Home / News / Publications
An in-depth analysis of the emigration of skilled labour
Paper co-authored by Rui Pena Pires, Cláudia Pereira and Joana Azevedo, researchers from Emigration Observatory (OEm), of the Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology (CIES-Iscte), Iscte, University Institute of Lisbon, focused on Portuguese qualified emigration. This study is part of the national publications on skilled labour emigration in 13 EU countries, edited by the European Commission's European Centre of Expertise (ECE) in the field of labour law, employment and labour market policy.

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
Date  2018
Key-words emigration, skilled labour, Portugal

Article available for download on the left side of the page.

Articles referent to other countries available here.


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.

Observatório da Emigração Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia
Instituto Universitário de Lisboa

Av. das Forças Armadas,
1649-026 Lisboa, Portugal

T. (+351) 210 464 322

F. (+351) 217 940 074

Partners Support
ceg Logo IS logo_SOCIUS Logo_MNE Logo_Comunidades