The first results of Portugal’s recent census show that the country has lost 214,286 citizens since 2011.This may not sound like a great deal, but for a country that has been steadily shrinking for years it is a “disaster”, warns TV pundit and former leader of the PSD party Luís Marques Mendes.
Unless something changes radically, Portugal is on course for a situation in just a few decades time where the Social Security system will simply break down.
“Where will the pensions come for the young people who are starting to work today?” Mr Mendes quizzed in his habitual Sunday slot on SIC television.
“Portugal has a lot of problems, but this is the biggest”, he insisted.
“If this tendency continues, we will be facing a demographic disaster, an economic disaster – and a disaster for the Social Security system” quite apart from what he called a “terrible blow to national self-confidence”.
The recent census has shown that roughly 50% of the population live in just 31 municipalities (click here).
The current population of 10,347,892 people is lower than totals back in 2001 – and the latest fall in is on a scale unseen since the middle of the last century, when Portugal was in grinding poverty in the grip of a long, hard dictatorship.
A national agreement has to come, in Luís Marques Mendes’ opinion, uniting all political parties – from the President of the Republic down to local municipalities – in an effort to promote population growth, both nationally and through policies supporting qualified immigration.
It’s a huge task but it is absolutely necessary to avoid the point where in perhaps 40 years time the country will have shrunk to just eight million citizens.
Reinforcing this point came news on Monday that the number of births in the first quarter of 2021 was the lowest for the last 30 years – a reduction by 4,400 infants on numbers born during the same period in 2020. And the northern interior regions of Bragança (with just 253 babies born), Portalegre (with 269) and Guarda (with 282) show how deeply desertification is already biting.
As for totals, the figure for babies born in Portugal during the first quarter of 2021 was 37,700.
To get an idea where that puts the country on a global scale (babies born per 1,000 population) click here. In a table of 227 countries and principalities, Portugal comes in at 219th slot.