Portugal’s “economic upturn” fails to stem emigration

In the first six months of 2015, as many as 10,000 Portuguese joined the ranks of the hundreds of thousands that have left the country in the last four years. Almost all of them headed for Switzerland, which has seen the numbers of Portuguese immigrants living in the country increase every year since 2008.

Right now, there are over 262,000 Portuguese resident and working in Switzerland – but more to the point, the numbers leaving Portugal have “overtaken the growth observed in 2014”, reports Correio da Manhã in an article focused on demographics outlined at a congress in Lisbon last Friday entitled: “Return to the Future: new emigration and its relationship with Portuguese society”.

In the first indicator available for 2015, data from Swiss statistics agency Office Fédéral de la Statistique shows that 1,800 more Portuguese entered the country in the first six months of this year than in the same period in 2014 – when 7,600 chose to uproot their lives and move to Switzerland.

According to researcher Rui Pena Pires, Portuguese emigration is now a “structural characteristic” of our times, and will continue at a “very high rate”, with almost none of the émigrés returning – certainly not at an age where they would expect to be part of any labour force.

“In absolute terms” it “is greatest for the destinations of Luxembourg, France and Switzerland”, he told the conference at Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

The majority of Portuguese leaving in the hope of finding a better future seek work in sectors that here are in crisis: construction and hotel/restaurants – and they are buoyed by the existence of already well-organised Portuguese nuclei that “support new émigrés, making their journey less risky”.

And until politicians work out a way to attract people to work in this country, the situation will continue, he warned – as employment “is not growing” in Portugal and “salaries on average are decreasing”.

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