Work more, earn less: Portugal's new austerity diet

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Work more, earn less: Portugal's new austerity diet

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Portugal’s prime minister has outlined measures imposing more demands on workers, designed to help the country meet the terms of its 78 billion euro bailout.

Speaking after his cabinet approved next year’s budget, Pedro Passos Coelho said the measures were necessary to pull Portugal out of a “national emergency” that looks set to result in a deeper than expected recession next year.

“The Government has decided to allow shift work in the private sector to be extended by half an hour a day, and to reorganise the public holiday calendar,” he said.

The 2012 budget will abolish yearly bonuses, usually worth two months’ wages, for public sector workers earning more than 1,000 euros a month.

The prime minister said measures going beyond the bailout requirements were needed because of an unexpected budget shortfall.

From a squeeze on the middle class to a rise in VAT on coffee and cinema tickets, Friday’s papers each took their own slant on the latest austerity drive.

So far the Portuguese have held few protests, but that could change in the coming months.

“What’s happening is that at every stage, the effect of applying each austerity plan drags the country into an even bigger hole. That’s what happened in Greece, and here we are trying to go down exactly the same path,” said Carvalho da Silva, leader of the CGTP union.

The additional measures could result in still more jobseekers. At 12 percent, unemployment is already at its highest level since the 1980s.

The economy is expected to contract by at least 2 percent next year on top of this year’s slump.

Portugal was the third euro zone country after Greece and Ireland to receive an international bailout.