Thousands protest in Portugal over cost-of-living crisis

LISBON, Feb 25 (Reuters) – Thousands took to Lisbon’s streets on Saturday to demand better living conditions at a time high inflation is making it even tougher for people to make ends meet.

Portugal is one of Western Europe’s poorest countries, with government data showing more than 50% of workers earned less than 1,000 euros ($1,054.60) per month last year. The monthly minimum wage is 760 euros.

House prices in Portugal rose 18.7% in 2022, the biggest increase in three decades, and rents have also increased significantly in part due to a speculative property bubble.

Low wages and high rents make Lisbon the world’s third-least viable city to live in, according to a study by insurance brokers CIA Landlords. Portugal’s 8.3% inflation rate has exacerbated the problem.

At the protest, which was organised by the ‘Fair Life’ movement, Vitor David, a 26-year-old programmer, said he would like to move back to Lisbon one day but had to live further out because of how expensive it was to rent in the city.

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“It comes to a point in our lives that we have no hope,” he said, adding that he had already pondered moving to a wealthier European country. “It’s very hard.”

Official data shows around 20% of Portuguese live abroad.

“We are here so our voice is heard,” said Jose Reis, who recently graduated from university but is still unemployed.

The ‘Fair Life’ movement, which was created by people who live in Lisbon’s poorer outskirts, says those who were already the most vulnerable before inflation soared were the ones being the hardest hit by the ongoing cost of living crisis.

They want higher wages, a cap on the prices of essential goods and government action on housing.

Portugal announced last week a hefty package of measures to tackle the housing crisis but rights groups said the proposals would mean little if authorities continued to promote other policies to attract wealthy foreigners to the country, such as the Digital Nomads Visa introduced in October.

($1 = 0.9482 euro)

Reporting by Catarina Demony, Miguel Pereira and Pedro Nunes; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Catarina Demony

Thomson Reuters

Portugal-based multimedia correspondent reporting on politics, economics, the environment and daily news. Previous experience in local journalism in the UK., co-founded a project telling the stories of Portuguese-speakers living in London, and edited a youth-led news site.