Emigration down 10% in 2017; UK still top destination despite 26% drop

  • ECO News
  • 17 December 2018

Around 90,000 Portuguese nationals emigrated from the country in 2017, with the UK remaining the main destination, according to the latest official report on emigration, released this Monday.

The Emigration Observatory’s report showed that Portuguese emigration reached its peak this century in the year 2013 with 120 thousand people leaving the country — since that year, the number of emigrants has been decreasing, standing now at 90,000 Portuguese nationals emigrating from the country in 2017. 

According to the document, which compiles data for 2017 from the countries where it is available, “Portuguese emigration continues a sustained downward trend” that it says relates closely to “the recovery of the Portuguese economy, especially at the level of job creation” and a drop in unemployment, with the “revitalisation of the labour market “.

The trend, says the report, which was drafted by Observatório de Emigração (Emigration Observatory), was also driven partly by the “reduction of the attraction of countries of destination such as the United Kingdom, due to the ‘Brexit’ effect, and Angola, due to the economic crisis” triggered by the drop in the price of crude oil.

Emigration has been falling since 2013, when it peaked at 120,000, the highest this century, before falling to 115,000 in 2014 then 110,000 in 2015 and 100,000 in 2016.

Although Portuguese emigration to the UK last year, at 22,622, was 26% down on the 2016 figure of 30,543, that country remains the prime destination “a very long way ahead of the other most important destinations”.

One of the largest drops was in Angola, down 24% in 2017 (to 2,962 from 3,908). However, that was just half of the percentage drop recorded in 2016, from a 2015 figure of 6,715.

Portuguese emigration to Switzerland fell for a fourth straight year, by 8.6% in 2017, to 9,257. Emigration to Australia and Norway also fell once more, although with much lower absolute values.

According to the Observatory, changes and corrections to German and French statistics make it difficult accurately to measure recent trends in emigration to those countries, although in the case of France it said it believed it dropped sharply last year.

After the UK, the top destinations are Germany, France, Switzerland and Spain. Outside Europe, the main destinations are members of the Community of Portuguese-Language Countries (CPLP): Angola, Mozambique (around 1,000 in 2016, the most recent year for which figures can be estimated) and Brazil (around 1,000 in 2015).

According to the document, emigrants are predominately older and overall “mostly composed of unskilled active [workers], although that varies greatly between countries.

There has been, it notes “a significant increase in the proportion of more qualified” workers, with the percentage of emigrants from Portugal residing in member countries of the OCDE that have a higher-education qualification having almost doubled over the decade to 2011, to 11% from 6%.