Why is the Portuguese population declining

Country portrait Portugal

December 7th, 2020 Helena Belchior-Rocha, Inês Casquilho-Martins and Vanessa Figueiredo

  1. 1. Basic data on population, expenditure and national debt
    1. 1.1 Welfare state and social system - Portugal
    2. 1.2 Effects of demographic and technological change
    3. 1.3 Overview of the Portuguese social economy
  2. 2. Indicators on the social situation in Portugal
    1. 2.1 Indicators for social protection
    2. 2.2 Social assistance index
    3. 2.3 The system of social work and social work
  3. 3. Organization of social affairs and social work
  4. 4. Institutions and organizations: forms of social work
  5. literature
  6. Authors

1. Basic data on population, expenditure and national debt

population201910.29 million
Private households20194.14 million
GDP (gross domestic product)2018208 billion
Nominal growth p.a. (GDP)20183,65 %
Total social spending (% of GDP)201824,8 %
Education expenditure (% of GDP)20173,7%
Health expenditure (% share of GDP)20179,0 %
Public debt (% of GDP)2018119,7%


1.1 Welfare state and social system - Portugal

Today's welfare state Portugal is the result of a development and the influence of factors that took place in three phases. In 1935, at the time of the Estado Novo, a process began to create social security systems. “Estado Novo” (New State), created mainly for ideological and propaganda reasons, marked the beginning of a new political period in Portugal, which began with the revolution of May 28, 1926 and was characterized by a presidential, authoritarian and anti-parliamentary conception of the state. As a political regime, the "Estado Novo" was also called Salazarism, based on António de Oliveira Salazar, its founder and leader. Salazar became Minister of Finance in 1928 and the leading figure in the government of the military dictatorship. He set up a dictatorship characterized by rigid austerity programs and was also known as a "financial dictator" because of this type of budget consolidation. The "Estado Novo" also covers the time when Salazar's successor Marcello Caetano led the government (1968-1974) (Rosas, 1982) before the military dictatorship came to an end with the 1974 Carnation Revolution.

The Estado Novo guaranteed basic insurance against classic social risks in old age, disability and need, which combined the minimum social benefits with professional integration.

The second phase of the development of the welfare state followed the revolution of April 25, 1974, in which the restoration of the democratic regime led to the consolidation of civil rights and the establishment of civil, democratic and political rights while at the same time expanding and deepening social rights. With the revolution of April 25, 1974, the economic and social system in Portugal began to take on new forms, extending its protection and improving its social services, starting from a transformation of the welfare state model in which social policy is one of the "main elements of social integration" was. (Mozzicafreddo, 1997: 71) The state-funded protection of the unemployed, unemployment benefits and the creation of social pensions, the first non-contributory benefit and the introduction of the general minimum wage, the increase in the family allowance and the increase in the minimum pension should be emphasized. Other measures such as the Christmas bonus and the extension of maternity allowance were also introduced during the transitional government (Rodrigues, 2010).

This recognized the general validity of social rights, which went hand in hand with an increase in public social spending and an increase in taxes.

But it was not until Portugal joined the EEC / EU in January 1986, in the third phase of the development of the welfare state, that social and democratic rights actually began to develop. This third phase was implemented as part of the Europeanization of the Portuguese welfare state (Pereirinha and Nunes, 2006). The focus was on the shift in welfare state contexts away from national to more supranational content. It is about science-based and socio-political interventions, a political orientation with regard to the choice of options and goals, instruments and forms of intervention as well as the state coordination of these measures.

Historically, the first initiatives in the process of creating the welfare state in Portugal date back to before the Estado Novo (New State) regime. On the one hand through the development of mutualistic organizations (e.g. cooperatives and self-organizations of mutual aid and solidarity) and on the other hand the creation of institutions with social task profiles. By intervening in the fight against poverty with social assistance, the state replaced Christian aid. A process that stretched over centuries and that replaced the aid provided by the church and the offers of support from the 17th to the 19th centuries. In the 20th century, Portugal achieved a status that completely replaced church aid. Social assistance policies have now become an integral part of social assistance from birth to death.

The legal basis for the work of organizations with social tasks was established by Law No. 1,884 of March 16, 1935. In this context, the "new social security system" was part of a social system and an instrument for shaping social security, and it was also the first law passed by the National Assembly. After the constitution was passed in April 1933, there were four different categories of social institutions. The first category includes the social houses of the trade unions and the so-called "houses of the people" and "houses of the fishermen [1].

What these institutions had in common was that they were corporate labor institutions that had both "professional representation" and "welfare purposes" at their disposal. The second category includes pensions or retirement funds. The third category was reserved for mutual insurance companies. The fourth and final category comprised pension schemes for civil servants, military or civil servants and other civil servants and administrative agencies (Law No. 1,884 of March 16, 1935). In 1974, during the transition from Salazar's police and persecution state (protection state) to the welfare state, the tasks of the welfare system had to be redefined and corrected.

Thus the transition from protector to welfare state took place; from a state of order and police security to an insurance state that manages collective services so that a new social contract could be concluded between the state and its citizens. The expansion of civil rights, especially social and labor rights, expands both the quantity and quality of social measures and the areas of responsibility of the welfare state. The extended citizenship creates the freedoms to include new groups of people in existing rights, including new legal forms on social, environmental and quality of life rights, and thus expands the possibilities for social integration.

The strengthening of these civil rights also changed the composition of social structures by promoting more equal opportunities, improving working conditions and increasing direct and indirect cash transfers. As a result of this process, the development of individual personality rights, including civil and political rights, promoted democratic development in Portugal. In addition, the aim of safeguarding standards was to improve equal opportunities through general access regulations and to reduce social inequalities through redistribution of national income. The expansion of civil rights is an extended building block for the development of the constitutional matrix and the principles of action of the welfare state.

The foundations of the welfare state are subject to constant change when a redistribution system is implemented. Also in the implementation of the expansion of private-sector systems into the social sphere. This made the political structure of the welfare state pluralistic. Even in the current economic crisis, the welfare state has held its own. However, the question remains whether it can continue to bear the weight of social progress and social solidarity in the future.

The current view is that the government mandate needs to be changed in response to emerging problems and expectations (Rocha, 2015). Existing social problems such as unemployment and social exclusion continue to increase in the course of social development (Rocha, 2015). In addition, the bureaucratic centralization in the administration of the social system is criticized.

In addition to the political relevance, the importance of the social consensus is directly related to the question of the newly defined role of the state and future tendencies of its political reorientation for social development. In the area of ​​social services and public goods and economic policy, a structure for the provision of services and the risk coverage of income redistribution in the service sector is sought:

  • a uniform system of social security that covers risk situations
  • physical and age-related protection, e.g. in the event of disabilities through insurance, pensions and pensions
  • a system for the delivery of social, institutional and direct services in the fields of health, education, vocational training, research and development and primary care; and
  • a system of social transfers; a social support and social assistance system for socially disadvantaged citizens.

In Portugal, the welfare state was never understood as such in the true sense of the Esping-Andersen criteria (1990) [2]. Portugal is more in line with the Mediterranean-type welfare state model, which refinances the protection of low-income wage earners through social and state contributions. The main actor in shaping social and health assistance is not the state or the market, but the family. As a result of the delayed development of the welfare state after April 25, 1974, the first steps towards the creation of an expanded social model were taken belatedly and, in contrast to developments in other European countries, our country is still suffering from it today. In addition, legal reforms in the area of ​​social security and the labor market were carried out during the time of the Troika [3] from 2008 to 2014, which temporarily limited the withdrawal of state influence in public areas such as health and education, funding and access to these services. (Estanque, 2017).

With the adoption of the Basic Law on Social Security (Law 4/2007 of 16 January) and the agreement with the social partners [4] on the modernization of social assistance, the government has shown that it has nevertheless succeeded in increasing the resources and the reserve fund to strengthen social security and at the same time to open up prospects for development in the direction of sustainability.

Furthermore, with the accession of Portugal to the European Community, the attitude of Portuguese society towards poverty has changed, as the state has successfully developed programs to combat poverty [5].

The Maastricht Treaty [6] The Maastricht Treaty broadened the scope of social policy by increasing the Community's powers in the social field: it should not only help raise living standards but also ensure a high level of social protection. The area of ​​social policy is broader in the Amsterdam Treaty [7]. The area of ​​social policy is broader in the Amsterdam Treaty, which recommends that the Member States cooperate and prevent poverty. These contracts contributed significantly to the promotion of social policy and further development.

The new social policy agenda (2019-2024) [8] developed a comprehensive approach that highlights the main points of social development and thus responds to the new challenges of social policy. For example, the need to invest in people to combat social exclusion, to respond to the social changes brought about by the new knowledge-based economy, and to renew Portugal economically and socially through the new agenda. In this sense, the profession of social worker has established itself as an academic education and profession. Social workers create a public ethos within the framework of social policy measures that are predominantly located at the state level (Ferreira, 2011), ensure a predominantly public welfare culture, enable the specialization and qualification of social workers and define social work as a registered profession, including its treatment in more concrete terms social issues arising from the heterogeneity and immediacy of daily life.

1.2 Effects of demographic and technological change

Portugal has faced periods of political, economic and social instability over the years that have helped to reorganize Portuguese society. The moments of conflict in the 1970s in connection with the revolution of April 25, 1974 marked the beginning of a period of Portuguese economic uncertainty, which was exacerbated by the nationalization process of the most important economic sectors. The economic and social restructuring that began during this period was reinforced in the following years by the process of institutional modernization. The main aim of this was to position Portugal in the European context. Aspects such as the consolidation of democracy, the increase in political stability, the opening up of the Portuguese economy abroad and the application to join the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1977 led to the achievement of these goals.

In the following years there was a period marked by the growth of the Portuguese economy and the profound structural changes in employment. The 1980s were marked by the growth of the tertiary sector, while the 1990s were marked by unemployment in industry (Gaspar, Henriques & Vale, 1998).

1983 and 2011 were turbulent for Portugal too. The economic crisis of 1983 led to periods of social protests due to lower wages and subsidies, rising unemployment and interest rates.

In 2011, difficulties with market access, as Portugal could not show sustainable interest rates, led to the application for foreign aid to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission (EC) and the European Central Bank (ECB). This meant another moment of unrest for the country, which had to adjust to an adjustment program that was characterized by rigid measures and some moments of tension. These resulted from the austerity measures associated with this program (submission of censorship applications and correction of a budget, political and social crises that were characterized by a high level of austerity) (Pereira, 2018). Although Portugal withdrew from the adjustment program in 2014, the consequences of the austerity measures persist in the memory and living conditions of the Portuguese population.

If, on the one hand, some of the aforementioned moments gave the Portuguese economy a certain dynamic and created favorable conditions for the emergence of a resistant situation, then on the other hand, this stability led to moments of instability that also spread to demographic development (Moreira & Henriques, 2016) .

In general, demographic changes in Portugal have been slow compared to those in Western European countries. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the forms and directions of population growth were influenced by the process of urban growth, industrial development and migration flows (emigration and immigration). During these centuries, Portugal experienced moderate population growth, although there have been significant differences between mainland and islands, north and south, coast and inland, urban and rural. Analysis of natural growth rates, overall growth and net migration suggests that changes in the intensity of migratory flows in the 20th century were crucial to understanding the evolution of Portuguese population growth (Fernandes, Moreira & Veiga, 2004).

In contrast to the movements in the twentieth century, a time of demographic growth, the changes in the 21st century are characterized by demographic aging.

In 2017, Portugal experienced stagnant natural growth, a decline in birth rates and mortality, and an increase in average life expectancy, continuing the trend of the aging population.At the same time, a significant decline in migration also hinders growth and population growth, which is insufficient to counteract the aging process (Martins, Rodrigues & Rodrigues, 2016).

As of December 2017, the estimated population of Portugal was 10,291,027 people, which is a decrease of 18,546 people compared to 10,309,573 people in 2016. These data correspond to an effective growth rate of -0.18%, confirming the population decline trend that has been taking place in Portugal since 2010 [9] (INE, 2018). The population decline as seen in Portugal is having worrying effects on the country, including low productivity, higher labor costs due to labor shortages and difficulties in starting and expanding businesses.

Although the Portuguese labor force between 20 and 64 increased slightly from 2016 to 2018 (4,883 in 2016, 4,914 in 2017 and 4,917 in 2018), projections suggest that more than half of the population will be inactive in 2050 (INE, 2018; International Monetary Fund, 2018). The main reasons for this development are said to be the decline in the number of births, the associated lack of generation renewal and the increase in average life expectancy. These data indicate that one must continue to focus on concrete measures to increase the birth rate in connection with labor and social policy measures that ensure economic stability, but also the balance between family and work in the long term.

There were 86,154 births in 2017, a decrease from 972 births compared to 2016 (-1.1%). However, the birth rate was the same in both periods (8.4 live births per 1000 inhabitants). Despite the decline in the number of births in 2017, the artificial pregnancies index showed a slight recovery from 2016 (1.37 and 1.36 children per woman of childbearing age, respectively) (INE, 2018).

The average age of women at the birth of their first child remained the same in 2016 and 2017, but there was a slight increase between 2012 and 2017 (28.6; 28.9; 29.2; 29.5; 29.6; 29.6 ). Women not only have fewer children, but also later. This contributes to the slowdown in population growth, a decrease in the number of young people and thus an aging of the population (INE, 2018). In addition, an aging population is a risk factor in funding reforms to social security systems.

The 2018 Age Report forecasts a clear downward trend and an aging of the population in comparison to the European average (from 10,192.9 in 2020 to 7,984.4 in 2070), with a population growth rate between 2020 and 2070 (-0.3 % in 2020 and -0.6% in 2070) (European Commission, 2018).

Social instability, economic and work-related barriers, high unemployment, emigration and personal motivations appear as reasons for late or no birth. In terms of mortality, Portugal had 815 deaths (-0.7%) in 2017 compared to the previous year, with 110,573 deaths, while the death rate remained unchanged (10.7 ‰). The number of deaths in the first year of life also fell from 282 in 2016 to 229 in 2017, as did child mortality from 3.2 ‰ in 2016 to 2.7 ‰ in 2017 (INE, 2018). These declining numbers not only place Portugal in the group of countries with the best global results, but they also show the quality of perinatal medicine and advances in health care. To ensure stability here, however, it is necessary to ensure equal access to health care and the available information about the risks associated with preterm birth and the habits and lifestyle during pregnancy for all people. Eliminate poverty and other unfavorable factors and control the risks of medically assisted child generation. At the work level, conditions can also be created that minimize the risk factors associated with infant and late birth mortality. For example, the development and / or improvement of measures for maternity protection and protection at work (such as flexibility in working hours, reducing the precariousness and the scope of work of pregnant women and extending parental leave).

Precarious working conditions were also cited as one of the causes of emigration. In 2017 there were 16,100 fewer emigrants than in the previous year (97,151) (INE, 2018). In 2017, of the total number of emigrants, 31,753 were permanent and 49,298 temporary emigrants, fewer than in the previous year (38,273 permanent and 58,878 temporary emigrants).

Although migratory movements can arise for a variety of reasons (knowledge of the new countries and cultures, interest and connection to cultural and scientific activities, relational and emotional reasons), emigration, whether permanent or temporary, in the Portuguese case is a trend that is part of the History of the country and is connected with difficult as well as unstable political and social moments. As mentioned earlier, historical events such as the process of democratization and decolonization following the revolution of April 25, 1974 and accession to the European Union (formerly European Economic Community) in 1986 also contributed to changes in the demographic dynamics of Portugal. The difference between rising and falling rates of emigration and immigration is directly related to the positive or negative influences to which the country has been exposed. On the one hand, these include deteriorating living conditions, lack of resources and employment, lack of support for families and socio-cultural activities, poor job prospects, unemployment and periods of austerity. On the other hand, the economic recovery with the rise in wages, the improvement and increase in the quality of life and the reduction in unemployment all contributed to the opposite. Many people therefore experience globalization as a strategy to increase social, economic and professional mobility.

Over the years, migratory flows have influenced the demographic and social fabric of Portugal, which has an impact on the way of life of the Portuguese population as a whole.

The concept of substitution migration has played a very important role in understanding the relationship between immigration and demography. According to a report by the United Nations (2000), substitution migration offsets the decline in births and the labor force as well as the aging of the population. This report also reveals that Portugal's ability to grow demographically depends on positive migration balances, which is a real challenge. Although the country was able to recover from migration and negative natural balances between 2010 and 2016 with positive net migration of 4,886 immigrants (an increase of 22% over the previous year), the situation remains uncertain. A well-thought-out policy to promote immigration can be one of the solutions to ease this situation by inviting people to the country and keeping them permanently. And not only to rejuvenate the population, but also to contribute to the stability of the social security system.

Based on the data previously analyzed, it becomes clear that the demographic changes verified over the years in Portugal present numerous challenges in the 20th century and in subsequent centuries. One of the consequences is the higher average age in the labor force.

According to the 2018 Aging Report, the labor force participation of 55 to 64 year olds will increase from 58.4% to around 70% in 2056, while the participation rate of 15 to 24 year olds will decline due to longer periods of education (European Commission, 2018). Although this situation already exists today, in Portugal there are more and more workers over 55 years of age, this scenario may continue or even worsen in the future. This can affect the generation change as well as the adaptability to technological progress.

New technologies have fundamentally changed the way we live. Technology not only affects the environment, people and institutions, but also society as a whole. Technology dominates people by creating a high degree of dependency.

The technological development in connection with the advancing digitization and the use of automation processes in production and consumption requires in-depth reflections on the policies and institutions responsible for labor market regulation.

The effects of new technologies on the workplace are related to various changes, such as: content and type of tasks, required skills, work pace, number of employees, distribution and location of employees, and working hours. These changes make it clear that skills must be acquired that enable people to keep up to date with the use of new technologies, especially in a work context, and to keep pace with developments.

However, the resistance to change that many people, especially the elderly, have, is an obstacle to adaptability and acceptance of the changes inherent in technological advancement.

Although there are countries that already rely almost exclusively on the automation of their production systems, this reality can be extended to the rest of the world in the medium and long term. This manifests itself in situations such as the loss of jobs and occupational sectors, the number of employees and changed work processes. In the future, technology will replace those tasks that are considered mechanical and routine and that are currently still performed by human hands.

1.3 Overview of the Portuguese social economy

The social economy is an issue that deserves special attention in Portugal because of its strategic importance for the country, but also because of the high degree of heterogeneity that characterizes national institutions.

Through their activities, institutions of the social economy try to achieve social goals without maximizing profit. These include cooperatives, mutuals, “mercy”, private institutions of social solidarity as well as foundations and associations, regardless of their purpose (leisure, sports or cultural, non-governmental organizations and others).

These organizations play an important role in shaping the path to a more hopeful future through sustainable economic growth, more job creation and maintaining social cohesion.

The recognition of the role and work of these organizations by the state has at least facilitated the proximity and development of partnerships as well as the implementation of legal reforms and the establishment of criteria for cooperation between the state and them. Further successes were achieved for the sector: namely the adoption of the Basic Law for the Social Economy, which made it possible to update and revise these institutions, as well as the adoption of specific laws.

In the context of the Portugal 2020 framework, a social inclusion and employment-only program has also been developed to contribute to innovation and entrepreneurship and to consistent management based on results monitoring and evaluation mechanisms (Fernandes, 2016) .

Based on the satellite account for the social economy, introduced in 2013 and published in 2016, it is possible to characterize the sector using a series of indicators and to perceive its influence on the economy. According to the data, the social economy sector accounted for 2.8% of the national gross value added (GVA) in 2013, characterized by a high degree of heterogeneity that extends across several fields of activity. Concrete action and social security were the main economic activity, accounting for 54.6% of paid employment and 44.7% of GVA. In terms of corporate groups, 93.4% were associations with altruistic goals, which contributed 61.0% to GVA and 64.8% to paid employment (INE, 2016) [10].

The figures underline the importance that this sector shows, especially for the level of implementation of the neighborhood policy, which coincides with the measures of modern public policies.

2. Indicators on the social situation in Portugal

2.1 Indicators for social protection

The social security system provides social protection at several levels of support. These support systems differ not only in their forms of financing, but also in the type of social protection offered. In the contributory system, this protection is guaranteed as a counterpart to social contributions from the world of work, such as old-age pensions or unemployment benefits. Through the non-contributory system, which is usually financed by taxes, its main task is to guarantee social rights and support in the areas of social action, solidarity and family protection, such as family allowances or social inclusion income.

Table 1 summarizes the main social supports of the Portuguese social protection system based on the monthly information published by the Office of Strategy and Planning (JEP) of the Ministry of Labor, Solidarity and Social Security (MTSSS) according to September 2020 data.

Unemployment benefit230 303
Recipients of the family allowance1 036 196
Recipients of sick pay175 002
Recipients of parental allowance42 302
Recipients of income from social integration (RSI)211 992
Recipients of supplementary social benefits for the elderly (CSI)162 154
Old-age pensions2 065 140
Beneficiaries of social inclusion benefits110 205

Source: GEP / MTSSS

  • In September 2020, 230,303 unemployment benefits were processed, an increase of 37.2% compared to September 2019. The number of recipients of unemployment benefits was 197,398. Unemployment benefit serves to protect workers from poverty who have been employed and have become unemployed.
  • The family allowance is a monthly cash benefit with the aim of compensating for family expenses in connection with the support and education of children and young people. The number of holders of family allowances was 1,036,196 minus 63,751 (-5.8%) taking into account the month of September 2019. A total of 507,852 benefits were given to women (49.0% of the total) and 528,344 benefits to men (51.0%) the total number).
  • In total, there were 175,002 benefits in the event of illness, whereby these total amounts include benefits for prophylactic isolation in combination with the benefit component for tuberculosis in addition to the loss of infection from the new coronavirus. Broken down by gender, 101,975 women (58.3% of the total) received this grant, while 73,027 recipients are male (41.7% of the total). Sickness benefit is a benefit attributed to the recipient to compensate for the loss of wages resulting from the temporary incapacity for work due to illness. Illness is any illness-related situation that cannot be traced back to a professional cause or an action by a third party requiring compensation and which decides on the incapacity for work.
  • Parental allowance is an amount of money that is paid to parents or legal guardians for the birth of a child during parental leave (because they may not be gainfully employed). It is intended to compensate for loss of earnings during the period of parental leave. The number of recipients of parental allowance was 42,302 in September 2020.
  • In September 2020 there were 211,992 recipients of RSI. In the same period there was an increase of 3.2% (plus 6,612 recipients). The RSI is a support for the protection of people in extreme poverty, which consists of a compensation payment to cover the minimum needs. With this support, an integration program will be drawn up, which will provide for a contract for a series of measures, determined according to the characteristics and conditions of the applicant's household, aimed at the progressive social, labor and community integration of its members.
  • The Solidarity Supplement for the Elderly (CSI) is a monthly cash benefit for low-income elderly people who are at least as old as the standard age for access to the old-age pension under the general social security system and who are resident in Portugal. 162,154 people received this benefit in September 2020, of which 70.2% of the persons recorded were female and 29.8% male.
  • The old-age pension is an amount paid monthly, which is intended to take the place of income from work to provide security in old age.2,065,140 old-age pensions were paid, 1,089,985 of them to women, which corresponds to 52.8% of the total, while 47.2% of the total went to men, i.e. 975,155 pension payments.
  • The social inclusion benefit protects all domestic and foreign citizens, refugees and stateless persons who have a disability that leads to a degree of disability of 60% or more through financial aid. A total of 110,205 people received social benefits for integration. Looking at September 2019, there is an increase of 9.9%, with a further 9,968 people being included in social integration assistance.

Regarding social protection expenditure, the data provided by the Social Security Financial Management Institute (IGFSS) of the Ministry of Labor, Solidarity and Social Security (MTSSS) allow us to keep track of the percentage of social security expenditure in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for grants or others Spending is.

Figure 1 - Social security expenditure as% of GDP 2008-2016 [12]

Figure 1 shows that austerity policies in Portugal (2011-2014) were also tougher in terms of social spending as a percentage of GDP. From Figure 2 we can see that the main spending on social protection is in the areas of unemployment and employment promotion, with the RSI being the area where spending is less significant.

Figure 2 - Expenditure on social security benefits (in thousands of euros) 2008-2016 [13]

Social Security Expenditure TotalSocial payments expenditure
TotalFamily membersSickness and MaternityUnemployment and job supportPensions, supplements and complementsSocial Integration Income (RSI)
201533095112,721506641,4771183,3 916852,2 1760640,415753196,1287351,1
20163003028621772948,2797270.5 / td>979530,31509656,416124291,2334677,7


The data collected also enables us to understand the social security system's expenditure with the payment of social benefits and to check whether there have been fluctuations in the individual social benefits (Table 2).

Based on this analysis, it can be seen that since 2014 there has been an increase in spending on sickness and maternity benefits, while spending on unemployment and employment benefits has decreased.

With the exception of 2015, there was a gradual increase in pension expenditure. The RSI has seen a decline in spending since 2011, which was more significant in 2016.

2.2 Social assistance index

Based on data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), the main results of the Welfare Index for Portugal (IBE) for the period between 2004 and 2017 are presented (Figure 3).

Figure 3 - Overall and per capita health index (IBE) (2004 = 100) 2004-2017 [15]
Source: INE

The data indicate a continued slight growth in the IBE, which can be explained by an improvement in the quality of life, albeit a reduced one, and by the considerable improvement in material living conditions, which has contributed to the rise in the prosperity index since 2013. Based on the data, it can be seen that the prosperity index in Portugal developed positively between 2004 and 2017, after falling only in the period 2007-2008 and in 2012.

The two aspects of the wealth analysis, which were determined using the two indices on material living conditions and quality of life, showed different behavioral patterns. The quality of life index has always been higher than that for material living conditions, with the exception of the period from 2006 to 2010 when these indexes reversed their positions. The two indices developed in opposite directions in the periods 2007-2008 and 2010-2013.

Perspective / areaI2008I2014I2017
Welfare index105,2114,5131,4
Economic prosperity105,0105,3113,1
Economic hazard90,977,894,3
Work and compensation92,071,185,2
life quality109,1127,1145,9
Life-work balance109,1104,299,9
Education, knowledge and skills128,1187,5215,2
Social relationships and subjective well-being93,597,4112,0
Citizen Participation and Government100,0135,9173,3
Personal protection101,4113,6144,6

Source: INE

In Table 3 we can take a closer look at the indicators that make up some dimensions of the prosperity index, especially in the area of ​​material living conditions and quality of life.

Analyzing the indicators that encompass material living conditions shows that compared to 2008, economic vulnerability and employment were hardest hit by the crisis in 2014, with a slight increase in economic prosperity, even in 2014. It should be noted, however, that this indicator has seen an increase in 2017, which will help improve this specific index.

With regard to quality of life, there has been an increase in the areas of health, education, social relationships and subjective well-being, civic participation, personal safety and the environment in the years under review. Only in the area of ​​life-work balance has there been a negative trend over time. The positive development of most of the indicators allowed this specific index to increase positively.

Figure 4 - At-risk-of-poverty rate: before and after social transfers 2004-2017 (%) [17]
Source: INE

Finally, Figure 4 shows the comparison of the at-risk-of-poverty rate before each social transfer, after the transfer of pensions and after the transfer of all social benefits. This shows the fundamental role that social transfers, namely pensions, play in fulfilling the social protection of citizens and how they have contributed to reducing the risk of poverty by cutting it by more than half.

2.3 The system of social work and social work

Act No. 4/2007 [18] of January 16 is currently in force, with the enactment of Act 83-A / 2013 of December 31, which replaces the Basic Social Insurance Act 2002 (BSSL). The aims of the system with the BSSL from 2007 are also to guarantee the right to social security as a basic right in order to promote a lasting improvement in social assistance, to strengthen justice and to increase the efficiency of the system including its administration.

According to the 2007 BSSL, the structure of the social welfare system is divided into three systems: i) social welfare system; ii) social system; and iii) complementary system. The social welfare system comprises three areas: social measures, participation and family protection.

The objectives of the social assistance system are to guarantee the fundamental rights and equal opportunities of citizens, to promote well-being and social cohesion by: a) implementing the right to basic needs of citizens in the event of economic bottlenecks, b) avoiding and Eradication of poverty and exclusion, c) compensation for family expenses and d) compensation for disability and dependency costs (Article 26, Law No. 4/2007).

Social assistance is financed through state benefits and through the provision of tax revenue [19], which benefits social assistance from other sources, such as social security income, and not through contribution funds. The aim here is to prevent social emergencies and socio-economic inequality as well as cases of exclusion or social dependence, while at the same time promoting the integration and promotion of the community as well as capacity development (Article 29, Law 4/2007).

This includes protecting the most vulnerable groups (children, young people, people with disabilities and the elderly) or other people in situations of economic or social disadvantage, as well as implementing further measures in cooperation with other non-public institutions. Social services and institutions, programs to combat poverty, social ills, marginalization and social exclusion, in cases of hardship the provision of cash benefits and benefits in kind are highlighted as responses to their goals (Article 30, Law No. 4/2007). As actors in this process of developing social action, the state, non-profit private organizations and institutions shape community work, procurement, efficiency and effectiveness in social services and support, including services and social responses. Partnerships are valued as they encourage the advancement of social voluntary service in line with other institutions and services such as health and education. Private institutions of social solidarity (IPPS) are used as mediators between family and social welfare and emphasize local intervention, especially via the social network. It should be noted that "the use of social services and facilities may be made conditional on the payment of contributions by the respective recipients, taking into account their income and that of their respective households" (Article 31, Law 4/2007). In addition to the IPSS's support for actions, it also relates to the role of profitable companies and corporate social responsibility in promoting social support and funds.

The solidarity subsystem aims to ensure forms of prevention and eradication of poverty and social exclusion "on the basis of solidarity of the whole community". Furthermore, benefits are to be granted in situations where it is clear that personal or family benefits do not need to be included in the pension system "or" social or economic emergencies due to insufficient contributions "exist (Article 36, Law No. 4/2007) Promote the social integration of those affected and families in accordance with the principles of social participation and positive differentiation, especially in cases of economic hardship, invalidity, old-age poverty, death, insufficient income from gainful employment or old-age pension, or the impossibility to cover this through the pension system. [20]

The family protection subsystem is intended to ensure that debts are assumed after a legal review in the event of increased family burdens, including disability and maintenance taxes. This can also include the granting of benefits in kind. [21] In this subsystem, social assistance varies depending on the income, composition and size of the households of those affected.

The social security system is based on the principle of solidarity in the professional context (for employees or self-employed, self-employed and voluntarily insured persons) and guarantees cash benefits for social assistance (in the event of illness, maternity, paternity and adoption, unemployment, accidents at work and occupational diseases, disability, old age and Death). [22] This system is based on a statutory contribution obligation in connection with the entitlement to benefits, which is largely financed by the contributions of employees and employers themselves [23]. Due to the uniform social tax, limits can be set for their application and the determination of the benefit amounts. [24] For benefits "The amount of social assistance, namely the minimum pension, is determined on the basis of the social assistance index, in the situations and under the conditions established by law" (Article 68º, Law No. 4/2007), a annually adjusted reference value established: Index of Social Support (IAS), which aims at the principle of intergenerational equity and the financial sustainability of the social security system. These provisions apply to both the social security system and the solidarity and family protection subsystems.

The supplementary system, a mix of public funding and other means, is actually implemented in the division of social responsibility. Its development must be encouraged by the state through incentives it deems appropriate (Article 81 of Law No. 4/2007). The system of public funding is characterized by voluntary individual membership, which is organized and administered by the state, as a complement to the social security system. [25] The initiative systems are supplementary company measures that cover employees or self-employed persons who pay in on a voluntary basis in addition to contributory social assistance. [26] 6 Old-age provision, life insurance, capital-forming insurance and mutual insurance are individual options that are also voluntary. [27]

Through its systems, social insurance guarantees and realizes the basic right to social assistance with the aim of social security. The guarantee of a universal social welfare model will apply mechanisms that promote social rights (even in times of crisis and savings). And it will invest in social policies geared towards the goals of social, economic and territorial cohesion in the national and European context.

Approaching social work involves taking into account the socio-historical process that is the basis for its emergence and development: always complex, independent of the social, economic and political conjunction, little perceptible and not immediately grasping the meaning that the society of socials Work attaches. For Parton (2002), the emergence of postmodern societies shows some uncertainties in a complex context of social, economic, cultural and technological changes.

A first look is made possible by, on the one hand, bringing up the analysis of the social relationships of capitalist society and their transformations. This includes social questions and problems and the way in which the social system is involved in the answers to these problems. And on the other hand, the analysis of the forms of work that have historically been performed by social assistants, with a focus on practice (Martins, 2002).

The emergence of social work begins with welfare activities, initially of a philanthropic and non-profit nature, which have developed over the past century and make social work a recognized profession and a discipline of scientific production. This mature knowledge has evolved in a complex system and an increasingly globalized world based on ethical principles and values ​​(Dominelli, 2005).

The construction of social work is not a linear and continuous process. Since their inception, the goals have been set differently and implemented in professional practices depending on the various needs for society, social groups and movements of a social and political nature.

Today, however, we are faced with a very complex scenario - the scenario of globalization or postmodernism - whose main features are mobility, flexibility, fluidity, relativization, brief reports, fragmentation, cracks at the edges and borders, mergers, fast pace, immediacy, decentralization and extraterritoriality of Power, unpredictability and consumption are. These points have a direct impact on the personal level, recognizable by feelings such as uncertainty, insecurity, worry and fear. These feelings result from the incompatibility between long-term life projects and the immediacy of work in the new flexible mode of capitalism.

The risks associated with the labor market, frugality and demographic aging, as well as the rigidity of the models themselves, are the subject of the debate on the responsibilities of political interventions. "For these reasons, the recognition of the importance of new risks, alongside old risks, gives an important impetus to the dire conclusions of the work on permanent austerity measures" (Taylor-Gooby, 2004: 2)

In the market, the individual has to look for a livelihood and survival without having to rely on public funds. So one of the leitmotifs of social affairs (human rights) is called into question by the upgrading of social intervention in the individual and no longer in the law.

This idea reflects the thinking of Netto (2015) for social work as a professional project in which social workers continue their actions based on their values, social functions, goals, theoretical knowledge, norms and practices and carry out their practice in an institutional setting (social , private and public) that is articulated with the company context.

That is the change that is taking place in professional practice. It intervenes, not by adapting the individual to the norm or guaranteeing his / her rights, but by giving reasons and motivations to compete in the market and create his / her own livelihood.

Belchior-Rocha (2018) warns that industrial and capitalist societies typically have problems related to economic growth, social inequalities, quality of life, etc., for which neither systemic processes nor a sustainable view of an economic model were considered (universality, concrete action and Comprehensive integration as basic concepts). These concepts are directly related to the question of values ​​and ethical principles, the intervention as well as the goals and specifications of social work.

The crisis of our day lies in the rupture between life in capitalist industrial society and another way of life that arises through a process of accumulation of capital and new forms of consumption in finance capitalism. It is simply a crisis of marginalization and the social divide between the richest and poorest that has seemingly been weakened by the growth of the welfare state.There are changes at the level of secure employment, the family and the social contract in its political, civil and social dimensions.

As far as the family is concerned, there are also profound changes with the entry of women into the labor market, the increase in single parent families under the influence of school and television, and the emergence of new patterns of consumption. Due to individualization, precarious work and the loss of family living conditions, the continuity of the family is less and less valued. So the individual relies more on himself and less on the family.

In the social field, in the face of the capitalist scenario, rights are not universalized, but have been increasingly reduced, the social security network is fragile and changes the framework of social security. So the "new social contract" imposed by globalization is to make individuals less secure, less protected, more competitive in the market, with fewer rights. Accompanied by cheaper labor, poor working conditions, permanent job deregulation, personal fear, fear of unemployment, the shame of not being able to cope with daily obligations, of starving and seeing the family starve and struggle.

This scenario involves a much more complex view of the practice of social work than in the 20th century. If the re-conceptualization movement of social work (from Latin America in the 1960s, 1970s) was founded at that time, there is now a need for a new re-conceptualization in order to criticize what was done, what was right and wrong, what risks and opportunities and needs arise (Netto, 2015).

In this transformation process it is important to open the space for community, solidarity and social interaction, the local and global integration (Giddens, 1984) of society. That is the central question of dialectical thinking, which does not make the global seem inevitable. The market is not the only basis of social relationships and is interwoven with culture and institutions. Culture, local production and social relationships react to the global market, but are also embedded in it. The meanings in all of the above fragmentations can have strategic visibility for overcoming them in practice.

Social work had to realign and deepen its basic tradition in order to avoid excessive adaptation, to strengthen habits, to adopt a critical, formative perspective of learning in everyday life, including a change of perspective, changes of direction and changed conditions. And for this it was necessary to work in networks on individual and joint projects, to discover and re-articulate approaches to change and to face the crisis. Capitalism has undoubtedly made new demands on social policy and welfare. The perspective of the change in the balance of power enables the strengthening of civil rights, autonomy and identity in a complex context. This process necessarily includes the guarantee of rights, the development of the framework of the individual (Darling-Hammond, 2019).

It is important not to see globalization as inevitable or capitalism as the end of history, but as a complex, dynamic and contradicting process in which social affairs are also contradictingly contained.

The social work profession is embedded in a socio-historical and political context. Their role in the social division of labor is characterized by progressive confrontations and changes that are characteristic of a society in constant change. In this way, in Portugal, the emergence of social affairs is referred to as scientific philanthropy. Whenever the church reduces its support and thus encourages the use of lay people who develop their actions in social organizations without being under the supervision of the church (Branco, 2018), this happened in the 1930s and during the Estado Novo (dictatorial regime). However, the profession has evolved and established itself by consolidating a work and science path linked to democracy and civil, political and social rights (Martins, 1995; Branco, 2009; Carvalho and Pinto, 2015).

With the Estado Novo (new state), Minister Salazar developed a social welfare strategy that was in contrast to strategies developed in other countries to combat the threat of communism. For example, social workers worked with workers and families, where they played an important role in spreading the Church's social doctrine (Branco, 2018).

For Carvalho and Pinto (2015), the period between the 1960s and 1974 marked a new phase for the Portuguese social service, as industrial development and the recognition of social sciences in education in Portugal were promoted here. In the Estado Novo (new state), however, social work was institutionalized, with the establishment of social work schools in Lisbon (1935), Porto and Coimbra. In the period after April 25, 1974, research was focused on social work. This was due to the emergence of new social problems resulting from changes in society, but also due to the emergence of new ideologies, such as Marxism or as a reconceptualization movement of social work in Latin America. After April 25, 1974, Portugal regained a democratic regime that marked a remarkable transformation of Portuguese society and a revolutionary historical moment for the "affirmation and scientification of social work" (Amaro, 2012: 101). In the 1980s, the academic degree is recognized and the research area begins to be integrated into the training through theses and publications of bachelor, master and doctoral degrees as well as postgraduates. The dissemination of scientific production through the publication of scientific journals and conducting seminars begins (Branco, 2018). According to Branco (2019), a new phase of social work began in Portugal, both through a change in the political paradigm and through influences in the formative and professional area: the currents of critical and radical social work of Latin American origin gained space in education and new ones Fields of professional intervention aimed at institutional socio-political change.

Social workers are in their profession, with a wealth of research instruments. The expert has to constantly update the knowledge inherent in his / her professional practice as he / she has to keep pace with changes in society. Research is therefore a practice that complements the work on site. "Critical ability and reflective thinking" are fundamental skills for a professional and high-quality response to a global society (Ferreira, 2011: 67). In this sense, the demands to which municipalities, services, professionals and citizens are exposed show a new challenge for contemporary social work.

Social workers are able to conduct research, which must be developed on a firm and preferably theoretical basis, carried out in multidisciplinary teams. Thus, by studying problems based on scientific steps and procedures, he or she can apply and solve them.

The interest of social workers in researching social policy reflects, on the one hand, their actions through direct relationships. And on the other hand, it is the methodology itself that produces its professional activity. The tradition of social work is based on interpersonal relationships and through it the relationship takes on a form of privileged professional action. Social affairs and social policy are therefore two forms of networking. The area of ​​social work intervention is growing.

Robertis (2003) suggests that social change requires social work to prepare for new situations of social vulnerability. These include technological, demographic, family models and health changes that reflect an increase in poverty and social exclusion.

Social workers are currently facing one of their greatest challenges. A challenge that is expressed in the need to develop the ability to interpret reality as well as creative skills. The specialist works on social issues every day, i.e. he / she observes the inequalities of the individual with regard to work, family, housing, health, social welfare and other things.

Ferreira (2011) states that the current social problems are complex and require adequate and rigorous methods included in study, diagnosis and the social responses that combine the involvement of the attention subjects and evaluate their potential and knowledge to address the problems and to solve. This activity cannot do without critical thinking in the context of professional activity, because innovation and the monitoring of scientific progress, as well as the production of new knowledge, are fundamental to reacting to new situations of social risk.

The theoretical and methodological foundations, which represent a complex of knowledge and skills that the social worker has acquired during his / her training process, and the techniques are tools that enable him / her to know the reality and the Exercise profession. It is important to emphasize that social workers do not do their work in isolation, but are part of a common system in that they see themselves as workers who put together a multidisciplinary work team.

Generally speaking, social projects can be transformative or conservative. Among the Transformers there are various positions related to the forms (tactics and strategies) of social change. Thus there is a prerequisite for the ethical-political approach, which creates an indispensable relationship for the change or maintenance of the social order. The ethical-political project of social work is connected with an approach to change society. This link is due to the demand for the political dimension of professional intervention.

3. Organization of social affairs and social work

The generality of social assistance models in modern societies, aimed at maximizing welfare and assistance, has become an end in itself for states seeking to establish services that promote social justice, integration and redistribution. In this context, professions were created that contributed to the innovative mechanisms of operationalization and social regulation, such as social work. Over time, new areas emerged, generating scientific and theoretical knowledge, as well as technical skills for citizenship, solidarity and equality (Parton, 2002). The emergence of organized forms of social work follows developments in modern societies, social problems and their solution along with the expansion of welfare states (Hopkins, 2002).

Government action is currently being combined with private and civil society initiatives such as the Misericórdias (Mercy), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Private Institutions of Social Solidarity (IPSS) and others. The activity of the third sector has played an important role in the plan of "primary" sociality or solidarities, which bring the state, the market and the community together where social and economic are mixed (Pond 2012: 57). We can say that the 2008 crisis brought a new paradigm in the field of welfare through policy choices and the role of the state itself. Following this new model, which emerged from times of crisis and austerity, there was a privatization of services, which contributes to the increase in poverty and unemployment in Portugal. This is accompanied by the loss of social rights and manifest social insecurity (Castro, Tomé, Carrara, 2015).

According to Joaquim (2008), this scenario led to the emergence of non-governmental organizations "as a means of responding to situations of marginalization and the failure of existing responses" (Joaquim, 2008: 25), and emphasizing the role of civil society in cooperation with the state "as a partner in the implementation of social policy" (Joaquim, 2008: 26). Santos (2013) believes that there is a step away from the state through the process of privatizing its social functions, to which the individual is "committed to his / her own survival: each for himself, with the only tangential involvement of the state" (Santos, 2013: 32). For the author, the private, for-profit sector has expanded its niche by awarding public-private partnerships in the field of health and social security, which, while expanding, do not increase the efficiency of the services provided (Santos, 2013).

Carvalho (2016) points out that neoliberalism has "led to the dismantling of the welfare state, which has focused on a new composition of responsibilities between state and society, families and the market" (Carvalho, 2016: 7). This leads us to a transformation process between the social actors, the transfer of competencies from social production and social assistance from the public sector to the private sector and to representatives of the third sector: "The actions of the actors in social assistance and intervention are in the field, not always symmetrical, sometimes contradicting, from different perspectives of reality "(Carneiro, 2017: 108).

The third sector plays an important role as a social actor in issues of social solidarity and in the area of ​​social action in various respects. Joaquim (2008) points out some aspects, such as less bureaucratic and faster help, not profitable, geared towards well-being and working to relieve government agencies. However, Santos (2013) believes that the privatization of social assistance services refers to a weakening of the universality of social rights when it is confirmed that liberalization and economics apply to the private sector in areas such as social security.

Amaro (2012) questions the current paradigm of social policy, namely the transfer of skills from the public sector to other sectors, and emphasizes:

a policy of decentralization of a range of competencies begins, with a more territorial character, based on a technical basis that justifies the advantages of a policy of proximity, reacts to economic interests (universalism is cheaper), transfers fundamental rights issues to civil society or local authorities (Amaro, 2012: 236).

There are also concerns about an excess of "managerism" as a form of political action in a new public administration that favors the market and public partnerships because of their profitability. Carvalho (2016) is of the opinion that the ethical foundations of social affairs are at risk, since "social workers are also assessed in terms of their efficiency in implementing these neoliberal, discriminatory and unjust policies that select and punish citizens" (Carvalho, 2016: 2).

Participation and proximity to communities or regions and as promoters of social policy through the informal sector are important. This presents itself as an informal social actor, consisting of elements with which individuals have a support relationship in their microsystem, the so-called "primary network" (Guadalupe, 2009: 52-54). The informal sector ends up gathering informal resources that alleviate social hardship. "From here we can look at networks of kinship (based on affinity), neighborhood, friendship, community (based on work and leisure relationships), etc." (Guadalupe, 2009: 55). Informal levels of non-bureaucratic assistance can be considered as a "useful resource" relating to a position of the social assistance unit, which however does not guarantee and cannot replace the actual existence of a formal support system (Guadalupe, 2009).

In analyzing the foundations and principles of the social system for social development and human rights, the struggle for political reforms to improve living conditions and well-being was a sign of its professionalization in the present day. And also important as a field of knowledge within the framework of the social sciences and humanities. Payne (1996) emphasizes that "social services must be involved in political activities in order to have an adequate influence on their own nature and development and to influence relevant social changes" (Payne & Amaro, 2012: 175).

Therefore, it is important to keep pace with trends in welfare state policies in order to deepen the role of social workers in influencing social policy.It should be noted that "social work is linked to social policy through policy implementation legislation" (Adams, 2002: 32). Social workers face a number of serious situations and problems that have apparent or latent implications for people's well-being and the balance of social structures. Here social work plays a positive role in reinforcing the ethical-political dimension of its principles for welfare and social assistance: "Social workers are able to translate this practical wisdom into an effective instrument for influencing public order" (Colby, 2013: 3 ).

Regardless of which sector they integrate (public, private or third sector), its social role in social policy and welfare measures is indisputable when one considers actions to combat social inequalities, poverty and social exclusion and to promote social welfare based on the Incorporates principles of social justice and the defense of human rights. Social workers as promoters of human dignity, human rights and social justice must be able to acquire knowledge that enables them to intervene socially: "Even in the simplest cases there is usually a lot to think about. To well admit action, social workers need to think well, and to think well they need to know a lot "(Howe, 2009: 5).

A rethink in the context of social assistance in the sense of an integrative social model and the affirmation of human rights can contribute to strengthening social relationships and a feeling of social justice, which lead to social participation and improvement of well-being and living conditions. In this sense, social assistance is sensitive and open to the prevention, mitigation and resolution of old and new social problems that appear as risk factors in a complex relationship scenario as experienced by societies (Iamamoto, 2001; Amaro, 2012; Carvalho & Pinto, 2015 ). Carvalho and Pinto (2015) provide some explanations on the basis of the 2008 crisis, which was accompanied by a reduction in social spending and cuts in the public sector. So that currently the third sector, as well as the lucrative private sector, is expanding in the area of ​​wellbeing and promoting a space for social work interventions. Although this goes hand in hand with more restricted working conditions and lower wages. Current social work is facing times of important critical reflection on which of its ethical principles are decisive for professional recognition.

4. Institutions and organizations: forms of social work

Social workers try to leave formative influences behind, such as overcoming firm convictions, reservations about the use of new technologies and time recording, in order to act more effectively for the benefit of people. "Fair politics is achievable through the merging of practical wisdom with objective, critical thinking, guided by the justice theory, which tells us to advance the interests of the least-favored (Adams, 2002: 16). Time is critical , not only for the social workers' own need for action, but also for the period of social policy. This may have to react quickly, almost immediately to immediate measures in critical and urgent situations or in the long term with coordinated and coordinated measures for sustainable development (Kwok, 2013: 99).

Based on Thompson (2009), we need to see the role of social workers at the political level not as a separate area, but as an integral part of a complexity. This makes it possible to pursue their deontological goals, namely the promotion of the social being through human relationships and their potential for social and human development.

Furthermore, securing these improved relationships in practice requires that we as social workers link our interpersonal interactions with our political goals, thereby modeling and demonstrating increased sociality in order to remove barriers that cause inequalities and promote social change (Adams, Dominelli & Payne, 2005: 2).

Social work has its own competencies and values ​​of a humanitarian nature, which are based on scientific knowledge and professional systemic and reflexive behavior, which give orientation and meaning to their actions and view them critically. Social justice is a fundamental principle of social work that Thompson (2009) views within a framework of values ​​such as: combating inequality, discrimination, oppression, marginalization and other forms of social injustice. It advocates the use of measures to empower people (including families, groups and communities) and encourages forms of emancipation as opposed to the social disadvantages that result from these situations.

In view of these situations of transformation and development of social problems, social work reacts actively with three strands: new social policy, the redefinition of social work tasks and a different approach to certain areas of intervention (Robertis, 2003: 171).

Regarding the current social and professional complex scenario, Restrepo said: "The strength with which these practices and experiences are brought into the individual and collective subjects, deforming and fragmenting the social fabric, should be a hard core or a flow axis of the disciplinary reconfiguration of contemporary social work form ”(Restrepo, 2003: 38). One of the most important aspects for today's social workers is the question of reflexivity, which some authors define as follows:“ Reflexivity is a cycle in which experiences and actions influence thinking, the following one Changes experiences and actions and thus in turn influences subsequent thinking "(Adams, Dominelli & Payne, 2005: 9).

Reflexivity makes it possible to change our ways of thinking and acting through critical reflection on experiences that are conditioned by them through cyclical and interdependent processes. Reflexivity is closely related to critical thinking in order to interpret experiences, actions, and thoughts. "Critical ability and reflective thinking" are fundamental competencies for a professional and high-quality response to a global society (Ferreira, 2011: 67). In this sense, the demands faced by the territories, services, professionals and citizens reveal a new challenge for social work today.

Adams (2002) explores this question by arguing that social workers are more than just enforcers. Critical reflection enables social work to contribute to the legal framework of social policy in many aspects that go beyond mere legislation, such as the compatibility of legal issues, the promotion of lobbying and the empowerment of people:

Social workers are not just lawyers working on people's problems. Social workers use a range of social science perspectives and research in their practice. As part of this process, social policy helps the critical practitioner understand the context of the practice (Adams, 2002: 4).

Social workers work with people in sensitive situations or social exclusion, which enables them to recognize their needs and to find solutions and opportunities to problems. For example, by trying to achieve or restore personal and social well-being as a result of their work (Beckett & Howe, 2009). According to Cardoso (2012), social assistance and social measures in society are presented in the context of the most vulnerable groups, which includes their acceptance and reactions in the field of social services, social facilities and social measures. "The globalization, economic and financial crisis is a systemic and constantly growing uncertainty" (Carvalho, 2016: 11).