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Beyond the crisis: fertility variations and the family policies in the Portuguese municipalities

Au-delà de la crise : les variations de la fécondité et les politiques familiales dans les municipalités portugaises
Dulce Pimentel et Cristina Sousa Gomes

Résumés

Dans un contexte de vieillissement profond, comme celui du Portugal, la fécondité devient une variable clé pour l'analyse de la dynamique de la population, avec une importance accrue compte tenu des très faibles niveaux enregistrés dans le pays. Selon l’INE [2020], le Portugal a un indice synthétique de fécondité (ISF) de 1,40 enfant par femme, l'un des plus bas de l'UE [Eurostat, 2022].
La crise économique et financière de 2008 et l'intervention de la Troïka (Commission européenne, Banque centrale européenne et Fonds monétaire international, les trois autorités qui contrôlent les programmes de sauvetage internationaux) en 2011, ont eu un impact sur les conditions socio-économiques de la population portugaise, avec des répercussions sur d'autres comportements ainsi que sur la fécondité. Le report de la naissance d’un enfant a conduit l'ISF à tomber à ses niveaux les plus bas jamais enregistrés, atteignant 1,21 enfant par femme en 2013. Bien que la reprise économique ait permis un léger redressement des niveaux de fécondité, la nouvelle crise provoquée par la COVID-19 s'est traduite par une nouvelle baisse historique des naissances dans le pays en 2021, lorsque le nombre de naissances vivantes est passé sous la barre des 80 000, soit une diminution de 8 % par rapport à 2019 [INE, 2022].
Bien que cette tendance à la baisse soit commune à presque tous les pays européens développés [Aassve et al., 2020 ; Aassve et al., 2021], pour la société portugaise, il s'agit d'un nouveau réveil et d'une source d'inquiétude, étant donné la baisse de la population confirmée dans la publication des données provisoires du recensement de la population de 2021 (-2,1% par rapport à 2011). 
Cependant, les modèles de fécondité ne sont pas uniformes, car ils impliquent une hétérogénéité régionale, qui met en évidence une multiplicité de facteurs et de comportements.
Cet article vise à aborder la fécondité d'un point de vue régional afin de distinguer la diversité des modèles sur le territoire au cours des deux dernières décennies, et de discuter dans quelle mesure les crises ont été un point de changement ou un renforcement des transformations en cours. 
Dans l'analyse, outre le cadre et la contextualisation des tendances de la fécondité par NUTS 3, les réponses politiques qui ont émergé à l'échelle locale/municipale seront analysées.
Bien que la crise ait contribué à la baisse de la fécondité au Portugal, son déclin va au-delà de la crise, reflétant des changements dans les modèles de comportement et les contraintes sociales et économiques. Ainsi, il persiste des contraintes dans la dynamique de la population qui ont empêché l'inversion ou l'atténuation du déclin dans les territoires intérieurs, contraintes qui se font actuellement sentir également au niveau du pays.

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Introduction

  • 1 According to data from the Ageing Europe 2019 report [Eurostat, EC 2019], population ageing will ac (...)
  • 2 Although it is not possible to establish temporal milestones, the intervention of the President of (...)

1In a context of profound population ageing1, fertility, or rather, low fertility levels are a growing concern in Portugal. Despite being a common trend in developed countries [Bongaarts, 1999; Myrskylä, Kohler and Billari, 2009; Rindfuss et al., 2015; Matysiak et al., 2021], it has only recently received greater attention from the Portuguese government [Presidência da República, 20122]. However, demographic behaviours have been showing signs of transformation. In fact, the literature review [Nazareth, 1978; Bandeira, 1996; Mendes 2006; Oliveira, 2007 and 2008] shows the existence of changes in fertility patterns in Portugal, visible since the 1930s, with mostly regional differences. Fertility remained high until the 1970s, when a strong fall is observed, “revealing the intense way in which Portuguese families adopt new patterns of behaviour in such a short period of time" [Ferrão, 2005, p.56].

  • 3 It is estimated that, between 2011 and 2014, the annual volume of outflows of Portuguese emigrants (...)

2Fertility trends have accompanied the demographic transition and the modernisation processes that have taken place in Portugal, but have also reflected the constraints of the country's socio-economic situation. Thus, the medium/long-term transformations were compounded by the difficulties that the economic and financial crises of 2008 and the austerity measures resulting from the intervention of the Troika [European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the three authorities that monitored international bailout programmes], between 2011 and 2014, accentuated. Regarding population, the crises manifested themselves in the postponement of decisions, including the decision to have a child, as well as in other immediate solutions as happened with emigration3. Since 2011 the total fertility rate (TFR) has declined, reaching 1.21 children per woman in 2013, the lowest level on record. Although with the economic recovery in the following years there was a slight increase in fertility levels, the new crisis caused by Covid-19 was reflected in a new historic decline in births.

3In 2021, the number of live births was below 80 000, which represents a decrease of 8% compared to 2019 [INE, 2022]. This situation was a new wake-up call and a cause for concern in view of the population decline confirmed with the release of provisional data from the 2021 Population Census (-2.1% compared to 2011). At this time when the definitive data from the census are awaited and the prospective analyses are being redone, fertility has taken on a new acuity and has prompted a decision on support policies at the national level, namely the free provision of childcare services in the public and social sectors, in addition to the increase of the facilities capacity, with recourse to funds from the Next Generation EU. At this stage only children born after September 2021 and children from the most vulnerable socio-economic groups are covered, but the goal is that by 2024 all children in the three years of kindergarten will be covered for free, regardless of family income.

4However, the fertility of the Portuguese population cannot be understood without knowledge of what happens in the different parts of its territory. The country's trajectory includes regional contrasts that reflect a diversity that should not be overlooked but which is diluted in the national results, as well as the changing patterns in its territorial distribution.

5This paper aims to analyse fertility issues from a regional perspective and to discuss to what extent crises have constituted a point of change or reinforcement of regional/local vulnerabilities and how policy action responds or not to these challenges.

6This is a difficult issue to address considering that there has been no concerted systematisation of national and local political intervention and there is no monitoring by state bodies of the developed measures. The knowledge of local action results from data presented by entities such as the Numerous Families Association or DECO Proteste, which have compiled a set of support measures and policies. For this research, data regarding the population and fertility characterization disclosed by INE were used, as well as those resulting from consulting the municipalities’ portals, Deco Proteste database and regional newspapers websites.

7Thus, firstly we will frame the main aspects of the recent fertility evolution in Portugal, followed by regional trends and policies developed by the local authorities; to conclude, we will reflect on how the crisis [or crises] that affected the Portuguese territory have shifted local or regional vulnerabilities.

1. An overview on Portugal's fertility: recent trends

8Similarly to what happened among other European countries, Portugal also witnessed a decline in fertility. Although this decline corresponds to a long-term trajectory, it nevertheless presents a set of characteristics intrinsic to Southern European countries [Shah, 1997]. The decline has indeed been rapid and steep [Shah, 1997; Nazareth, 1991], and these countries are now among those with the lowest fertility levels [Frejka and Sobotka, 2008; Beaujouan and Sobotka, 2014].

  • 4 In the early 2000s it accounted for 80% of population growth and more recently, in 2019, the contri (...)

9Since 1982, the Portuguese TFR has not reached the threshold of generational replacement, and after the 1990s, migratory growth has become a determining factor in the population growth4. However, despite the warning signs, the concern with low fertility and correspondent political intervention has been very limited and contradictory.

10Regarding public opinion, fertility surveys have shown a decrease in the intention to have children. The desire to have 2.1 children on average manifested in the 1997 survey was not confirmed. Changes were taking place: the first child was being postponed and shifts in nuptial patterns were being observed [INE, 2001]. The 1997 fertility survey already showed the following reasons for not wanting to have children: economic cost; barriers for women with children in accessing employment; and issues with pregnancy, childbirth and childcare [INE, 2001, p 406].

11However, over time, this trend became more pronounced and the 2013 fertility survey showed that people had, on average, an achieved fertility of 1.03 (1.08 for women aged 18-49 and 0.98 for men aged 18-54). The survey also revealed that the expected fertility would be higher at 1.78, i.e. respondents, whether or not they were parents, expressed their intention to have children (1.80 for women and 1.76 for men). Among women aged 18-49 and men aged 18-54, 7.7% and 9.4%, respectively, stated a desire not to have children [INE, 2013].

  • 5 In the text To Have or Not to Have Children: Reasons for the Decision, by M.J. Rosa and I. Tiago Ol (...)

12The latest fertility survey, conducted in 2019, shows a decrease in the achieved fertility, for women and men, from 1.03 to 0.86 [INE, 2020], as well as a decrease in expected fertility, which stood at 1.69 children, lower than in 2013. It is also worth noting the increase in the proportion of people without children and who do not expect to have any5 - 9.7% declare not intending to have children (8.4% of women and 11% of men respondents) [INE, 2020]. The respondents' opinion on how to counteract the decline in fertility was always in the sense of valuing public intervention and the need for measures to support the birth rate.

13Considering the evolution recorded since 2000 as a reference of the birth rate decline, the overall number of births fell by 34% in two decades, which also translated into a decline in the total fertility rate. Since 2000, the TFR has been below 1.5 (figure 1). In these two decades, however, two particularly critical moments stand out, being the two falls resulting, firstly, from the great recession (between 2012 and 2015, the TFR was below 1.3) and, in 2020-2021, from the crisis caused by COVID-19. Overall, the crude birth rate fell from 11.7to 7.7‰ in 2021 (the fifth lowest among EU countries in 2019, when the EU average was 9.3‰).

Figure 1– Live births and total fertility rate in Portugal 2000-2021

Figure 1– Live births and total fertility rate in Portugal 2000-2021

14Parallel to the decline in births, there was a change in behavioural patterns, which was also reflected in a significant increase in out-of-wedlock births, which was around 80% between 2000 and 2021 (table 1). This change accompanied the global transformations. It is important to note that, in the decades 2000-2010 and 2010-2021, the decrease in births was stronger in the second decade following the economic crisis (-15.5% and -27.4% respectively).

Table 1– Live births of mother’s resident in Portugal: total and outside marriage with parents cohabiting or not (%)

Years

Total

% of live births outside of marriage

% live births outside of marriage with parents cohabiting

% live births outside of marriage without parents cohabiting

2000

120 008

22,2

16,8

5,4

2001

112 774

23,8

17,8

6,0

2002

114 383

25,5

20,4

5,1

2003

112 515

26,9

21,5

5,3

2004

109 298

29,1

23,2

5,8

2005

109 399

30,7

24,8

6,0

2006

105 449

31,6

25,3

6,3

2007

102 492

33,6

27,0

6,6

2008

104 594

36,2

29,2

7,0

2009

99 491

38,1

30,2

7,9

2010

101 381

41,3

32,0

9,2

2011

96 856

42,8

31,9

10,9

2012

89 841

45,6

32,8

12,8

2013

82 787

47,6

33,0

14,7

2014

82 367

49,3

33,6

15,8

2015

85 500

50,7

34,4

16,3

2016

87 126

52,8

35,7

17,1

2017

86 154

54,9

36,8

18,1

2018

87 020

55,9

37,2

18,7

2019

86 579

56,8

38,3

18,5

2020

84 530

57,9

39,4

18,5

2021

79 582

60

42,3

17,8

Data Source: INE, Live Births Statistics

15In this trajectory, it should be noted that the proportion of births outside marriage in 2021, which had been growing, reached 60%. At the same time, the proportion of births without cohabitating parents has also increased and has exceeded two digits since 2011. Around 18% of births in the year of 2021 corresponded to children born to families whose parents were neither married nor cohabiting (table 1).

16The effects of the economic crisis, felt acutely in youth unemployment and job insecurity, emigration and the increase in living apart together, a new form of conjugality, seems to be gaining ground in Portugal, similarly to what occurs in Northern European countries. This may help to explain why in the last decade the proportion of births to unmarried and non-cohabiting parents doubled.

17As there is no single explanation for this evolution, there is a need to look deeper into these issues and into knowledge about the behaviours in question.

18As previously mentioned, the decrease in fertility corresponded to a postponement of the decision of having their first child, which led to the average age of mothers in 2021 exceeding 30 years, i.e., 30.9 years on average for the first child and 32.3 years for the birth of a subsequent child. This meant an increase of 4.4 years and 3.7 years, respectively, in just two decades (figure 2).

Figure 2- Total fertility rate, mean age of the mother at birth of first child and a birth of a child in Portugal 2000-2021

Figure 2- Total fertility rate, mean age of the mother at birth of first child and a birth of a child in Portugal 2000-2021

19Another of the indicators that reflects changes in fertility and is directly related to the increase in the average age of motherhood is the proportion of first births. In Portugal, first births represent more than 50% of the total, a proportion that in the last 20 years has fluctuated between 51% and 55%, with Portugal being the EU country where the rate of first births was highest in 2020 [Eurostat, 2022]. About ⅓ of births are second and only 10% of children born in Portugal correspond to third or subsequent children (figure 3). It should be noted that, between 2000 and 2021, reductions were observed in all categories: 35% in first child births (representing 23 056 fewer children); around 33% in second child births (13 012 fewer children); around 25% in third children (2 541 fewer children); with the most significant drop, as expected, in fourth or subsequent children (16 fewer children, representing a 40% drop).

Figure 3- Share of live births by birth order (%) in Portugal 2000-2021

Figure 3- Share of live births by birth order (%) in Portugal 2000-2021

2. Main aspects of regional fertility

20Regional approaches to fertility are less frequent [Kravdal, 2010], although their importance in identifying inter-regional disparities and defining public policies at different scales is recognised, particularly when fertility is very low.

21In Portugal, the fertility geography shows a clear North/South dichotomy, a situation that persisted until the 1990s, with the North having a stronger fertility and younger population. In a relatively short period, this old pattern, based on a model of large families and with a strong cultural and religious component, changed profoundly.

22The spatial pattern of fertility becomes more homogeneous, firstly reflecting the greater demographic dynamism of the urban areas of the coast, particularly the metropolitan area of Lisbon and the Algarve, with the Azores and Madeira islands maintaining the highest fertility rates, although below 2.1. Between 2001 and 2021, fertility became more significant in the south of the Portuguese mainland, with values above the national average in the Lisbon region, the Alentejo and the Algarve, which can be attributed to economic growth driven by tourism (Lisbon and the Algarve) and by agricultural activity, in the case of the Alentejo, which attracted new residents. And thus, fertility levels end up reflecting the existence of younger populations (figure 4).

Figure 4- Total fertility rate (live births per woman) in Portugal (NUTS 3), 2001 (4a), 2011 (4b) and 2021 (4c)

Figure 4- Total fertility rate (live births per woman) in Portugal (NUTS 3), 2001 (4a), 2011 (4b) and 2021 (4c)

23Very significant is the rapid decline in fertility in island territories, especially in Madeira and other mainland regions of the coastal North, where high birth rates were traditionally recorded. In inland regions of mainland Portugal, population ageing and depopulation are both cause and consequence of the very low fertility levels registered in recent decades.

24The 'crisis' effect is perceptible in the generalised fall in the number of births that is seen in all NUTS 3 in 2013 and 2014 and subsequently in 2021. However, the 2021 levels were much lower than those recorded in 2013.

3. Policy intervention at a local level6

3.1 Changes in family-friendly policies

25There has been a growing recognition of the importance of political support in encouraging fertility [Hoem, 2008]. However, despite family and birth-related concerns being part of the political discourse, "measures are not always vigorous or prolonged in time" and "some end up not being implemented or are poorly implemented as happened with the Conta Poupança-Futuro (“future savings account") [Alexandre 2013, p. 396]. The complexity increases considering that many of the "measures are disconnected and convey contradictory signals regarding the valorisation of the birth rate" [Azevedo 2014, p.9].

26In the context of Portuguese society, economic and social factors are important to understand the evolution of birth/fecundity [Pinto and Gomes, 2010], especially since they are always among the main constraints listed in the various surveys. It should also be noted that in Portugal there has always been a significant female participation in the labour market, partly explained by the need to contribute to family income. However, despite the clear signs of the changes we are going through [MacInnes, and Pérez, 2008; Mendes, 2006 and 2012; Oliveira, 2007 and 2008] there was no corresponding political intervention which, due to its tardiness, may have constituted an obstacle to a possible change of the emerging trends [Thévenon, 2009]. In this context, there is another specificity related to the lack of tradition of family policies in Portugal, which is a common circumstance to Southern European countries. "Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal are distinguished not only for not having developed an explicit and coherent family policy, but also, and above all, by the high level of fragmentation of social policy, the lower level of generosity of public transfers to support families with children; by the (more recent) selective nature of monetary transfers" [Saraceno and Naldini, 2003, p.340].

27Although the creation of the Family Allowance dates back to 1942 [Silva, 1996, p.71], only in 1977 this benefit is assumed as a right of the descendants. The Revolution of 1974 corresponded to a consolidation of social rights, which was also materialised in the Constitution of the Republic. However, although the Family Basic Law was first presented in 1982 it ended up not being debated in the Parliament.

28During the 1990s and the first years of 2000 there was a broadening of family protection measures. However, these measures always remained somewhat limited and reactive, as they sought to respond to events, even when the intention was mentioned of encouraging birth rates or strengthening social protection.

29In 2010, with the economic crisis, there was a clear setback with a decrease and cuts in social and economic support to families. At the same time, there was also a change in the policy objectives, with the focus on supporting very poor families [Wall, 2016]. The Social Emergency Programme was in force between 2011 and 2014. During this period of austerity, the debate on low fertility intensified, with the production of basic documents on the initiative of the government and research institutions, such as the Observatory of the Family and Family Policies, the Family Planning Association and the Institute of Public Policy Thomas Jefferson-Correia da Serra [Wall et al. 2016].

30Subsequently, once this period was over, it was possible to recover and reinforce a series of measures, although initially this recovery was tenuous.

31Among the various measures can be highlighted, in 2018, the National Strategy for Equality and non-discrimination, the launch of the 3-in-a-Line programme aimed at a better balance between professional, personal and family life, and the creation of 1st Right (Programme to support the promotion of solutions for individuals in undignified conditions and with low resources) [Correia, 2018]. And subsequently, the operationalisation of the National Council for Solidarity, Volunteering, Family and Social Rehabilitation Policies [Leitão, 2019].

32However, in addition to state policy, other institutions have also acted, namely local authorities. Municipalities have been developing a growing intervention with the populations. As Azevedo points out: "in some territories with a high demographic loss, an almost "war" for the conquest and maintenance of children and their families is starting to be designed" [2014, p.51]. In this respect, he also adds that "municipalities are perhaps currently the public intervention bodies that most immediately and dramatically feel the effects of the lack of children: they close schools, including some recently built or rebuilt ones, other public services close, companies close, small businesses disappear, in an inextricable link between the economic crisis and unemployment, the effects of the new "reproductive revolution" and the change in values and behaviours [2014, p. 51].

33However, it is not only among the vulnerable territories that the intervention has been most felt, but also in the most dynamic territories there are measures at local level, socio-community or private economic entities linked to labour activity, which end up influencing the dynamics of the population.

3.2 From national to local - How municipalities are developing measures to support birth rates

34When analysing the evolution of local measures to support birth rates, their context cannot be neglected, as Hoem points out, considering that "family policies do not operate in a social vacuum; the effect of a given policy may be strongly dependent upon the social context in which it is implemented" [2008, p.255]. While the national measures to support fertility are quite justified, it is at the local/regional level that the need for support and equipment is most felt.

35A database that gathers and aggregates information on the various local measures implemented has not yet been set up. This information is available on the websites of the various municipalities, although not always in a complete and clear manner.

36In 2008, the Portuguese Association for Large Families carried out a first survey to all 308 Portuguese municipalities in order to find out which ones had family-friendly policies. This survey, which in 2021 was in its thirteenth edition, distinguished 84 municipalities "for investing in the construction of an integrated family support policy and for carrying out a set of measures and good practices in terms of family policy, with data reported to 2020" [APFN, 2022]. The Observatory developed by this Association (Observatório das Autarquias Familiarmente Responsáveis) was thus the first attempt to systematise the knowledge of the diversity of measures implemented at local level. However, its perspective and interest is wider, as stated above: the development of Family Friendly Policies, as this Association understands them in a comprehensive way going beyond those related to Natality/fecundity.

37Deco Proteste (Consumer Protection Organization), regarding the Economic and Social Sustainability in Portugal, tried to gather the Incentives to live and work in the Interior of Portugal. Although the site that was developed gathers a wide range of information, for a detailed knowledge of the implemented measures to support the birth rate it is necessary to consult the individual page and contact the various municipalities [Deco Proteste, 2022].

38Thus, based on that information, a survey of the measures was carried out, with the collection taking place between April and June 2022. This exercise provided an insight into the development of measures in the Portuguese territory. However, considering the difficulties due to the need to contact each municipality and the lack of responses, (there were 82 municipalities that did not respond to the requests for clarification requested) the focus was placed on the mainland territory. The municipalities of the Autonomous Regions of the Azores and Madeira were therefore not mapped although they are included in the survey.

39Considering the various measures listed, they were classified into four categories according to the different forms of action and/or measures:

  • Category 1 - The award of birth grant - brings together all financial support awarded for birth;

  • Category 2 - Baby Voucher - for use in services and local commerce - covering support for the payment of crèche and other equipment as well as vouchers for purchases in local commerce;

  • Category 3 - Family support - including support related to the reduction of the Municipal Property Tax (IMI) burden and other household expenses;

  • Category 4 - Support in kind - containing support granted for childcare products - such as nappies, milk, pushchairs and other essential baby goods

40It should be noted that the diversity found was very large, making classification and categorization particularly complex, so it was decided to account for the four typologies mentioned, to which a fifth is added regarding the possibility of no measures or any form of local support being developed.

41It was possible to verify that of the 278 municipalities of the Portuguese Mainland, 172, around 62%, have policies to support the birth rate. The remaining 106, around 38%, have not developed any policy. In relation to the 26 municipalities of the Autonomous Regions, Azores and Madeira, in approximately 22 there are measures in place to support the birth rate (figure 5).

Figure 5- Portuguese municipalities with birth policies (June 2022)

Figure 5- Portuguese municipalities with birth policies (June 2022)

42With regard to the various measures, the birth grant (category 1) is the one that has been implemented by the most municipalities in Mainland Portugal (around 90), followed by family allowances (category 3) in 33 municipalities, the baby voucher (category 2) in 28 municipalities and finally support in kind (category 4) in 21 municipalities (figure 6).

Figure 6- Municipality birth benefits by support type (June 2022)

Figure 6- Municipality birth benefits by support type (June 2022)

43In almost half (47%) of the municipalities of the Portuguese mainland there is only one type of support measure provided by the local authority, in 27 there is the possibility of a combination of two types of measures and in 9 three. In 5 municipalities there is the possibility of having more than 4 types of measures to support the birth rate (figure 7).

Figure 7- Number of available actions to family support per municipality (June 2022)

Figure 7- Number of available actions to family support per municipality (June 2022)

44As for the amounts allocated under these measures, 63 municipalities in mainland Portugal (around 23% of the total) allocate up to 1250 euros, 18 municipalities allocate amounts between 1251 and 2500 euros, 11 municipalities allocate amounts between 2501-3750 euros, and five municipalities allocate amounts between 3751-5000 euros. Pampilhosa da Serra, a municipality in the Centre region, with around 4500 inhabitants, low population density and a significant part of its territory under forest occupation, is the municipality with the highest overall amount of support, over 10,000 euros, followed by the rural municipalities of Ribeira de Pena and Carrazeda de Ansiães, located in the North region, with values between 6251-7500 euros and Barrancos, Mesão Frio and Vila Flor, the first in the border region between Alentejo and the Spanish Extremadura, the other two in the North Region, all with high levels of ageing and low fertility, providing support between 5001-6250 euros (figure 8).

Figure 8- Awarded amount in euros per municipality (June 2022)

Figure 8- Awarded amount in euros per municipality (June 2022)

45Although it is not always possible to ascertain the year when the support started, according to the answers collected, only in 162 municipalities was the starting year mentioned. It is possible, however, to perceive that the local development of the policies has been growing. Except for some specific cases, coinciding with municipalities that have been struggling with demographic decline for many years, and that have developed this type of action since the 2000s, it is from 2013/2014, in a phase of economic and social effects caused by the great recession, that a more expressive implementation is noted. In recent years there has been continuity and strengthening of local action as presented below (figure 9).

Figure 9- Implementation year of family-supporting measures in mainland Portugal (June 2022)

Figure 9- Implementation year of family-supporting measures in mainland Portugal (June 2022)

46It is not possible to define a territorial pattern in terms of the development of local measures, but it can be noted that the smaller municipalities in vulnerable situations were the ones that promoted actions earlier.

47Considering the territorial dispersion, it is noted that the local measures form small contiguous patches; the expansion is happening as if by mimicking. Although it could be expected to find a more robust action in the most vulnerable territories, this does not occur directly, but the support that comprises higher amounts is found in territories with low fertility rates and large population losses.

48Municipalities that are administrative headquarters that have intense economic activity have also developed policies to support the birth rate, as is the case in several district capitals or in urban municipalities. Thus, there is no pattern or dichotomy but one can apprehend a sense of need to overcome demographic losses among some municipalities and the will to maintain dynamism on the part of others. In some way the reasons for action are due to the fertility crisis although this crisis is beyond the crisis, mirroring asymmetries of the territory that have developed over decades.

49Of the various measures implemented, it is worth noting that in the North there is a larger number of supports, while in Baixo Alentejo and the Algarve there is a concentration of a single support. This situation is not unrelated to the change in the territorial fertility pattern, with higher fertility levels in the south and lower levels in the north. Although quantity does not necessarily mean quality, it was important to have an evaluation of the measures in order to understand how they are, or not, adjusted to the needs of the population to which they are addressed, especially when there are changes in the behaviour and expectations of the population.

Conclusions

50Portugal is among the countries with the lowest fertility [Kohler et al., 2002; Rindfuss et al. 2015; Beaujouan and Sobotka, 2019]. This situation led Portugal 2030 (Strategic Document that defines the priority axes for this decade) to admit the existence of a problem of demographic sustainability, proposing to "mitigate the population decline and the effects of population ageing, promoting birth rate recovery and increasing the migration balance". This is a growing concern that has been progressively occupying the political agenda, although there is a need to create greater awareness and provision for the response.

51The aim of this paper was to analyse fertility from a regional perspective in the context of recent crises. It seeks to highlight how the economic and pandemic crises, although different in nature, have intensified national and regional vulnerabilities, altering in some way the territorial expression of fertility.

52Over time, there has been a trend towards homogenisation of behaviour, which has blurred the differences inherent in the traditional characteristics of the territorial expression of fertility. Nowadays, factors such as population concentration have a determining effect on the attainment of higher fertility levels in the country. It is also worth noting that territories that were once considered to have low fertility, by maintaining a stable, downward trend, end up distinguishing themselves in the Portuguese regional panorama.

53National responses and support measures have been timid, but above all they have generated some contradiction as a result of the socio-economic contexts that the country has gone through. The retraction in the national action ended up boosting the action of the local power, which becomes evident when considering the beginning of the local intervention.

54The analysis of the measures developed in the various municipalities showed that there has been an evolution "by contagion", since a certain contiguity between the municipalities that decide to act to stimulate the birth rate can be observed. As regards the typology, economic support measures are the most implemented by local authorities. It is also noted that few municipalities provide more than one measure or combine measures with regard to the birth rate. The most significant economic support occurs in particularly vulnerable territories.

55There are several questions that can be raised and that naturally require further research, given that this is a very important dimension for the country: how can national and local policies be combined? What can be learned from the different actions? Is it already possible to measure the impact of the implemented measures?

56Naturally, we are in turbulent and complex contexts that may question or make it difficult to act in such a sensitive social area as this. However, if nothing is done consistently, the current trend may be maintained or worsened. We would also like to comment on the need for the measures and policies to take into account in their design and implementation the changes in behaviour and expectations, in order to respond to the interests and concerns of the groups they are aimed at.

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Notes

1 According to data from the Ageing Europe 2019 report [Eurostat, EC 2019], population ageing will accelerate more in Portugal than in the other EU countries. In less than three decades, 35.1% of the Portuguese population will be 55 years or older.

2 Although it is not possible to establish temporal milestones, the intervention of the President of the Republic with the promotion of a conference within the scope of the "Roadmaps of the Future" fostered and agglutinated much of what was running through public opinion and Academia. It is worth mentioning the continued efforts carried out by the Economic and Social Council with the Conference “Demographic Challenges: Natality” in 2018 and, this year 2022, with the report "Natality in Portugal: a political, economic and social issue". The 2018 Conference "aimed to fulfil recommendations of the social partners with a seat in the ESC" [Campos, 2018, p. 15], was attended and supported by the President of the Republic, Prof. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who defended the "debate of demography as a national cause, a structural and long-term problem, with implications for the sustainability of growth and correction of asymmetries" (CES 2018, p.7). This last report arises from the debate that the Economic and Social Council has promoted on the subject and intended, in addition to the "systematization of reflection, to list policy recommendations" [CES 2022, pp 2 and 3].

3 It is estimated that, between 2011 and 2014, the annual volume of outflows of Portuguese emigrants exceeded 100,000 people (data from the Emigration Observatory based on destination countries statistics), at the level observed in the peak emigration years of the 1960s.

4 In the early 2000s it accounted for 80% of population growth and more recently, in 2019, the contribution of the migration balance in the population variation observed in that year was 64% [PORDATA, 2022].

5 In the text To Have or Not to Have Children: Reasons for the Decision, by M.J. Rosa and I. Tiago Oliveira [2021] the results of the 2019 survey are analysed, in particular the "willingness" dimension in parenting choices. https://research.unl.pt/ws/portalfiles/portal/32583710/inquerito_fecundidade_2019_5_15.pdf

6 The authors thank Beatriz Romão, Bruno Nunes, Catarina Nunes and Gonçalo Reis, students of the Geography and Regional Planning degree of Universidade Nova de Lisboa, for collecting and processing the data and elaborating the cartography included in this part of the article.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1– Live births and total fertility rate in Portugal 2000-2021
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eps/docannexe/image/12990/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 193k
Titre Figure 2- Total fertility rate, mean age of the mother at birth of first child and a birth of a child in Portugal 2000-2021
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eps/docannexe/image/12990/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 153k
Titre Figure 3- Share of live births by birth order (%) in Portugal 2000-2021
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eps/docannexe/image/12990/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 148k
Titre Figure 4- Total fertility rate (live births per woman) in Portugal (NUTS 3), 2001 (4a), 2011 (4b) and 2021 (4c)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eps/docannexe/image/12990/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 147k
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eps/docannexe/image/12990/img-5.png
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URL http://journals.openedition.org/eps/docannexe/image/12990/img-6.png
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Titre Figure 5- Portuguese municipalities with birth policies (June 2022)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eps/docannexe/image/12990/img-7.png
Fichier image/png, 313k
Titre Figure 6- Municipality birth benefits by support type (June 2022)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eps/docannexe/image/12990/img-8.png
Fichier image/png, 331k
Titre Figure 7- Number of available actions to family support per municipality (June 2022)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eps/docannexe/image/12990/img-9.png
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Titre Figure 8- Awarded amount in euros per municipality (June 2022)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eps/docannexe/image/12990/img-10.png
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Titre Figure 9- Implementation year of family-supporting measures in mainland Portugal (June 2022)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eps/docannexe/image/12990/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 104k
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Référence électronique

Dulce Pimentel et Cristina Sousa Gomes, « Beyond the crisis: fertility variations and the family policies in the Portuguese municipalities »Espace populations sociétés [En ligne], 2022/2-3 | 2022, mis en ligne le 21 février 2023, consulté le 15 juillet 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/eps/12990 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/eps.12990

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Auteurs

Dulce Pimentel

CICS.NOVA Centro Interdisciplinar de Ciências Sociais, Universidade Nova de Lisboa | dpimentel[at]fcsh.unl.pt

Cristina Sousa Gomes

GOVCOPP – Unidade de Investigação em Governança Competitividade e Políticas Públicas -Departamento de Ciências Sociais Políticas e do Território, Universidade de Aveiro | mcgomes[at]ua.pt

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