Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The subsistence and commercial activities of the Portuguese vary regionally. The Azores are largely agricultural, with some islands depending primarily on dairying and meat production and others on a combination of cattle raising, whaling, fishing, and smallscale agriculture (sugar beets, tea, tobacco, and vegetables). These activities have been supplemented by more than a Century of emigration to the United States. Madeira also relies on agriculture (wine, bananas, sugarcane), fishing, and whaling, in addition to small-scale cottage industry and tourism. The embroidery industry, introduced by an Englishwoman in the middle of the nineteenth century, employs approximately 70,000 female workers. Large numbers of Madeirans have emigrated to South Africa and, to a lesser extent, to Canada. The people of the Algarve are engaged in agriculture, fishing, and tourism. Cash-crop agriculture (wheat, olives, cork) predominates in the Alentejo. In central continental Portugal, a variety of irrigated grains (wheat, corn, rice) are cultivated on medium-sized family farms. The peasants of northern continental Portugal cultivate maize (rye in the northeast), potatoes, wine grapes, and vegetables. Many also raise dairy cattle. Along the coastline are populations engaged in fishing. Fish canning is an important export-oriented industry. Like the Azores, the local economies of northern Portugal have been supplemented by centuries of emigration, and as a result men have developed artisan skills as masons, carpenters, etc. Around the cities of Braga, Porto, and Guimarães there is a population of worker-peasants who are employed in the old and important textile industry. Furniture making, food processing, winemaking, and pulp and paper production are among the other industrial activities in this region. Heavier industry (steelworking, shipbuilding, iron production) and the bulk of the industrial working class are concentrated in the Lisbon-Setubal region in the south. In recent years, the construction industry has become important in several parts of the country.
In 1984 there were 4,695,700 Portuguese counted in the labor force. Of these, 22 percent were engaged in agriculture, forestry, and fishing; 22 percent in manufacturing; 13 percent in distribution and hotels; 8 percent in construction; 27 percent in other sectors; and 8 percent unemployed. The estimated national income per person was $1,820. Labor force figures frequently underestimate the participation of women who, since Roman times, have been making important Contributions to the rural economy of northern Portugal. Some anthropologists view these activities as the basis of significant economic and political power accorded to peasant women. Bourgeois and upper-class women, on the other hand, were at one time restricted to the domestic sphere. This situation has changed significantly in the last twenty years as women have received advanced education, professional training, and full legal equality.
Land Tenure. Portugal is characterized by significant regional variations in patterns of land tenure. In the Southernmost district of continental Portugal, the Algarve, landholdings are small and cultivated by owners, tenants, or sharecroppers. The region between the Algarve and the Tagus River, the Alentejo, has traditionally been a region of low population density, latifundia that originated in the Roman estate system, and landless day laborers. Prior to 1974, approximately 500 absentee landlords owned the bulk of the land and were disinterested in capital investment and agricultural development. The agrarian reform movement of the post-1974 period altered the system of land tenure in the south, though some of the early "revolutionary" expropriations have been restored to their original owners. By contrast, the north of the country is characterized by much greater Population density (higher in the northeast), land fragmentation, "minifundia" that originated with the system brought by the Germanic invaders of the fifth and sixth centuries, and subsistence peasants. These peasants ( lavradores ) own, rent, and/or sharecrop several fields scattered throughout a village and in neighboring villages. Most of the farms are of less than 3 hectares. Although they are not as numerous here as in southern Portugal, there is also a population of landless day laborers ( jornaleiros ) in northern Portugal, many of whom are women. Jornaleiros provide supplemental labor to the Peasant household. In the much less densely populated region of northeastern Portugal, ethnographers have described a form of communal property ownership and communal farming that survived well into the twentieth century.