Down 14,400 inhabitants – but immigrants are staunching Portugal’s plummeting demographics

Portugal lost 14,400 inhabitants last year, but it could have been so much worse.

All reports stress the importance of immigrants which were up last year from 36,639 in 2017 to 43,170.

Explains Observador: “for the first time since 2011, the number of immigrants was higher than the number of people who left the country”.

Thus, although Portugal is still ‘losing’ its resident population – births are failing spectacularly to keep up with deaths – it is doing so “at a slower rhythm”, says the online paper.

The new data, published by statistics institute INE on Friday, showed that Portugal lost 18,500 people in 2017, but ‘only’ 14,400 in 2018.

Even so, the younger generation is ‘shrinking’: compared to 2017, the country registered 16,330 less children under the age of 15, while the over-65 age group increased by a hefty 30,951.

Looking a bit further down the line, the over-85s bracket also notched up sizeable numbers: compared with figures of a decade ago, there are now 310,000 more over-85s than in 2008.

The knock-on effect on ‘life expectancy’ figures has seen women in this country likely to reach their 80s (83.4 years, according to INE), while men are still straggling behind on 77.7 years.

This “demographic ageing” is mirrored by other countries in the EU, adds Observador, but Portugal’s situation is often seen as ‘more dire’ by dint of the fact that it now has less than 10.3 million inhabitants (almost 300,000 less than it did in 2009).

Looking ahead, the country is looking at dipping below the 10 million mark by 2033 – unless of course the migratory trend really picks up on ‘people coming in’.

Says tabloid Correio da Manhã: “The economy needs more immigrants”.

It’s a mantra touted by the Bank of Portugal which has recommended new incentives to attract age groups fit and ready to work. But for these to be successful, there have to be the jobs available – and with an economy that is slowing its pace, this is the big problem.

Back in January, Diário de Notícias reported that the creation of jobs in 2018 was “less than half that of 2017”.

Confusion over Brexit and “turbulences in international trade (with relations worsening between the United States and China” were two of the reasons given for lacklustre ‘business confidence’.

Said the paper, “beyond this there are signs that tourism is generating less return and that public investment, although growing, has come in far below what was promised” in 2018 “directly conditioning private investment and employment”.

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Photo: “A writer’s life: Road trip in Portugal