“We have to bring our talent home” says Secretary of State
Portugal’s secretary of state for labour Miguel Fontes is in Paris today to promote the government’s Regressar (‘Return’) programme focused on encouraging emigrés ‘home’ and which has already managed to do so in 15,500 cases since it was implemented.
“Today, all countries seek to attract people and we have a lot of talent scattered in different corners of the world”, he told Lusa.
“We have to do everything to attract those who left this country not by an act of will, but by circumstances of not finding at the time the opportunities in the labour market that they would have liked.
“Today the country has a very low unemployment rate; we have an economy that is growing and we have projects where (these people) can fit in,” he stressed.
The secretary of state’s first stop today is the Portuguese consulate-general in Paris, where he has a public information session planned to talk about the advantages offered by the Regressar programme.
Then at the weekend he will be addressing other bodies representing the Portuguese diaspora in France – one of the largest in the world (at least 600,000 people, not counting descendants).
According to data provided by Miguel Fontes, since 2019 when the Regressar programme was launched, authorities here have received around 15,500 applications from emigrés around the world: 11,200 have already been approved (70%), although it is not known how many are actually already living in Portugal. The largest number of applications has come from Switzerland, France and the United Kingdom, he told Lusa.
Currently, the programme offers tax and financial advantages, assistance in finding work, support in recognising qualifications and even language improvement for Portuguese people who want to return to the country, including the children of emigrés, who even if they have never lived in Portugal, want to settle in the country of origin of their parents or grandparents.
“The idea is to attract people already born in the countries of emigration, even though the overwhelming majority of those who have returned are people who left between 2011 and 2015″, said the secretary of State. “That is why it is important to hold these sessions in France to publicise this programme and show that even those who were born in other countries, who just have a desire to settle in Portugal, can do so.”
Among candidates for the Regressar programme, about 40% have higher education qualifications, a feature not lost on political leaders.
In order to attract emigrés and descendants of Portuguese living abroad – where wages are invariably higher than in Portugal – and in spite of data showing that in 2021 around 60,000 Portuguese left the country, Miguel Fontes insists the executive is “doing everything to retain young people in Portugal”.
“We have to act on all fronts and, therefore, we are making a determined effort to create the conditions for emigration not to happen. We have several measures underway in this direction, from wage increases for young people,” he said, adding the increasing offer of free child care and the fight against precarious employment.
“For Miguel Fontes”, says Lusa, this is the only way Portugal will be able to overcome its demographic quandary and win “the fierce fight” for talent.
“Today countries and organisations, in an economy based on knowledge, on information, need people, and qualified people. So there is a fierce fight for these people. We know that we have a demographic problem in Portugal and that we cannot overcome it just waiting for the cycle to reverse“, he added.