Active citizenship and Demographics: The case of Porto

Vijay Patel

The importance of citizenship in the 21st Century is increasingly evident. As a British national having recently migrated to Portugal, this has gained greater significance for me personally too. Last summer’s UK referendum result initiating Brexit has cast into doubt my associated European rights and freedoms. Growing up in London and being of Indian origin gave me a direct appreciation of population diversity. While working in higher education and in the charity sector, I developed an interest in strategies for enhancing social cohesion and integration. I often ask myself to what extent national and regional policies have facilitated my family’s assimilation into UK society.

Over the last 8 months I’ve participated in a number of active citizenship activities in Porto and come to appreciate numerous differences in approach between these two cities. The importance of citizenship in the 21st Century is increasingly evident. As a British national having recently migrated to Portugal, this has gained greater significance for me personally too. Last summer’s UK referendum result initiating Brexit has cast into doubt my associated European rights and freedoms. Growing up in London and being of Indian origin gave me a direct appreciation of population diversity. While working in higher education and in the charity sector, I developed an interest in strategies for enhancing social cohesion and integration. I often ask myself to what extent national and regional policies have facilitated my family’s assimilation into UK society. Over the last 8 months I’ve participated in a number of active citizenship activities in Porto and come to appreciate numerous differences in approach between these two cities.

UK arts funding strategies tend to allocate a significant amount of resources to minority groups (i.e. based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, disability and sexuality). Targeting activities in this way does exclude those outside specific communities. However, this approach can help to reach and engage marginalised communities which would not otherwise participate in civic life. National and regional plans are informed by a thorough understanding of population demographics. This systematic approach creates a culture whereby programmers consider not only their audiences, but also how diversity is reflected internally within their organisation.

Living in Portugal has made me curious about Porto’s population diversity and how this may influence programming. After doing some research I was surprised to learn that the Portuguese constitution forbids the collection of population data on race and ethnicity. To my knowledge, the rationale behind this principle is that the constitution maintains multiracial traditions, and that the choice not to monitor statistics in these categories is seen as the logical outcome of wanting to avoid racial prejudices. I believe this principle has also discouraged data gathering on other characteristics such as sexuality. This positioning makes it impossible to monitor disparities and inequalities for these important characteristics of self-identification.

Below is a summary of available demographics for Porto:
• In 2011 there were over 1.7 (1) million people living in the metropolitan area of Porto.
• The ratio of men to women for the whole country was 0.91:1 (2), however this ratio fluctuates across the life course. There were more males under the age of 14 (1:0.95). However, this reverses and becomes more pronounced in later life (0.69:1) with a far greater number of women over 65.
• There has been a dramatic increase in foreign citizens residing in Portugal. In 1992, 1.3% of the population were foreign (3); by 2007 this had grown to 4.1%. I suspect figures for Porto will be even greater as foreign citizens tend to settle in urban areas and this national figure doesn’t include illegal immigrants.
• In 2001 there were 104,649 (4) people with disabilities living in the metropolitan area of Porto.
• Literacy levels are particularly low in central Porto, e.g. 5.3% (5) of residents in São Nicolau are illiterate.

Further research and debate on demographics (including associated data collection topics, such as privacy, security and intent) will help to capture the changing face of Porto and may help to promote active citizenship initiatives and programming in Portugal as a whole.

 

Notes

(1)  “Indicator system: statistics Portugal.” Last modified November 20, 2012. (2) Indicator system: statistics Portugal.” Last modified November 20, 2012.
(3) População Estrangeira em Território Nacional” Last modified September 12, 2008.
(4) “População residente com deficiência segundo os Censos: total e por tipo de deficiência (1960-2001)” Last modified June 26, 2015.
(5) SABE QUAL É A FREGUESIA MAIS JOVEM DO PORTO E A MAIS ENVELHECIDA?” June 3, 2014.

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