More than 10% of babies born in Portugal in 2018 have foreign mothers. This jewel of information about a country where the native population has been relentless shrinking for years has injected a massive dollop of hope onto the rather dry horizon of data collection.
Analysts see immigration as the answer to recovering population numbers.
“We’re always so concerned with the budget deficit, but a population deficit is very important in terms of the future”, explains Gonçalo Saraiva Matias, a specialist in the ‘right to migration’ and member of the administrative council of the Francisco Manuel dos Santos foundation.
Right now, Portugal continues to lose people – meaning deaths outweigh births – but we’re losing less, he explained. “And the only viable solution for reverting this tendency in the short-term is through migrations”.
“Policies to encourage people to have children are important, but they take their time to make an effect”, he stressed.
Saraiva Matias believes that if immigration continues at the rate it is today (43,170 new residents entered the country in 2018), Portugal could reach a stage where deaths do not outweigh births “in the next two to three years”.
And if immigration was to increase – (the government this week announced that it would be scrapping immigrant quotas altogether next year…) – ‘stabilisation’ in demographic terms could happen even sooner.
For now, Portugal remains the EU country with the lowest per capita proportion of foreign residents (4.1%).
To put this into context, the next country down the list is Hungary (on 1.7%), a member state that actively discourages migration.
But as low down the line as it may be, Saraiva Matias explains that Portugal is pegged second in the European ranking of countries that offer the best ‘quality of legislative integration, MIPEX’. (Sweden is in the top slot).
As to the nationalities of foreign mothers whose children born here are instantly Portuguese, they vary.
Says Diário de Notícias: “of the 477,472 foreigners legally registered in 2018, 104,504 are Brazilian, followed by Cape Verdians (34,444), Romanians (30,908), Ukrainians (29,197), French (19,771 – which is 400% more than numbers in 2008) and Nepalese (on 11,487 these have literally boomed in the last few years, rising in 1950% over the last decade, thanks, explains Saraiva Matias to the agricultural work in the hectares of greenhouses around Odemira).
Bizarrely, the number of Britons isn’t mentioned although it is in the high 40,000s, and numerous British mothers do give birth here to ‘Portuguese’ children.
Indeed, numbers coming out of Pordata (Portugal data) show the areas of ‘greatest fertility’ for foreign mothers in 2018 were the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon and the Algarve.