August 2, 2021

A quarter of a century dividing left and right in Portugal

Born on the 1st of July 1996, in the middle of the government headed by the socialist António Guterres, and with the Solidarity and Social Security portfolio in the hands of Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues, the so-called Minimum Guaranteed Income (RMG) appears to respond to a recommendation by the Council of Ministers of the European Union of 1992 for Member States to recognize the right of all citizens to live in dignity and to create resources and social benefits.

It starts out as a social benefit of the non-contributory social security scheme, that is, intended for people and families in extreme poverty and without financial resources that did not pay for social security. In addition to the financial part, it included a social inclusion program, in order to enhance progressive social and professional integration.

During the first year of implementation, between 1996 and 1997, it works as a pilot project in several parishes in the country, with long-term unemployed and beneficiaries of social actions, and only then is it extended to the entire continent and islands.

The measure was entitled to some critical voices, including the then president of the PSD Fernando Nogueira, who criticized the implementation process and said he was afraid of fraud, or the economist Medina Carreira, who at the time had already been finance minister of a socialist government , who said he had a feeling that corruption would set in quickly.

On the opposite side of the barricade, Ferro Rodrigues has always defended it as a way for every citizen to have the right to a minimum level of subsistence.

In May 1996, the newspaper “A Capital” made the front page with a family from Quarteira, municipality of Loulé, chosen to be one of the first to benefit from the RMG, “although I have never heard of such a thing”.

In this case, it was the family of João Ângelo Abreu, which included the couple and three children, and who had been living for nine years in a squatted house in the “infamous” Bairro dos Pescadores, considered the Windy Couple of the Algarve.

The experimental phase started with 61 pilot projects in 195 parishes, benefiting 8,749 families, totaling 32,728 people, with 13 public bodies, 126 city councils and parish councils, 105 private institutions of social solidarity, mercies, mutual societies and others. non-profit associations, a union association and three business associations.

Later, when it is extended to the whole country, the measure is included in the 1997 State Budget with an allocation of 25.3 billion escudos (about 127 million euros), establishing that for the allocation of the RMG it would be taken in account of the total income of members of the household, whatever their origin and nature. The monthly average value was 20 thousand escudos.

Six years later, and already in the social-democratic government of Durão Barroso, the benefit is revoked and the Social Insertion Income (RSI) is created and is now included in the solidarity subsystem, maintaining the monetary value and the insertion program.

The entry into force of the renewed social benefit brings changes in the conditions of access, namely the prohibition of accumulation with other social benefits or the obligation to provide all the information necessary for an asset, financial and economic evaluation.

At this time, random inspections were also planned, through a mandatory national draw. The introduction of these measures was not fully completed because as some violated the principles of the Constitution, they were rejected by the Constitutional Court.

In 2004, the year from which statistics from the Social Security Institute (ISS) on this benefit are available, there are already 84,314 beneficiaries, among 31,063 families.

However, the record year in number of beneficiaries was 2010, during the socialist government of José Sócrates, when 525,594 people received the RSI, and that year the month that surpassed all statistics was March, with 404,536 beneficiaries.

The number of beneficiaries begins to decline considerably from 2012, during the right-wing government of Pedro Passos Coelho, who increased inspection actions and lowered the budget allocated to the RSI, having diverted the “savings” towards increasing minimum social and pensions. rural areas.

The then Minister of Solidarity and Social Security, Pedro Mota Soares, changed the access conditions, restricting future beneficiaries to a maximum limit of bank deposits of 25 thousand euros, against 100 thousand euros so far, in addition to being obliged to sign a contract annual, in which they committed to the obligation to look for work, the acceptance of socially useful work and the education of their children, among others, and the obligations were extended to the whole family.

Between 2011 and 2015, the number of RSI beneficiaries fell by almost half, from 447,111 to 295,541, a reduction of 34%.

Subsequently, in January 2016, in the first government of António Costa, the RSI undergoes new changes that translate into the expansion of the level of income coverage, as well as the average amounts allocated, which go from an average value of 88.57 euros per person in the years between 2011 and 2015 for an average value of 113.90 euros between the years 2016 and 2021.

According to the most recent data from the Social Security Institute, for the month of May, there are 217,973 people receiving this social benefit within 102,545 families.

The districts with the highest number of beneficiaries are Lisbon (55,718), Porto (44,915), Setúbal (21,820), and the Autonomous Region of the Azores (14,412).

This is a benefit with a gender difference, as it is mainly girls and women who receive it, with 113,509 beneficiaries against 104,464 beneficiaries.

The age group with the highest weight is children up to 18 years old (70,644), which represent 32.4% of the total beneficiaries.

The average monthly amount per person is 119.45 euros and 262.18 euros per family.

Also Read: In distressing cases, RSI is the help to “survive” the hard days

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