Over 500,000 foreigners now resident in Portugal

Thanks to immigration, Portugal’s population has ‘grown’ for the first time in eight years.

Statistics published last week by national statistics institute INE show the nation’s population at the end of 2019 was up by 19,292 people, taking the global total to 10,295,909.

Areas registering the boost were those around the capital (+0.59%), in the autonomous region of Madeira (+0.12%), the north (+0.8%) and the centre (+0.3%).

At the other end of the scale the Algarve, Alentejo and autonomous region of the Azores all registered a drop in the resident population (-0.10%, -0.13% and -0,02% respectively) in comparison to figures for 2018.

But it has been the ‘first time’ that foreigners have exceeded the 500,000-mark (numbers stand at 590,398): meaning foreign residents now count for roughly 6% of the Portuguese population.

That said, a lot of them suffer social and economic problems. Portugal’s Migrations Observatory lists issues with access to housing, uncertainty over access to health care, low wages, the worst kind of jobs and greatest exposure to social exclusion. Over 25% of foreign residents live in overcrowded housing, for example.

Explain reports, the influx of foreigners mainly involves students, retired people and those rejoining families. Of the 5,565 residency visas conceded, “almost half represent students”.

Says the Migrations Observatory: “2019 was also marked by a large increase in requests to Portugal for international protection (1,272 requests in 2018 and 1,849 requests in 2019)”. 

And in spite of the high-profile arrival of small boat-loads of migrants from Morocco throughout the year, there has been a decrease in the concession of refugee status (283 refugees were taken in in 2018, only 183 in 2019) and in the extension of ‘subsidiary protection’ (405 people thus recognised in 2018, only 113 in 2019).

As to the kind of jobs Portugal’s foreign residents find, in the main these are within the hotel and restaurant sector, and poorly paid, says the Observatory. Indeed, foreign workers are habitually paid less than Portuguese workers.

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