Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
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[LINK] A New Wave of Portuguese Emigrants?

The Inter Press Service news agency reports, in Mario de Queiroz's article "Economic Woes Could Spur New Boom in Emigration," that, in the wake of Asian competition and the migration of many factories from Portugal to cheaper destinations in central and eastern Europe, the Portuguese are beginning to emigrate in large numbers.

The impact of factory closures on the economy, particularly in northern Portugal, has forced a growing number of people to move abroad, a practice that had almost disappeared over the last three decades.

In the Ave and Cavado valleys of northern Portugal, the heart of the country's textile industry, a average of 88 people a day sign off from unemployment insurance because they are about to emigrate.

The National Institute of Statistics (INE) reports that in this region alone, 39,000 people in 2004 and another 10,000 so far this year stopped collecting unemployment insurance after deciding to leave the country.

Portugal's long tradition of emigration has been traditionally associated with the country's poverty relative to the rest of western Europe. These new patterns of population movement are rooted in the new patterns of employment created since Portugal's evolution into a First World democracy, with the country still attracting almost as many residents via immigration as it loses natives to emigration.

Britain, already home to 250,000 Portuguese immigrants, and Northern Ireland, with 25,000, are the two most popular destinations for Portuguese workers today, according to INE statistics.

Another major destination is Switzerland, which received 135,000 Portuguese immigrants between 1998 and 2002. The total number of Portuguese immigrants was estimated to have reached 160,000 last year.

Emigration from Portugal reached its peak between 1965 and 1973. By the end of this period, there were a total of five million Portuguese living in other countries around the world, an extraordinarily high number given the fact that the population of Portugal totals 10.2 million.

Of the total, two million emigrated to other countries in Europe, 1.3 million to Brazil, 600,000 to South Africa, 400,000 to Venezuela, and 300,000 to the United States.

In 1974, the so-called Carnation Revolution - an essentially bloodless left-wing military coup that toppled the dictatorship installed in Portugal in 1926 - brought an end to the mass exodus.

By 1992, when national borders within the EU were thrown open, Portuguese emigration had reached an extremely low level, and practically no statistics were compiled from that point onwards, since citizens of any EU member country are free to work anywhere within the bloc.

Nevertheless, growing economic problems and low salaries have led increasingly large numbers of people to leave the country in recent years, a decision that has also been encouraged by the rise in the standard of living since Portugal entered the EU in 1986.

Many Portuguese are reluctant to take on low-paying, unskilled work, and leave these jobs to the country's 600,000 immigrants, particularly those from Portuguese-speaking former colonies like Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe and East Timor, or eastern European countries like Ukraine, Moldavia, Russia, Romania and Bulgaria.

Because of the free movement of workers within the EU, taking up residence in another country in the bloc is an easy task. The motive for doing so is overwhelmingly economic.

Portuguese workers can earn three times as much doing the same job in Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands, where prices for basic consumer goods are roughly the same as in Portugal. In Spain, where food and utilities are significantly less expensive, they can earn twice as much.

While France and Germany were formerly the primary destinations for Portuguese emigrants, their preference appears to have shifted to Britain, given the almost non-existent rate of unemployment and the fact that it is the most expensive country in the EU, translating into higher salaries relative to the countries of origin of foreign workers.
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