Portuguese migration ‘at crunch point’

As more and more Portuguese flee their home country, experts agree that the situation has reached crunch-point. Since the start of the crisis, more than 400,000 working men and women have left the country – an exodus similar to that of the 60s, where nationals left en-masse to escape the bleak prospects of dictatorship.
“It’s dramatic,” researcher João Peixoto told Público newspaper. “But in the 60s there were over 200,000 children being born in Portugal every year. Now we’re down to 80,000-90,000 and the tendency is to drop even below these numbers.
“In other words, it’s a demographic alarm.”
The subject is due to be debated this week in Lisbon as experts convene for an international conference on Portugal’s crunch-point situation.
The problem is compounded by the fact that whereas other countries that lose nationals to emigration attract immigrants, Portugal is losing on this score too.
Rui Pena Pires of the Emigration Observatory told Público: “In other countries affected by the crisis, like Ireland and Greece, emigration has also increased but Ireland continues to receive immigrants and Greece too, because they are geographically a point of entry to Europe.”
Portugal’s lack of allure for migrants from other countries places it in “the group of Bulgaria, Romania and Lithuania”, adds Pena Pires.
“The only countries that have higher levels of emigration in Europe are those of the eastern bloc, and not because of the crisis. It is because of the opening of frontiers.
“Among the countries of the OECD most affected by the crisis, Portugal is the one where emigration is highest – and it is the one also where emigration is growing.”
Intriguingly, add the experts, the UK is the country to which most Portuguese are fleeing. “And we’re not just talking about qualified people,” stresses João Peixoto. “The majority of people leaving the country continue to be poor, with low levels of schooling, just as they were in the 60s.”
According to statistics for 2013, Britain took in over 30,000 Portuguese nationals – 50% more than entered the country in 2012.