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Desigualdades Sociais 2010. Estudos e Indicadores

Carmo, Renato Miguel do (ed.), Desigualdades Sociais 2010. Estudos e Indicadores, Lisboa, Editora Mundos Sociais.

This book was drafted by the Portuguese Observatory of Inequalities and is a compilation of the work done there. Its aim is to make the work available to a readership that is not necessarily academic and encourage reflection on inequality. It is divided into two parts. The first is a comparative analysis of the situation in Portugal and the second contains fifteen essays that examine the problem from different angles.

The first part deals separately with disparities in wealth, poverty, employment and unemployment, education and health. In this portrait, Portugal is one of the most unequal countries in Europe when it comes to the distribution of income and where, although the risk of poverty has decreased, it still significantly affects people with low school attainment, the unemployed, single-parent families, large families and people living alone. This part also contains an analysis of the incidence of and variation in unemployment in different social groups and areas. It highlights an increase in unemployment among the poorly education population and those with mid-level qualifications and, at regional level, higher unemployment in the Algarve and northern Portugal. Where education is concerned, although there has been an improvement in the Portuguese population’s school attainment, there is a still high dropout rate and a low level of lifelong learning. Health is one of the areas in which Portugal shows some more favourable indicators, especially in terms of its infant mortality rate and average life expectancy. Portugal is one of the countries that spend the highest percentage of their GDP on health, in spite of the fact that indicators such as the number of beds and physicians are below the European average.

While the first half of the book focuses on statistics on education, poverty, health and (un)employment, the second examines and analyses these same issues in small essays. Not only is the approach different from that of the first half, but Part II also addresses other aspects and issues of social inequality, such as collective action and social classes. Poverty is analysed not only from the point of view of factors that foster or mitigate social inequality, but also its forms of representation. The essays on education address the different levels and effects of this type of inequality and its repercussions on life plans and paths. Even the essays on the dynamics of the labour market highlight the issue of qualifications and their importance in finding employment. Several essays relate the type of work that young people have, their qualifications and the job insecurity that they experience. Where social classes are concerned, reference is made not only to the importance of this variable in understanding inequality in the health field (average life expectancy) but also to forms of collective action.

This book sketches a multidimensional portrait of social inequality and its evolution in Portugal. In spite of the progress made, which is mentioned throughout the book, it shows that there are still structural shortcomings that are weakening the country and its ability to face up to the challenges posed by the current economic and financial crisis.

Tiago Carvalho

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