News Analysis: Portugal's opposition party accuses ruling Social Democrats of manoeuvre on unemployment rate

LISBON, June 3 (Xinhua) -- Portugal's opposition Communist Party accused on Tuesday the ruling Social democrats of manoeuvre on the unemployment rate which the Eurostat revealed had dropped from 17.3 percent last year to 14.6 percent, the biggest fall in decades since 1984.

"CDS (Social Democrats) considers that these statistics are significative: they represent a drop in unemployment consecutively for 15 months," MP Nuno Magalhaes told journalists following the announcement by Eurostat.

He added this "consistent decrease" in Portugal was not present in countries like Spain or Greece.

"Youth unemployment, which continues to preoccupy us, also dropped by 4.2 percentage points. Even in the most affected segment of society, also the most qualified, there was also a significant reduction. Therefore, presented with this data, there is evidence the country is recovering economically after an extremely harsh financial program," he added.

However, he was confronted with the notion that unemployment figures had dropped due to mass emigration.

"This approach does not pay tribute to the effort carried out by employees and business people," said Magalhaes.

Finally admitting that mass emigration was a reality in Portugal, he said: "This phenomenon of emigration already existed a year ago and probably with more effects, when the tax rate was 17.2 percent.

"Unemployment is the government's biggest challenge, but there has been a consecutive drop in unemployment for 15 months, with the country converging with the EU average, and diverging significantly with Greece and Spain."

The Portuguese Communist Party accused the government of "manoeuvre" in reducing the unemployment figures, saying the statistics didn't correspond with the reality of the job crisis.

"We are facing manoeuvre on behalf of the government in the sense that it is artificially lowering the registered employment statistics, which doesn't correspond at all with the country's reality," Communist Party MP Jorge Machado told journalists at parliament, after the Eurostat bulletin was released.

He said the registered youth unemployment rate of 36 percent was "totally unacceptable" and that unemployment continued "at levels too high" to "claim victory" in the debt-laden country.

He said around 8,000 people disappeared from statistics "from one month to the next" not only due to mass emigration but also because they were undertaking vocational training or because of a reduction in Portugal's active population.

The number of Portuguese employees who left the country hit an annual high last year, with around 10,000 people leaving the country each month, according to Portugal's national institute of statistics (INE), a different kind of emigration than that from the 1960s, with most people being highly qualified, leading to the "brain drain" phenomenon.

The Portuguese economy is still weak but has shown signs of improving, with the national statistics body announcing last month that the country's economic activity grew to the highest rate since August 2010.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) expects the Portuguese economy to grow more than 1.1 percent in 2014, compared to 0.4 percent six months ago.

However, harsh austerity is being implemented in Portugal even following its recent "clean exit" from the bailout program with international creditors it signed in May 2011, meaning the working and living conditions of the Portuguese have worsened considerably.

The Portuguese Communist Party has insisted the government renegotiates its debt and last week presented a motion of censure, claiming the European Parliament elections results showed the ruling party had lost its "legitimacy to govern."