For the first time in six years, the number of people who moved to Portugal in 2017 was higher than the number who left. The data has been revealed by the national statistics institute (INE).
Numbers show that 36,639 people moved to Portugal to live for a period of over a year in 2017, a 22% year-on-year increase, while around 32,000 people moved abroad, a 17% decrease on the year before.
An important aspect about the data is that 40% of the people who moved to Portugal were born in the country, meaning that many of them are emigrants returning home.
An even larger percentage (55%) of the people who entered the country had Portuguese nationality, many of them moving from countries like Brazil and Venezuela.
“This is excellent news,” hails the president of the Portuguese Society of Demographics.
“It means we have been able to stem the very strong emigration tendencies that developed during the economic crisis period,” Maria Filomena Mendes told Diário de Notícias.
Despite what experts are describing as good news, the country’s population continues to fall.
In 2017, the total number of people living in Portugal fell by around 18,000 people to a total of 10,291,027 as the number of deaths remains higher than the number of births.
Last year, 86,154 babies were born in Portugal, a slight 1.1% drop, while the number of deaths reached 109,758.
Further data shows that the number of ‘temporary emigrants’ – people who leave the country for periods of over three months – also fell 16% from 58,878 in 2016 to 49,298 in 2017.
“The fact alone that the country is being able to halt the exodus of qualified people of working age is very positive, so that in the future we can increase our birth rate,” said Mendes.
“The recovery of the economy and changes to Portugal’s nationality laws” are named as some of the main reasons more people are returning to and staying in Portugal.
Although a new law which allows the children of immigrants who have lived in Portugal for two years to gain Portuguese nationality only came into effect last summer, it has already attracted many foreigners.
Says Vladimiro Gomes from Portugal’s Solidariedade Imigrante (Immigrant Solidarity) association: “This immigration law has already helped many immigrants become legal, and they then tell their families and friends about how Portugal is a good place to live, especially because it is safe and there are job opportunities.”
The restaurant and agriculture industries are responsible for most employment opportunities for immigrants, he says.
Data also shows that 51% of the immigrants who entered Portugal in 2017 are women, 47% lived in an EU country and 81% were of working age.
Many Brazilians and Venezuelans who have Portuguese descent have also chosen Portugal to get away from the insecurity they feel in their home countries, DN reports.
Another measure that is certain to bring more emigrants back to Portugal if it moves forward is the 50% IRS tax reduction they will be able to enjoy if they return in 2019 and 2020. The reduction will last three to five years. The measure is still being debated in parliament.