Portugal is importing more talent than ever

  • Bernardo da Mata
  • 21 June 2019

Importing talent from abroad is becoming the number one option for Portuguese companies looking to compensate for the lack of workforce. However, this option does not come unchallenged.

Importing talent from abroad is increasingly becoming the number one option for Portuguese companies looking to compensate for the lack of workforce. Be it on tech or engineering, or even in the construction sector, the lack of professionals that fit the profile that companies are looking for is almost transversal to all productive sectors of the economy.

Faced with this problem, Portuguese companies are struggling to keep human resources in-house. Therefore, the solution is to cross borders and start recruiting abroad in countries like France, India and Brazil.

José Miguel Leonardo, Randstad’s CEO for Portugal, has told ECO that Portugal is having an urgent need for technical profiles to fit some of the more sophisticated industries, such as technologies and engineering. Surprisingly, the country is also struggling with a lack of craftsmen (bricklayers, electricians) in more traditional sectors, such as construction.

“Last year, we did not have more than 3,000 IT graduates in Portugal, which is clearly insufficient to keep up with the fast digital transformation that companies and the economy are going through”, José Miguel Leonardo explained. Randstad’s CEO for Portugal also mentioned that GDPR brought a new and increasing demand for data protection officers and information security officers.

Lack of tech profiles and craftsmanship

The Manager of IT Software development for Robert Waters, Paulo Ayres, said that importing foreign talent is becoming a reality in the IT sector. “There, talent is lacking and looking for foreigners to fill that gap is increasingly common in our sector to answer the needs of the market.”, he said, adding that the more specialised the job, the more difficult it becomes to find a suitable candidate.

“With the increase of shared services centres and start-ups together with the new coming of global companies (Google and Amazon), the manpower in Portugal is becoming insufficient for what they are looking to hire. We need to attract skilled professionals from other countries to face the increasing demand for candidates”, Paulo Ayres continued.

It is not just in IT but also in construction, hospitality and industry. José Miguel Leonardo told ECO that the lack of diversified and highly skilled workers will become a crucial problem for the competitiveness of our economy, affecting our capacity to attract and retain investment.

Importing talent faces barriers

Despite the increase in the search for skilled workers abroad, it is still hard for Portuguese companies to hire them in Portugal. “Attracting international talent to Portugal is still a very complex task”, François-Pierre Puech, Managing Director of Robert Waters for Portugal, says.

Firstly, low salaries make it difficult to compete with other countries. “We can speak of 5-15% salary difference comparing with Spain, 10-30% with France, the UK and Germany for professionals with the same expertise, academic backgrounds and responsibilities.”, Puech reveals.

Secondly, the tax system is complex and too heavy. “Tax burden in Portugal diminishes our capacity to attract talent when comparing with other more tax-friendly countries in Europe.”, the senior manager of Robert Waters Portugal referred.

For Duarte Fernandes, Kwan’s Executive partner, a company focused in IT recruitment, there is a “need to make things easier to import talent from abroad”, suggesting to accelerate the process of getting a visa by making the process less bureaucratic.

Thirdly, the increasing housing price in Lisbon and Porto is making it hard for foreigners to come to Portugal in search of work, François-Pierre Puech says.

“We are at risk of collapsing”, Duarte Fernandes says with little optimism and continues “on the one hand, we are doing okay in attracting investments from abroad but on the other hand, we are running out of talent to attend to their necessities”.