Title Portugal – An in-depth analysis of the emigration of skilled labour
Authors Rui Pena Pires, Cláudia Pereira and Joana Azevedo
Publisher Directorate DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
Key-words emigration, skilled labour, Portugal
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“Following a downturn after 25 April 1974, Portuguese emigration grew steadily once the country joined the EU in 1986 and has accelerated since 2000. The economic trends of stagnation and downward pressure on public investment that followed Portugal’s accession to the Euro generated increased emigration during the first two decades of the 21st Century, mainly due to worsening labour market conditions (Pires et al. 2015; Peixoto et al. 2016). This increase was interrupted by the financial crisis of 2008-10 but reinforced during the fiscal consolidation of 2011-14. Portuguese emigrants in the 21st Century are more qualified than previously (Pires et al. 2011). However, the available data do not allow us to assess whether emigrants are more qualified than the Portuguese population at large, also more qualified than it was in earlier decades. Up until the last national census (2011), the share of people with tertiary education among the emigrant population grew at a similar rate as the share of people with tertiary education living in Portugal. But with the collapse of the flow of unqualified Portuguese emigration to Spain after 2008 and increasing emigration to new destinations such as the UK, it is possible that the structure of the emigrant population by qualification level has changed (Pires et al. 2015; Peixoto et al. 2016). The intensification of the growth of emigration this century and its recent stabilisation at a high level have helped to aggravate regressive trends in the Portuguese demography. Portugal today is a country with high emigration, low immigration, low birth rate and fast ageing. The migratory and birth-death rate balances are negative and the population has already begun to decline. At a more cyclical level, job creation only resumed in 2014, accompanied by a fall in unemployment. The recent dynamics of economic growth in Portugal are, however, still too recent and emergent to reverse the negative migratory balance and to avoid potential shortages of skilled and unskilled labour short-term.”