Measuring distance to the SDG targets – Portugal

Portugal has already achieved 20 of the 129 SDG targets for which comparable data are available and, based on most recent trends, it is expected to meet 8 additional targets by 2030 (Figure 1). As virtually all OECD countries, Portugal has already met (or is close to meeting) most targets related to securing basic needs and implementing the policy tools and frameworks mentioned in the 2030 Agenda (see details in Table 1). Portugal also shows good outcomes when it comes to inclusion as well as air quality, renewables, waste and water sectors. Yet, challenges remain, most notably on the economic front.

This country profile provides a high-level overview of some of Portugal’s strengths and challenges in performance across the SDG Targets. As such, it differs from Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) or other reporting processes. To ensure international comparability, this assessment builds on the global indicator framework and relies on data sourced from the SDG Global Database and OECD databases. VNRs typically use national indicators that reflect national circumstances and are more up-to-date (See section How to read this country profile that provides some methodological details on country profiles).

Portugal shows good outcomes when it comes to air quality, renewables, waste and water sectors The use of renewable sources of energy is increasing and accounted for more than half of electricity generation and around one third of energy consumption in 2019 (Target 7.2). Portugal is also more energy-efficient than many of its OECD peers and displays a level of energy intensity below the OECD average (Target 7.3). When it comes to water (Goal 6), while there is scope to progress on water-use efficiency (the ratio of the value added to the volume of water use), Portugal shows relatively low levels of freshwater abstraction and water stress (Target 6.4). On waste and sustainable consumption (Goal 12), recycling and composting are increasing but the material recovery rate remains below the OECD average (Targets 11.6 and 12.5) and food waste also remains high (Target 12.2). Finally, air quality is good, with mean human exposure to PM2.5 in cities below the WHO-recommended level (Target 11.6) and low deaths and illness from pollution (Target 7.3).

Portugal shows several positive outcomes also on inclusion. Nine in ten Portuguese people believe that the country is a good place to live for racial and ethnic minorities (Target 10.3), and Portugal meets Target 10.7 on migration policies to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people. On Goal 5, Portugal has a comprehensive legal framework to promote, enforce and monitor gender equality in different areas (Target 5.1). Still, the gender gap in unpaid work is large, with women spending every day almost 4 hours more than men on care and domestic chores (Target 5.4) – although latest available data refer to 1999.

Despite good health status, behavioural risk factors and high out-of-pocket expenditures are a challenge to people’s health. Portugal appears to be at (or close to) many Goal 3 targets focusing on health. For instance, Portugal is close to meeting Target 3.3 on communicable diseases, with AIDS and Hepatitis B incidences well below the OECD average; Portugal also enjoys one of the highest immunisation rate (Target 3.b). Still, non-medical determinants of health such as poor diets, smoking and alcohol consumption are major drivers of morbidity and mortality. Adult smoking rate (Target 3.a) is high, at 14%, while around one third of the population is obese (Target 2.2). Near universal health care coverage is achieved but access to health services is more difficult for vulnerable groups and health expenditures exceed 10% of total household expenditures for around 18% of the population (Target 3.8).

There is scope for progress on land use and several environmental targets. Built-up area has been growing faster than the population (Target 11.3) and degraded land area accounted for a third of total land area in 2015 – the second highest share in the OECD after Mexico (Target 15.3). Portugal is also at median distance from Target 6.6 on water-related ecosystems. Between mid-1980s and 2015, 7% of permanent water had been converted to non-permanent water. Beyond land-use, Portugal also has some distance to travel to meet some targets related to policy implementation (e.g. Target 12.4 on chemical and hazardous waste, and 14.b on small-scale fisheries) and monitoring (e.g. Target 12.b on the implementation of accounting tools to monitor the economic and environmental aspects of tourism). As in most OECD countries, outcome measures confirm a significant loss in biodiversity (Targets 2.5 and 15.5).

Living standards are below the OECD average and financial transfers to other countries are limited. Portugal’s economy has grown at a relatively slow rate (Target 8.1) and labour productivity growth had been sluggish (Target 8.2). While Portugal has achieved one of the largest reductions in unemployment of any OECD country over the past decade (the unemployment rate is now slightly below the OECD average), average hourly earnings are half the OECD average (Target 8.5). In terms of financial flows for development, Official Development Assistance is only a fourth of the 0.7% of GNI target (Target 17.2). In addition, the high cost of sending remittances limits their full potential for recipient countries (Target 10.c). In terms of trade flows, Portugal ranks among the lowest in the OECD when it comes to duty-free treatment of imports from least developed and developing countries, with duty-free treatment applied to only half of the tariff-lines in 2019 (Target 10.a).

Portugal is also far from achieving some targets in the Peace category. Less than half of the population reported having confidence in the judicial system (Target 16.6). Distances are also large, but smaller than the OECD average, when it comes to Targets 16.3 on rule of law (with a low score in the World Justice Project's index on civil justice) and 16.7 on inclusive decision-making (with low score in the pilot index on diversity of the central government workforce).

Like in many other OECD countries, data availability remains a challenge when measuring distances to targets (see the Overview chapter for details). For Portugal, available data on the level of the different indicators allow covering 129 of the 169 targets. As shown in Figure 2 below, indicator coverage is uneven across the 17 goals. While nine goals (within the People, Planet and Prosperity categories) have most of their targets covered (the indicator coverage exceeds 80%), coverage is lower for Goals 11 on cities, 13 on climate action and 14 on life below water, with 60% or less of their targets covered. Data gaps become starker when focusing on performance indicators, excluding those providing contextual information. In this case, coverage exceeds 80% for only Goals 3 on health and 10 on inequalities. Moreover, for seven goals, mostly within the Planet category (Goals 12, 13, 14 and 15) but also in Goals 5 on gender equality, 11 on cities and 17 on partnerships, data are lacking to monitor changes over time for more than two in three targets.

While some SDG Targets are, on average, close to being met, performance is very uneven across the 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Table 1 presents an overview of Portugal’s progress towards targets based on available data for each of the 17 Goals. It shows that distances to Targets and trends over time differ significantly even when considering a specific goal.

The OECD report The Short and Winding Road to 2030: Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets evaluates the distance that OECD countries need to travel to meet SDG targets for which data are currently available. It also looks at whether countries have been moving towards or away from these targets, and how likely they are to meet their commitments by 2030, based on an analysis of recent trends and the observed volatility in the different indicators.

As most authors and international organisations, this report adopts a rather simple geometric growth model for assessing the direction and pace of recent changes in the context of the SDGs. Yet, instead of making direct estimates of the value of the indicator by 2030, it models the likelihood of achieving a specific level using Monte Carlo simulations.

While the report provides an overview of where OECD countries, taken as a whole, currently stand, country profiles provide details of the performance and data availability of individual OECD countries.

Progress on SDGs requires a granular understanding of countries’ strengths and weaknesses based on the consideration of the 169 targets of the 2030 Agenda. Figure 1 shows both current achievements (in the inner circle; the longer the bar, the smaller the distance remaining to be travelled) as well as whether OECD countries are on track (or are at least making progress) to meet their commitments by 2030 (in the outer circle).

The length of each bar shows current level of achievement on each target. As detailed in the Methodological Annex, countries’ distance to target is measured as the “standardised difference” between a country’s current position and the target end-value. For each indicator, the standardised measurement unit (s.u.) is the standard deviation observed among OECD countries in the reference year (i.e. the year closest to 2015). Therefore, the longer the bar, the shorter the distance still to be travelled to reach the target by 2030. The colours of the bars applied to the various targets refer to the goals they pertain to.

The outer ring shows how OECD countries are performing over time and how likely they are to meet the different targets by 2030 based on the observed trends of the various indicators. It uses stoplight colours to classify the progress towards the target:

  • green is used to indicate those countries that (based on the change in the different indicators over a recent period) should meet the target in 2030 just by maintaining their current pace of progress (i.e. more than 75% of (randomised) projections meet the target);

  • yellow for those countries whose current pace of progress is insufficient to meet the target by 2030 (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target, while the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is high and statistically significant, implying that a significant trend could be detected); and

  • red for those countries whose recent changes have been stagnating or moving them further away from the target (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target and the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is low or statistically insignificant, implying that no statistical trend could be identified).

With the aim of helping its member countries in navigating the 2030 Agenda and in setting their own priorities for action, this report relies on a unique methodology for measuring the distance that OECD countries have to travel to achieve SDG targets. The identification of the main strengths and challenges proposed in this report relies on current performances only:

  • A target is considered to be a strength when the distance to the target end-value is lower than 0.5 s.u. (i.e. the distance is deemed to be small) or when the country is closer to the target than the OECD average. For instance, while Korea's distance to Target 2.2 on malnutrition is 1.4 s.u. (i.e. classified as medium distance), the average OECD distance is 2.5 s.u. Therefore, Target 2.2 is categorised as being a strength for Korea.

  • A target is considered to be a challenge when the distance to target is greater than 1.5 s.u. (i.e. distance is deemed to be long) or when the country is further away from the target than the OECD average. For instance, Estonia's distance to Target 4.2 on pre-primary education is 1.1 s.u. (i.e. medium distance), which is higher than the 0.24 s.u. distance for the OECD average. Target 4.2 is therefore classified as a weakness for Estonia.

While the lack of consistent time series often prevents an exhaustive assessment of trends, they are discussed when available and relevant in nuancing the assessment of current performance.

In total, this report relies on 537 data series supporting 183 of the 247 indicators listed in the global indicator framework (or for close proxies of these indicators). These indicators cover 134 of the 169 SDG targets. Yet, target coverage is uneven across the 17 goals and among OECD member countries.

Figure 2 summarises data availability:

  • darker blue bars indicate the share of targets for which at least one indicator (including indicators providing context information) is available

  • lighter blue bars indicate the share of targets for which the available indicator(s) include those having a clear normative direction (i.e. allowing to distinguish between good and bad performance), which are the only ones used to measure distances to target levels.

  • medium blue bars indicate the share of targets for which progress over time can be gauged (i.e. at least three observations are available over a five-year period).

All methods and concepts are further detailed in the Methodological Annex.

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2022

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at