Portugal to raise minimum wage to $700, still lowest in western Europe

Incumbent Portuguese Prime Minister and leader of the Socialist Party Antonio Costa. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2019

Portugal to raise minimum wage to $700, still lowest in western Europe

LISBON: Portugal’s minority Socialist government presented on Wednesday a proposal to raise the monthly minimum wage by nearly 6 percent to 635 euros ($700) next year, remaining the lowest in western Europe.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa promised to raise the monthly minimum wage by 25 percent to €750 by 2023 when he began his second term in office last month.

“This trajectory contributes to the recovery of income and the improvement of social cohesion levels,” the government said in the plan, seen by Reuters. “The increase has coincided with significant dynamism in the economy and the labor market.”

One in five workers in Portugal are on the minimum wage and the employment status of 890,000 people was last year officially described as precarious, a term used to refer to nonstandard forms of employment, including temporary work and fixed-term contracts.

Costa’s center-left Socialists, who presided over four years of strong economic growth and budget deficit cuts, won an Oct. 6 election, expanding their parliamentary representation as the biggest party but still just shy of a majority.

Now governing alone, Costa relied on support from two far-left parties — the Communists and Left Bloc — in the last four years and the wage plan is likely to be well received by them.

Job insecurity 

Handed over to workers’ unions and others during a meeting on Wednesday, the government’s proposal said the new minimum wage of €635 will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2020.

Increases will be negotiated and reviewed every year until it reaches the €750 target in 2023.

Between 2015, when the Socialists took power, and 2019, the minimum wage increased 14 percent, from €505 to €600, way below neighboring Spain’s €1,050.

“But the salary increases have not yet reached the pace of growth needed to ensure a balanced distribution of income,” the government said, adding Portugal “remains one of the countries with the highest income inequality rates in the European Union.”

Analysts see job insecurity as a big flaw of the economy, which is cooling after recording its strongest expansion in almost two decades in 2017 as Portugal recovered from a debt crisis that required an international bailout.

Portugal’s biggest workers’ union CTGP said the increase to €635 is “insufficient,” arguing the country is now “in a position to go much further.”


Virtual oil summit planned amid ongoing market volatility

Updated 04 April 2020

Virtual oil summit planned amid ongoing market volatility

  • Meeting follows call from Saudi Arabia for urgent meeting and telephone diplomacy between Kingdom, Russia and the US

DUBAI: Leaders of the global oil industry are planning a crucial “virtual” summit next Monday amid ongoing volatility in crude prices and falling energy demand.

The meeting follows a call from Saudi Arabia on Thursday for an urgent meeting and a round of telephone diplomacy last week involving the Kingdom, Russia and the US, as well as meetings between policymakers and oil industry executives.

The summit is expected to involve the 11 members of OPEC as well as other oil producers from the OPEC+ group.

But exactly which countries will take part in the summit was still up in the air last night. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin was holding talks with executives from the country’s major oil companies before deciding whether or not to participate. The Russian leader has previously indicated his willingness to get involved in talks to help resolve the crisis in the global energy industry, but Russia was also the country that refused to take part in a round of deeper production cuts proposed by Saudi Arabia in Vienna last month, sparking the current price war.

In response to that refusal, the Kingdom increased production and lowered its selling prices. On Sunday, Saudi Aramco, which has pushed output to a record 12.3 million barrels per day, is scheduled to announce its “official selling prices” (OSP) for the month of May, expected to show a continuation of the deep levels of discount to attract customers, especially in Asia, in the battle for global market share. 

Brent crude continued its rollercoaster ride on global markets on Friday, dipping nearly 5 percent before hitting a high of 17.5 percent up at $34.91, before paring gains to about $33.

The options for the producers at Monday’s meeting are limited, in the face of an unprecedented drop in global oil demand. By some estimates, more than 20 million barrels of daily demand was lost last month, the biggest ever contraction in oil history.

Saudi Arabia and Russia, which between them produce around 23 million barrels per day, are unlikely to be willing to take all the pain of bigger cuts without an offer from the Americans.

US President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday that he expected between 10 million and 15 million barrels of oil to be taken out of supply, but he did not specify where this would come from. Meetings were expected to take place at the White House with oil industry executives and policymakers on Friday.

Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize-winning oil expert, said: “The ‘when,’ ‘how’ and ‘who’ of the potential deal remain unclear. And the larger the universe of players the more difficult it will be to implement an agreement.”

OPEC+ consists of the 11 OPEC members, led by Saudi Arabia, plus 10 non-OPEC producers, of which Russia is by far the biggest.

The involvement of the US in the Monday meeting is also unclear. America is not an OPEC member, but US oil executives have attended OPEC deliberations in the past. American participation in any new rounds of output cuts will be constrained by the fact that the US oil industry is made up of private companies — as opposed to state-directed corporations — whose interests diverge.

While big players including Exxon Mobil and Chevron might be willing to take some advice from the White House, the smaller companies in the Texas shale fields are more focused on the immediate financial repercussions of the past month’s volatility.