"I'm not satisfied. Unemployment is still very high,” according to Portugal's prime minster in response to today’s Eurostat figures which showed the unemployment rate in Portugal fell to 15.4% in December 2013, the 10th consecutive fall.
Passos Coelho's curious admission of failure included a rare statement that Portugal had squandered opportunities created by European funds.
In the fortnightly debate in Parliament, Pedro Passos Coelho did admit that the downward trend is good for the country but he was not happy, "I'm not satisfied with this result in that 15.4% is still a very high unemployment level. So when we talk about young Portuguese, where the incidence is almost double, is almost intolerable."
"But we can not say we're worse off when we have less unemployment. I know that there are several theories concerning the decline in unemployment, but I have not seen any consistency to the drop that explains why the number of jobs has increased," he added.
The Eurostat figures show that at the end of last year Portugal had 819,000 people out of work. An estimated 120,000 people moved abroad in 2013, about the same as the year before, which has eased the unemployment figure to the delight of government and the upset of families whose wage earners have moved to where jobs are available.
The unions accused the government of trying to hide youth unemployment with stopgap solutions and advocate the extension of unemployment assistance to all unemployed workers who can no longer claim benefits.
The CGTP (Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses) today criticised the Government's launch of the "Youth Guarantee" programme and accused the government of trying to hide the reality of youth unemployment with stopgap solutions without real jobs at the end of the programme.
"The Government tries to hide reality with temporary jobs, internships and efforts to convince young people to start their own businesses in a country where the domestic market continues to decline," said the union, in a statement released today.
The union referred to Tuesday’s announcement of a €1.3 billion investment to support training and the creation of youth employment under a "Youth Guarantee" programme.
"Young workers know that despite this programme their employment problems are not solved," stresses the CGTP which advocates the repeal of the rules for fixed-term contracts for young people seeking their first job, as well as the possibility of extending the contract term beyond the time currently allowed by law.
The union also advocates the extension of unemployment benefits to all those unemployed workers who have exhausted unemployment benefits during the current crisis.