‘It’s not right. One turns his back and, suddenly, there are 214,286 Portuguese missing’
(Miguel Cardoso, Portuguese journalist)
In the last 10 years, Portugal has lost 214,286 citizens (-2%) according to preliminary data from the 2021 Census, released on 28 July by the National Institute of Statistics (INE).
It is the second time that something like this has happened.
Since 1864, the Portuguese population has always grown. Except between 1960 and 1970, when – in the grip of a brutal dictatorship – a huge emigration wave swept a quarter of a million people out of the country. After the 70s, the numbers kept going up again, until now.
The main reason for the current decline is the tumbling fertility rate.
In the first six months of this year, 4500 fewer babies were born than in the same period last year. It is the lowest number in over 30 years.
Despite the fact that a record of almost 150.000 foreigners – mainly from Brazil and Israel – obtained Portuguese nationality in 2020, the positive migration balance of the last years proved not to be enough to compensate for the decline.
Only the Algarve (+3.7%) and the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon (+1.7%) are showing growth. Albeit at the expense of the interior parts of the country (Alentejo province – 6,9%), that continue to lose inhabitants in favor of coastal grounds.
Reduction in the asymmetry between the coast and the interior has been part of the political discourse for a long time. Census21 shows that that has been in vain.
The inner cities of Lisbon (-1,4%) and Porto (-2,4%) also show population decline. Exorbitant housing prices and dwellings being transformed into tourist accommodation, force an increasing number of residents to the outskirts.
Half of the country’s population (currently 10,3 million) is nowadays concentrated in municipalities located in the Metropolitan Areas of Lisbon and Porto; 28% in the Extended Lisbon Area (2,871,133) alone.
The rise in foreign residents (in particular from the UK) and expansion of the tourism industry, together with an increase in the intensive agricultural sector – and the considerable influx of migrant (mainly Asian) labor associated with this activity – probably explains the population boost in the Algarve.
‘If there is no reversal of the natural balance – particularly in births – we will become increasingly dependent on migration from abroad to save our population’, concludes Francisco Lima, CEO of INE.
Stay healthy Fique saudável (pic Público)