare for 30 years in a non-marital partnership should be compensated for her labour. This case set precedent for the remuneration of unpaid care work in the country. Furthermore, Portugal introduced measures in 2019 to enforce equal pay between men and women for equal work.
New mothers in Portugal have access to six weeks of compulsory paid maternity leave, and men receive up to 20 days of paternity leave. Parents also have the option to share an additional 180 days of leave at 83 percent total pay, or extend the maternity leave alone at 80 percent total pay.
Women in leadership in Portugal
In 2018, Portugal implemented a gender quota requiring publicly listed companies to have no less than one-third of men and women on their managerial and supervisory bodies from 2020. Women make up 31 percent of board members, a promising sign of improvement, and roughly on par with the EU average. Although progress has been made in the world of business – 37 percent of management positions in Portugal are filled by women – there is something of a glass ceiling, and only 14 percent of senior executives are women.
Women make up about 40 percent of parliamentary positions and 42 percent of ministerial positions in Portugal, above the UK's numbers but below neighbouring Spain.
Mental health awareness in Portugal
Portugal has one of the highest rates of mental ill health in Europe, with roughly one in five people experiencing a mental disorder in their lifetime. Anxiety disorders are particularly common. There is a stigma surrounding mental illness in Portugal, with many believing it to be a sign of weakness rather than a genuine health concern.
Mental healthcare services fall under the National Mental Health Programme, which is part of the national healthcare system (Serviço Nacional de Saúde – SNS). The programme treats mental illness at three levels: local hospitals, regional hospitals and psychiatric hospitals. Institutionalisation rates have dropped by 40 percent since the start of the programme, indicating better outcomes for patients.
Due to the stress of relocation and feelings of loneliness or isolation in their new home, expats are at higher risk of depression and anxiety than the general population. While mental health was once a taboo subject, companies are becoming increasingly conscious of its importance. More companies are holding talks and workshops to raise awareness, and employers are adjusting healthcare plans offered to their employees, so that there’s better coverage for treatment in the mental health arena.
Although most expats in Portugal qualify to use the public healthcare system, most tend to opt for private mental healthcare services. The extent of coverage provided by a particular insurer can vary, however, so it’s important to check individual policy details for clarity.
English-speaking psychologists and psychiatrists, many of whom are expats themselves, can most easily be found in Lisbon.
Unconscious bias education in Portugal
Unconscious bias is an implicit set of often stereotyped ideas an individual carries about groups of people different to themselves. These ideas are not purposefully adopted but rather develop subtly over time, and people tend to hold unconscious biases about groups they never or rarely come into contact with. As a result, they're often inaccurate and based on assumptions.
Unconscious bias can profoundly affect both personal and work conditions. In the workplace, unchecked bias undermines vital aspects of the company, with negative effects on employee performance, retention and recruitment. In a bid to create a better work environment, many companies are beginning to institute unconscious bias training. There are also a number of online resources that can be used to improve self-awareness regarding bias.
Diversification of workforce in Portugal
Portugal is home to more than 700,000 foreigners, a figure increasing year by year. The most common countries of origin are Brazil, the UK, Cape Verde, India and Italy. People moving to Portugal are often drawn by the quality of life. Portugal is especially popular among UK retirees, but plenty of expats come here for the employment opportunities the country offers.
Expats can expect to encounter a fairly diverse work environment in Lisbon. The offices of international firms buzz with a blend of languages, with staff being sourced from all over the world.
Studies show that diversification of the workplace is hugely beneficial to companies and employees alike. In recognition of this, many of Portugal’s largest companies are setting up diversity and inclusion programmes, ensuring that a wide variety of people is represented among employees.
Safety in Portugal
Portugal is generally a safe place to live. The crime rate is low and expats won’t have to worry about security issues beyond normal safety precautions. Best practices include locking doors, being aware of personal belongings in crowded areas and tourist hotspots (pickpocketing can be a problem in these areas), avoiding walking alone at night through isolated areas, and only using reputable taxi companies.
Calendar initiatives in Portugal
4 February – World Cancer Day
March – TB Awareness Month
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
June – Pride Month
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
8 October –World Mental Health Day
14 November – World Diabetes Day
1 December – World AIDS Day
Are you an expat living in Portugal?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Portugal. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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