Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies

Multiculturalism Policies

in Contemporary Democracies

Multiculturalism Policies

in Contemporary Democracies

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flag of Portugal
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 1 3 3.5 3.5



    No constitutional recognition, but there are references to interculturalism in legislation, as well as creation of various institutional bodies.

Affirmation Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0.5 0.5 0.5


  • Although it has not been affirmed at a constitutional, legislative or parliamentary level, discourse in Portugal increasingly recognizes its transition from a country of emigration to one of immigration (Santos 2004). There are also references to interculturalism and intercultural dialogue in various pieces of legislation. For example, in 2001, the government passed Estabelece o estatuto legal do mediador sócio-cultural, which established the legal status of sociocultural mediators whose function it is to promote social cohesion, intercultural dialogue, inclusion, and respect for cultural diversity. The mediators are typically from immigrant or ethnic communities and operate largely in schools, social service agencies (including immigrant support centres), and other public bodies. In addition, in 1996, legislation to create a task force for equality and insertion of Roma noted that the principle of equality implies respect for cultural diversity, which is increasingly a feature of Portuguese society.
  • Nonetheless, Fonseca et al. (2005, 27) note that “despite referring to the respect for the immigrants’ social and cultural identity, the law on the role of the [Portuguese High Commission for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities] focuses on ‘the promotion of the knowledge and acceptance of the Portuguese language, laws, and also of the cultural and moral values of the Portuguese Nation as conditions for a complete integration.’”
  • At an institutional level, the position of High Commissioner for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities was created in 1996. In 2003, it was refashioned into a High Commission, and its responsibilities were expanded (Santos 2004); in 2007, it was renamed the High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue (ACIDI) and in 2014 became the High Commission for Migration (ACM). The ACM is responsible for immigrant integration and operates a number of National Immigrant Support Centres (CNAI), which use a “one-stop-shop” model to deliver services to newcomers. These include assistance related to health, education, banking, the labour market, and citizenship (Abranches 2009). The ACM also works to combat racism and discrimination, as well as collaborating with NGOs and immigration associations. The ACM supervises the Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination (CICDR), which collects data and provides policy recommendations on discrimination in Portugal (CICDR 2020). As Sardinha (2007) points out, the High Commission was created partly to ensure immigrant and minority communities could become partners in the policy process.
  • Related to this, there is an Advisory Committee for Immigration Affairs, which was created in 1998. Its structure was changed in 2002 to make it more of a government agency, and it was renamed the Consultative Council for Immigrant Issues (Fonseca et al. 2005). It worked to strengthen consultation and dialogue between the government and organizations that represented immigrants and ethnic minorities. It also issued statements related to migrant rights and participated in policy-making processes related to immigrant integration (Abranches 2009). Associations that were legally recognized by the High Commission had the right to participate in the Consultative Council and to be consulted on matters concerning immigrants and ethnic minorities (Sardinha 2009). The Consultative Council for Immigrant Issues went through further restructuring in 2014 where it was renamed the Council for Migration (Council for Migration 2020). It has a formal partnership with the ACM and it is required to produce opinions on draft legislation pertaining to migration. Its primary function is to participate in the policy process in regard to integration and social inclusion to ensure “cooperation with public and private entities in the definition and implementation of migration policies” (European Commission 2019e).
  • In 2017, Portugal also advanced new antidiscrimination legislation, Law 93/2017, which “establishes the legal regime for the prevention, prohibition and combating of discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, nationality, ancestry and place of origin” (Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers 2019). According to the European Commission Against Racial Intolerance (ECRI), the law established very progressive rules pertaining to the burden of proof in cases of discrimination and gave the ACM greater powers in investigating incidents of racial discrimination (ECRI Secretariat 2018).
  • The Strategic Plan for Migration (2015-2020) adopted by the Council of Ministers (No. 12-B/2015) also acknowledges the importance of antidiscrimination efforts in the integration process. Indeed, the first axis of the core priorities outlines the need to bolster antidiscrimination policies, as well as to “appreciate the value of cultural and religious diversity, strengthen social mobility, decentralise integration policies and to improve coordination between employment policies and access to common citizenship” (ACM 2015). 
  • Cities also play a critical role in the integration process in Portugal and many have adopted a number of initiatives pertaining to interculturalism. For example, Lisbon has formally adopted a policy of interculturalism and the local government maintains an intercultural city strategy (Council of Europe 2014). 



    Yes, although often positioned as “intercultural education programs.”

School Curriculum Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0.5 0.5 0.5


  • The Portuguese Constitution includes provisions related to equity and cultural diversity in schools. Article 73 stipulates that “everyone has the right to education and culture” and, further, “the State shall promote the democratisation of education and the other conditions that enable education, both at school and elsewhere, to contribute to equality of opportunity, to surmounting economic, social and cultural inequality, to the development of the personality and the spirit of tolerance, mutual understanding, solidarity and responsibility, to social progress and to democratic participation in public life” (quoted in Lima and Gomes 2010, 19).
  • In 1991, the government created a Coordinating Office for Multicultural Education Programs; in 2001, it was replaced by the Entreculturas Office (Council of Europe 2010). The role of the Coordinating Office (and, later, Entreculturas) was to support schools in addressing students’ increasing social and cultural diversity (Martins 2008). Between 1993 and 1997, the Intercultural Education Project was carried out in 50 schools and aimed to promote equal opportunities, the integration of minority children, and intercultural education (Martins 2008). From 2001 onward, intercultural curriculum and education programs were mainstreamed and implemented in schools across the country. At this point, Entreculturas also moved from the Ministry of Education to the High Commission for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities, and intercultural education became an important component of immigrant integration strategies (Ibid.). For example, the current Strategic Plan for Integration (2015-2020) outlines a number of initiatives for integrating intercultural education into the current curricula, including the development of intercultural education manuals and teacher training programs (ACM 2015). 
  • Intercultural education was formally acknowledged in recent changes to the Citizenship Education program (Directorate-General for Education 2013). In this context, intercultural education “promotes recognition and appreciation of diversity as an opportunity and source of learning for all,” and is intended to help students “develop the ability to communicate and encourage social interaction, which creates identities and a sense of belonging to humankind” (Ibid, 5). 
  • In addition to its recognition in Citizenship Education, the Department of Education also developed the “Intercultural School Seal/Label” program (Szelei et al. 2019; European Commission 2019f). Schools are evaluated on the extent to which they promote diversity in education and implement intercultural education strategies, receiving awards for their efforts. As Szelei et al. (2019) note, this program “aims at providing means for schools to critically examine and improve their practices toward interculturality, and to motivate schools to share knowledge and experience.” In addition to the seal/label program, the Network of Schools for Intercultural Education (REEI Program) is a collection of schools that promote intercultural education (European Commission 2019f). This program similarly allows schools to exchange ideas and practices. 



    Some provisions, although the emphasis remains on Portuguese language and culture.

Media Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0.5 0.5


  • Legislation that provided for the legal recognition of immigrant associations in 1999 granted them a right to participate in the process of assigning public broadcasting time (Sardinha 2007, 14-15). However, this legislation did not stipulate that ethnic minorities be represented in public media or media licensing, but merely that immigrant associations have a right to participate in public consultations relating to the allocation of public broadcasting times.
  • A new Television Law (Law 27/2007) was passed in 2007; it amends several earlier laws passed in the 1990s. Although the law does not specifically mention ethnic or cultural minorities, Article 6 does note that “the state, public service concession holders and other television operators shall collaborate in the pursuit of values of human dignity, the rule of law, democratic society and national cohesion, and in the promotion of the Portuguese language and culture, taking into consideration the special needs of specific groups of viewers” (emphasis added). Prior to the 2007 Television Law, there was no requirement that the media take into consideration the needs of particular groups ofviewers.
  • Article 9 of the Television Law further stipulates that “the purposes of general television program services are (a) to contribute to the information, education and entertainment of the public; (b) to promote the right to inform and be informed, accurately and independently, without impediments or discrimination; (c) engender the creation of habits for civic harmony appropriate in a democratic state and contribute to political, social and cultural pluralism; and (d) to promote Portuguese culture and language and the values that express national identity.” In this way, there are provisions related to respect for cultural pluralism, although the law does also emphasize the importance of promoting Portuguese culture.
  • This is confirmed in regulations related to programming content, which stipulate that at least 50 percent of the broadcasting air time must be allocated to Portuguese language programming and at least 20 percent for creative works in Portuguese. Non-Portuguese language programming must not exceed 25 percent of air time, and preference is to be given to European productions (Lima and Gomes 2010).
  • Nonetheless, Sardinha (2007) notes that once an immigrant association has been recognized by the High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue—a process provided for in Law 115/99 which was passed in 1999—it has the right to participate in public processes related to the allocation of public broadcasting time on radio and television.
  • Fonseca et al. (2005) also point out that the High Commission worked to increase ethnic representation in the media, most notably by producing documentaries and television programs that explore challenges faced by immigrants and minorities; these include the program entitled Nós (Us), which was broadcast on RTP 2, the Portuguese public television station.
  • RTP’s mission statement affirms that its media production is “for everyone,” including minorities, but notes that it is “strengthening national cohesion and identity, affirming the language, values ​​and customs” (RTP 2020). 




Exemption Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0 0


  • Portuguese law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity. Nonetheless, as Malheiros (2008, 43) points out, the Labour Code also provides that “difference in treatment shall not constitute discrimination if, by reason of the nature of the particular occupational activities concerned or of the context in which they are carried out, such a characteristic constitutes a justifiable and genuine occupational requirement.” In other words, if employers are able to justify differential treatment as necessary and related to occupational requirements, then it is permitted.
  • Malheiros (2008) further notes in his examination of anti-discrimination legislation in Portugal that he was unable to find any exceptions related to appearance or dress code in the case law on health and safety regulations. This suggests that employers would be permitted to enforce policies related to religious headgear or clothing so long as these could be justified as an occupational requirement or a matter of health and safety.
  • To date, there have been no bans (nor proposals for such policies) issued in relation to Islamic headscarves or veils in Portugal (Open Society Justice Initiative 2018). 




Dual Citizenship Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 1 1 1 1


  • In 1981, Portugal passed a law that would allow citizens who attained a foreign citizenship to nonetheless retain their Portuguese citizenship; prior to that, Portuguese citizens who attained another citizenship automatically lost their Portuguese citizenship (Faist and Gerdes 2008; see also United States Office of Personnel Management 2001).
  • A new citizenship law was passed in 2006. It expanded the right to acquire Portuguese citizenship, most notably allowing third-generation migrants to acquire Portuguese citizenship (third-generation migrants are those who are born in Portugal to a parent who was also Portuguese-born, but whose own parent(s) was foreign-born). Children who were born in Portugal to a foreign-born parent or parents were still prevented from becoming citizens until they satisfied residency requirements (Fonseca et al. 2005); the residency requirements, however, have been shortened to one year in the most recent changes to the citizenship policy (European Commission 2020c). 
  • While Faist and Gerdes (2008) position Portugal as a country that accepts dual nationality, they note that naturalization by immigrantsremains low because of the restrictions placed on attaining citizenship if one is not born in Portugal. Still, they categorize Portugal as having a “tolerant” citizenship law (as opposed to, say, Austria, which is regarded as “restrictive”).




Funding Ethnic Groups Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 1 1 1


  • Legislation to legally recognize immigrant associations in 1999 also made them eligible for state funding (Sardinha 2009, 125).
  • Sardinha (2009) notes that since 2000, the number of immigrant and ethnic associations in Portugal has increased significantly, in part because of the adoption of new funding initiatives. In particular, associations may apply for technical support and project funding through a program called GATAIME, which is the Portuguese acronym for the Immigrant Associations Technical Support and Grants Office or Gabinete de Apoio Técnico às Associações de Imigrantes e Minorias Étnicas; the program is administered by the High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue and now the ACM (Sardinha 2009). In a report on civic engagement in Portugal, Sardinha (2007) notes that in between July 2002 and February 2005, the High Commission granted 88 financial requests to 44 immigrant associations; 43 ofthe grants were one-off, while the remaining 45 were renewable on an annual basis. Altogether, the High Commission distributed about €962 million to immigrant and minority associations in the period under examination.
  • At present, the Support Program for Immigrant Associations (PAAI) and the GATAI offer a wide array of funding and training support to immigrant associations and their volunteers (ACM 2020b). Funds are used to support intercultural initiatives, antidiscrimination efforts, integration activities and services, and more. 
  • There are also programs that offer funding to support the placement of socio-cultural mediators in the country’s immigrant service centres; these are employees of various immigrant associations who are remunerated by the High Commission to assist with intercultural dialogue, translation and interpretation in the immigrant service centres (Sardinha 2009).



No. Where courses exist, the objective seems largely to be the learning of Portuguese.

Bilingual Education Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0 0


  • Prior to 2000 when several changes to immigration laws were adopted, the bulk of immigrants to Portugal were Portuguese-speaking. Increasingly, however, immigrants are arriving from China, Eastern Europe and other non-Lusophone countries, and schools are having some difficulties adapting to their new student bodies. Several schools are apparently offering Portuguese classes that are tailored to students who speak a foreign language, but it is not clear that the classes are specifically bilingual or offered partially in the students’ mother tongues (Fonseca et al. 2005).
  • Lima and Gomes (2010, 37) further report that “The Ministry of Education provides specialist language learning support to those whose mother tongue is not Portuguese (with the possibility of providing tutors and involvement in specific projects).”
  • In their recent study of migrant students’ experiences with heritage language use and maintenance in Portuguese schools, Faneca et al. (2016) highlight the lack of policies pertaining to heritage language and multilingual education in the current curriculum. Although migrant students value their heritage languages and feel it is important in shaping their interactions with others in schools, schools and teachers have limited training and experience with how to best support heritage language use in the classroom. Faneca et al. (2016, 47) assert that “the absence of initial training for PSL [Portuguese Second Language] teachers and the lack of educational policies favoring multilingualism inevitably affect how these students are integrated into schools and therefore their academic success.” 



    No formal policy.

Affirmative Action Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0 0


  • Portugal has a legal framework that prohibits discrimination on a number of grounds. This includes Law 18/2004 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, skin colour, nationality, and ethnic origin. Article 3(1) provides that “for the purpose of this law the principle of equality of treatment means the absence of any discrimination, direct or indirect, based on racial or ethnic origin,” while Article 3(2) notes that “all actions or omissions affecting persons on the grounds of race, skin colour, nationality or ethnic origin which violate the principle of equality are considered as discriminatory practices” (quoted in Malheiros 2008, 3).
  • The Labour Code, which was passed in 2003, protects individuals against direct and indirect discrimination on the basis of ancestry, age, sex, sexual orientation, civil status, family situation, genetic patrimony, impaired work capacity, disability or chronic disease, nationality, ethnic origin, religion, political or ideological persuasion and membership of a trade union (Malheiros 2008).
  • Article 25 of the Labour Code provides that “legislative measures of a specifically defined temporary nature, benefiting certain disadvantaged groups, including groups defined by reference to sex, reduced working capability, disability or chronic illness, nationality or ethnic origin, enacted with the aim of guaranteeing the exercise, in conditions of equality, of the rights provided for in this code and of correcting a situation of factual inequality persisting in social life, shall not be considered discriminatory” (quoted in Malheiros 2008, 57). This suggests that affirmative action policies would be permissible if they are aimed at correcting existing inequalities. However, as Malheiros (2008) points out, this provision of the code has not been implemented.
  • Still, in the act that was passed to establish the legal status of sociocultural mediators, it is noted that recruitment will give preference to those who belong to immigrant or ethnic communities or who possess knowledge of the socio-cultural characteristics of target communities. While not an affirmative action policy per se, this assertion would give some preference to immigrant and ethnic minority groups.