Human rights are at risk as austerity bites in Portugal, the Council of Europe is claiming.
It fears a return to child labour with youngsters forced to go out to work to help their families make ends meet.
“This is not yet a widespread problem, or it has not recurred to the extent that existed before, but I think there is a risk and I commend the Portuguese authorities for the measures that have been taken over the past years to combat this problem,” said Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, who has just visited the debt-stricken country.
“But I think there is a real risk, in the context of crisis, that when children are leaving school and their families are in a difficult situation that there will be a risk that this phenomenon will come back.”
In a sign of how hard times are, Portugal has scrapped four public holidays in a bid to boost its economic activity. Two of the axed days are religious festivals, All Saints Day and Corpus Christi, so the Vatican’s permission was sought first.
Rino Passigato, the Apostolic Nuncio to Portugal, explained that the Vatican is well aware of the economic and financial crises that have hit the country.
Like tax rises and spending cuts, more working days are another price to pay as Portugal strives to comply with the terms of its international bailout.