Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On the Portuguese predicament

The title of Barry Hatton's Associated Press article "Europeans seek new lives in old colonies" is a bit misleading. The article doesn't deal with "Europeans" generally, but rather is concerned almost entirely with Spain and Portugal, with passing mention of Greece and Ireland.

Portuguese are packing their bags for booming Angola and Mozambique in Africa, and for emerging economic powerhouse Brazil, where there is a shortage of engineers to prepare the country for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Spaniards are being drawn to their former colonies in Latin America.

While analysts say the true scale of the new migration is still hard to determine because official statistics lag behind trends, anecdotal evidence and fragmentary data point to what's going on.

Portugal's Emigration Observatory says the number of Portuguese registered at consulates in Brazil jumped from 678,822 in 2009 to 705,615 the following year. In Angola, the number went from almost 57,000 in 2008 to just over 74,500 in 2009. The number of Mozambican residence permits granted to Portuguese in 2010, meanwhile, was up almost 13 percent on the previous year, to nearly 12,000.

Spanish electoral registers show around 30,000 Spaniards moved to Argentina between June 2009 and November 2010 — an 11 percent increase over that period. Some 6,400 went to Chile — a jump of 24 percent in the same timeframe — and 6,800 headed for Uruguay, an increase of 16 percent.

Between Spain and Portugal, Hatton implies that the situation in Portugal is much more serious. Before the economic crash, Spain not only enjoyed sustained--if unviable--economic growth and became a very significant net receiver of immigrants. Portugal, in contrast, suffered a lost decade with little economic growth, a consequence of low productivity and underdeveloped human capital, competition from China and post-Communist Europe in low-end manufactures, and a strong Euro that weakened competitiveness.

"The emerging markets are where it's happening, that's where the jobs are," says Jorge Borges, a 35-year-old Portuguese civil engineer.

Disheartened by bleak career prospects in Portugal, whose crippling debt crisis pushed it this week to seek a bailout like Greece and Ireland, Borges crossed the border five years ago and tapped into Spain's building boom.

Then the overleveraged Spanish economy also collapsed, and Borges recently lost his job. Now he wants to move on again, but Europe's wretched economies are not an option — and his online job hunt is targeting vacancies in Brazil and Angola, distant Portuguese-speaking countries.

"The first chance I get, I'm going overseas," Borges said from Zaragoza, Spain, where he is awaiting the call to go abroad.

Brazil in particular is a magnet. The Latin American giant is recruiting foreign civil engineers and architects to meet demand for major public works projects, including more than $200 billion — close to Portugal's annual GDP — in energy infrastructure. Brazil's economy grew 7.5 percent in 2010, the highest growth rate since 1986, and is expected to expand by more than 5 percent a year through 2014.

Angola and Mozambique, too, are absorbing large numbers of Portuguese emigrants. Lusophone countries are hardly the only destinations for Portuguese: large Portuguese communities exist elsewhere, in Canada and the United States, in France and Switzerland and Luxembourg, and now in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. If Portuguese go abroad, they have options. Not so in their homeland.

Portugal's low-voltage economy can't absorb the best-educated generation in its history.

More than 60,000 graduates are idle in their prime. Many more are in low-pay, dead-end jobs.

A recent song by pop group Deolinda set young people's grievances to music and went viral online as it struck a chord with a generation. The song, called "What a fool I am," lists their gripes, including being stuck at home with their parents despite investing years to polish their CVs.

One group of twenty-something graduates turned the music into a battle cry. Through a Facebook page they organized national protest marches last month, and more than 100,000 turned out in a dozen Portuguese cities.

"Not taking advantage of our generation ... is national suicide," says 25-year-old Alexandre Carvalho, one of the organizers.

Carvalho and his co-organizers want to pursue careers in Portugal but, he says, "it's hard to stay. We'll probably end up going abroad."

"Parva que Sou" is a moving song.

The mass emigration is something I commented on back in 2009. The situation has deteriorated further, bad news for the future since a recent Eurostat press release notes that fertility has fallen sharply from 1.44 children per woman in 2003--definitely sub-replacement, but higher than elsewhere in southern Europe--to 1.32. Portugal is fast running out of its existing youth cohorts and isn't going to replace them in the long run.

(As João Peixoto and Catarina Sabino, in their 2009 Real Institut Elcano paper "Immigration, Emigration and Policy Developments in Portugal", observe, the immigrants from the Lusophone world and eastern Europe who came in the 1990s have been leaving for some time. Replacement migration is not an option.)


Anonymous said...

Mozambique??? Naive and hilarious. Why nt pretend that the Lampedusa boats are filled with Italians looking for a new life in Lybia or even Ethiopia?

Randy McDonald said...

Portuguese migration to Mozambique isn't unthinkable. Mozambique needs skilled workers, Portugal has a surplus, the two countries share a common history and many elements of common culture, Portuguese companies are investing heavily in the country, why not go? I expect that the volume of migration to Mozambique would be less than the migration to Angola--Mozambique is significantly poorer than the latter oil-rich country--but there's space.

Alciator said...

Low fertility is definitively an issue, but if we look at final fertility rate, it's a bit less worrying (only Germany is already too far in the birth rate depression); countries like Italy, Spain, Czech Republic still have large amount of women in their 30s, and I bet there is a cultural change through Europe (women at work, and mother) that could soften the trend.

About Europeans leaving Europe: South Africa statistics breau claims there are 300 000 british seniors living there. And french diplomacy gives a figure of 900 000 citizens, often young and well-educated, having moved to US and Canada (not only Québec) in the past 10 years.


Randy McDonald said...

A lot of fertility recuperation is possible in countries which are women-friendly--France and Sweden come immediately to mind--but not so much in countries which aren't. Germany's the prototype of this; I can easily see southern Europe following suit. This is particularly the case given the high levels of youth unemployment and underemployment; Deolinda sang about the "luck" of being an intern, of living with one's parents, and of postponing marriage and parenthood. Optimism doesn't seem justified.

As for the volume of British and French migrants, those populations are leaving, at a significantly slower rate, countries considerably better off. The ~1M French who left (over what length of time?) amount to ~1.5% of the French population, while the 0.8M Portuguese who left in the last decade amount to ~7%. The former is regular mobility; the latter is an exodus.

Didier said...

Regarding France, they are over 1.6 million registered French citizen abroad and an unknown number of non-registered - the estimation is somewhere between 2.5 to 3 millions as a whole.

But this includes - people who immigrated to France, got French citizenship, and went back home, people married abroad to French people and who got the citizenship, and above all children and grand-children of French abroad.

Many "French" aborad don't even speak a word of French and have never been there but have a french passport because it is easier to travel with it.