The hoteliers' association president stressed that "there is a serious problem in the Algarve and the rest of the country of a lack of labour" and that this is not limited to the tourism sector.
Owners of businesses in Algarve’s tourism sector are complaining of a lack of workers for the summer, despite there being around 6,000 people registered with the Institute of Employment and Professional Training (IEFP) as having worked in the sector, some of them currently receiving unemployment benefit.
“There were recently 6,000 registered in the area of tourism at the institute of employment – cooks alone there were 500 – and we did an experiment … with the help of business associations, and the [regional tourist board] coordinating, to try to hire people,” the president of the Association of Hotels and Tourist Enterprises of the Algarve (AHETA), Hélder Martins, told Lusa.
He said that the IEFP itself participated in the interviews and “made an effort to bring people in, but they didn’t want” to accept the work offered to them in their areas despite its offering “good pay”.
In Martins’s view, it is not logical to see people “rejecting” work in tourism and, at the same time, continue to draw unemployment benefit – a situation that prompts him to think that they may be moonlighting.
“There were those who could only come for the interview after 8 p.m., but they were unemployed and receiving unemployment benefit, and others said they were helping out a cousin,” Martins recalled.
The hoteliers’ association president stressed that “there is a serious problem in the Algarve and the rest of the country of a lack of labour” and that this is not limited to the tourism sector.
The Pestana group’s administrator for the Algarve, Pedro Lopes, also confirmed to Lusa that “it is difficult” to find people to work in jobs that it had been able to fill up until 2019.
“The Algarve has 15,000 unemployed, of which 6,000 are in the tourism sector, but when these people are called for interviews and don’t show up it’s because they don’t want to work, and some must be working illegally,” he said.
According to Lopes, the few who do go for interviews “often say that they can only show up after 8 p.m., which means that they’re doing something before that,” he considered. “The government has to check out these situations more [as] if people don’t want to work it is not fair for us to be paying [benefits] when there are thousands of positions being offered in the sector.”
Jorge Beldade, the operations director for the region of the Minor Group, owner of the Tivoli hotels, said that these units currently need to recruit 200 people, out of a total workforce of around 1,500.
“The Institute of Employment and Professional Training has 15,000 people looking for jobs, but when we ask a group of thirty, only three or four show up for the interview, and they do everything they can not to be hired,” he said.
According to the official, normally those interviewed “intend to stay on unemployment benefits and continue doing odd jobs” rather than work full time in the sector.
“We will have the best summer ever – reservations are already at a higher level than in 2019, the year will also be excellent – but we will not provide the level [of service] that we should,” due to staff shortages, he said.
According to Beldade, the concern at the moment “is no longer the revenue, but finding people who want to work.”
The AHETA president also lamented that “now that there is an opportunity to make money, there are no human resources” and stresses that businesses would try to maintain the quality of services, even if they have to stop providing all tables in restaurants, or rooms in hotels.
There is widespread agreement among entrepreneurs in the sector that there is a need to attract more immigrants to help fill the gaps, especially from Portuguese-speaking countries.
According to the Portuguese Hotels Association (AHP), the shortfall of workers in the sector is expected to exceed the 15,000 estimated in 2021.
On Wednesday, the government approved new rules facilitating the issuing of temporary visas for nationals of members of the Community of Portuguese-Language Countries (CPLP).
At a news conference, the minister of state and parliamentary affairs, Ana Catarina Mendes, said that this included the granting of short-term visitor visas and residence permits – including while looking for work – for citizens covered by the CPLP free movement agreement.