First, it may seem that immigrants are needed and important for all countries of the world because, in addition to providing their labor skills or even high qualifications, foreigners enhance the local culture, making society more sincere and multinational.
In the 21st century, finding any civilized and developed country where foreigners are banned is pretty challenging because when we come to a new state as tourists or for permanent residence, we bring our knowledge, experience, and, of course, money.
However, it is essential to understand what exactly awaits foreigners upon arrival in this small and sunny country on the edge of Europe to answer the question "Does Portugal need immigrants?". How immigrants are treated in Portugal, what kind of work and support from the state you can count on - we will discuss this in more detail in our new article.
Facts and legislation
You can arbitrarily argue whether Portugal needs immigrants, but let's look at the simple facts and the latest changes in immigration law.
Amendments to the law Lei 23/2007 came into force in October 2022, which in Portugal is also called the "Law on foreigners", and we can note the following things among them:
- The emergence of a special visa for seeking employment in Portugal;
- The emergence of a visa for freelancers and digital nomads.
May that indicate that Portugal needs immigrants?
We can also reflect the program of "golden visas in Portugal", which "they are going to close", but for some reason, they cannot terminate it because the country is still interested in foreign investors and their investments in the country's economy.
Therefore, if we proceed only from simple facts and recent legislation changes, we can say that Portugal is in great need of immigrants. Why? Let's figure this out together.
Reason №1: The declining population of Portugal
The 2021 census demonstrated a very disappointing trend.
According to the 2021 census, about 10 million people lived in the country, which is 2.1% less than 10 years ago. At the same time, the share of the able-bodied population (from 15 to 64 years old) employed in the labor market is only 63.7% of the total.
Such a population decline cannot be compensated even by a massive influx of foreign immigrants, and the country has 771,000 immigrants, according to the census.
Why is the population of Portugal declining? There are only two reasons.
The first reason is the emigration of the Portuguese themselves to other countries. According to the portal Pordata, more than 1 million Portuguese emigrated to other countries from 2011 to 2021, which is 10% of the country's total population. Even in 2020 and 2021, at the rise of the pandemic, 134,192 Portuguese left the country despite various travel restrictions.
It seems to me that this is fundamental data, and it is important for the readers of our article to answer this question for themselves: what made 10% of the indigenous population of Portugal leave their native country, where there is always fine weather, and there are no natural, military and any other disasters and catastrophes?
If you can clearly and confidently answer this question, congratulations, this is not your first article read on WithPortugal, and you perfectly understand the condition of the Portuguese economy. On the other hand, if you cannot answer this question, then perhaps it is too early for you to think about immigrating to Portugal for your own well-being.
The second reason that provokes a decline in the population is a decrease in the birth rate. There was a 5.9% drop in the birth rate in 2021, according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE). This figure is the lowest ever since 1960.
Again, young Portuguese are in no hurry to have children, given the level of salaries and the economy's condition.
As a result, it turns out that young and active Portuguese leave the country in search of a better life, and those who remain decide not to have children. Consequently, according to statistical forecasts, we are witnessing a slow but constant decline and aging of the population in Portugal, which will only get worse in the next 30-50 years.
In this situation, the government has no choice but to try to attract foreign immigrants to compensate for the loss of the local population.
Reason №2: Labor shortage
The labor shortage problem is also critical in various regions of Portugal. That may be why an absolutely unprecedented and never-before-existing visa for seeking employment in Portugal was introduced in 2022.
Perhaps the reader of this article expects to read the information that the country needs marketers, designers, and other office workers, but the problem of staff shortages mainly affects the catering sector (restaurants and cafes), hotel business, and construction.
Recently, the Association of Hotels and Restaurants in Portugal (AHRESP) stated that the country lacks at least 40,000 workers to fill existing vacancies in this sector, and this shortage is especially critical in the summer season.
According to Manuel Campos, president of the Portuguese Confederation of Construction and Real Estate (CPCI), the construction sector needs more than 70,000 workers.
That is, Portugal lacks more than 100 thousand workers to work in the restaurant and hotel business, as well as in the specialization of construction.
Why are these vacancies not filled by the Portuguese themselves? Maybe because they want to do something other than low-skilled and hard work with a minimum salary, which for 2022 is a little more than 700 euros?
I think this is an essential thing to think about for people who are considering Portugal for immigration and looking for work as an employee.
Frankly speaking, it should be said that there is also a shortage of highly qualified specialists in the area of IT in Portugal. Sure, salaries may surprise you, but the demand for specialists in this occupation in Portugal is still extremely high.
How is Portugal ready to help immigrants?
Realizing that Portugal really needs immigrants, it is essential to answer the question, how is the country ready to help foreigners who decide to move?
Among the main support measures, we can note the following:
- The implementation of new resident visas, which we wrote about above, as well as the simplification of obtaining visas at the consulates of Portugal;
- Providing free full-time state classes of the Portuguese language to everyone;
- Providing an opportunity to participate in various government programs. So, for example, if you want to live, work or create your business in the interior regions of Portugal, you can count on a subsidy in the amount of 2,659-4,875 euros, according to the Emprego program Interior MAIS. There are a lot of such programs in the country, and it is extremely pleasant that native Portuguese and foreign immigrants can participate in them without any restrictions.
Someone may argue that these measures are not enough. Still, it is important to understand that you won't even have the opportunity to learn the local language for free in many European countries, so Portugal is taking at least minimal steps in this direction, allowing foreigners to go through a more comfortable adaptation.
What problems do immigrants most often face?
Sure, on the way of every immigrant, there are a number of problems in Portugal related to the local mentality and the way things are done here.
If you are arranging to immigrate to Portugal, then be prepared to face the following issues:
- Problems with the SEF migration service. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the country have been waiting for months and years for paperwork to be processed by the SEF, which will be reorganized in 2023. It still needs to be made clear whether any improvements can be expected after the reorganization of the SEF, but the fact that this organization is not viable and ineffective is clear to every immigrant in Portugal.
- Problems with bureaucracy and various processes. The fact that everything is done slowly in Portugal is known to everyone, and this is due to the unhurried rhythm of life in the country. For an immigrant, this becomes even more tragic because it will often be challenging to find someone who can speak to you in English, even in support of large companies. Have you rented an apartment in Portugal and want to connect water, gas, electricity, and internet? If you are lucky, this can be done in a couple of days, and if not, then be prepared to hang on the telephone line for hours, waiting for a connection for a week or two. Unfortunately, not all immigrants are ready for such a system, so this is another possible problem.
- Xenophobia also exists in Portugal, as in any other country in the world. Yes, the locals are not aggressive here, and it is unlikely that they will look askance at you on the street just because you are a foreigner. Nevertheless, they may well try to deceive you, or they will treat you with prejudice. The Portuguese will never openly show you that they don't like foreigners, but in speaking to their family and friends, they often talk negatively about foreigners, refugees, and even tourists. I think this is due to the historical past, the conservative mentality of the locals, and the fact that most Portuguese have never been abroad due to their financial situation.
Being the author of the portal WithPortugal, and being in Portugal for more than 8 years, I would like to share my personal opinion, which is hardly the most popular among the immigrant community.
Living in some country for such a long time, you become attached to a particular place and automatically wish it prosperity and all the best. I have never considered Portugal a "cash cow" or springboard because so many people come here only to get Portuguese citizenship in 5 years, and then never return here again. I came to Portugal 8 years ago because I was just in love with this country as a tourist, and recently I could not help but observe the negative dynamics in Portuguese society. Now I am hurt and offended by the picture I see.
The Portuguese leave their native country in search of a better life. 20% of the Portuguese live outside Portugal, and a massive number of people will most likely never return here, except perhaps for retirement. Finding a job in the country is complex, and a good and well-paid job is almost impossible.
About 10 million people live in the country, and almost 1 million of them are immigrants. Now, in the major cities of Portugal, you are 90% likely to be served by a Brazilian rather than a Portuguese. Is it possible that in a few decades in Portugal, the Portuguese will be a minority, and Portugal will turn into a country of immigrants?
Anyway, the Portuguese government doesn't reduce taxes, build new companies, or open new factories and production to create more jobs and stop the drain of "brains" and personnel from the country. The government is not working on a significant increase in income and living standards of the population, which is why young families prefer not to have children, because it is often quite difficult to feed themselves.
Instead, Portugal decided to attract freelancers and digital nomads from all over the world who already have remote work and will be able to spend money earned elsewhere in Portugal to apply for citizenship in 5 years, and after that, leave Portugal forever, moving to a more developed country.
For freelancers and remote workers worldwide, this is an excellent opportunity to become an EU citizen, but what will happen to Portugal in the long run? What should people do who want not only to live in Portugal but also to work on its territory as employees?
Portugal has been on the "Tourism trainspotting" for a very long time, working for the most part only for tourists and their requests. And now, the country is slowly becoming a giant "hotel", inviting foreigners for several years, exchanging their money spent over 5 years for Portuguese citizenship.
Will Portugal be able to find another way of development? Will this country be able to become an exciting and promising place to live not for a couple of years but for more extended periods? While I do not have answers to these questions, as I wrote above, I would like these dreams to become a reality in the future.
Portugal really needs foreigners
And this is true, given the low birth rate, the emigration of the Portuguese to other countries, and the shortage of personnel in many occupations. But this need also has a downside, expressed in low salaries, low-skilled work, and other problems.
Immigrants are essential and needed in any country, but as an immigrant, you can choose the place that best suits your criteria.
We hope this article has helped you better understand why Portugal needs immigrants and what is the reason for this need.
We wish you good luck no matter what country you choose for immigration!