Portugal’s Prime Minister Tells Citizens to Emigrate

Portugal is an EU and Euro member with a population of 10.5M. Portugal is one of the “PIIGS” (along with Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) that are having severe debt and austerity problems caused by a lack of confidence in their ability to service their huge financial burdens.

Portugal is relatively uncompetitive within the EU. They benefited from inflows and subsidies from the EU over the years and used it to raise living standards and develop a large and expensive public sector.

One advantage Portugal does have is their connections to former “empire” countries that also speak Portuguese including Angola and Brazil. These countries, while they have their own very significant problems, are not shackled with the anti-competitive rules and regulations that burden companies in the EU. While Portuguese citizens are not at the top of the education group in EU terms, in Angolan or Brazilian (general) terms they are very well educated and can assist multi-nationals taking advantage of the natural resources that Angola and Brazil are blessed with.

In this context, when asked what young people should do when faced with high unemployment, this article the conservative prime minister told them to “just emigrate”.

While many thought that his comments were not appropriate, there are few avenues for ambitious young people since the gravy train of EU subsidies is drying up and EU labor policies make it very difficult for companies to remove redundant staff in order to make room for more productive and cost compeititive new graduates.

This is a practical, if sad, solution to the problem of a non-competitive state which is forced to support the high cost and social benefits of the EU. It also perfectly crystalizes the “fixed pie” view of the left – keep jobs and barriers high for those that have them, and watch as the nation slowly loses competitiveness, falling hardest on those newest to the work force.

It is a blessing to the former colonies, however, who will receive the youngest, most productive and aggressive citizens who can make their fortune overseas rather than waiting in line (in vain) for a spot in the bureaucratic system.

Cross posted at LITGM

14 thoughts on “Portugal’s Prime Minister Tells Citizens to Emigrate”

  1. That sounds like advice to Mexicans from the Mexican government, if you ask me. Why work to make things better at home? – just go somewhere else.

  2. Actually, it’s very rational advice, and the Prime Minister is to be commended for his honesty. He has little ability to do anything that might improve the Portuguese economy. If he tried to take Portugal out of the Euro he would be deposed and replaced, as happened in Greece and Italy.

  3. At least he is honest. Portugal is bankrupt, and in a demographic death spiral. Brazil is growing and going. A young man with gumption or ambition should go west.

  4. In a meanwhile, people from former colonies are immigrating to Portugal, as well as Eastern Europeans, Russians, Arabs from Middle East and Ukrainians. At the same time, a lot of Portugal citizens have migrated to other European countries since 1960, looking for work.

    For a small country like Portugal this dynamic is very noticeable: population is being replaced.

    Also, I don’t think only young people are in trouble where job is concerned, and that applies to US as well. People older than 45, who have minimum two decades till retirement (and have to depend only on themselves to fund it, due to diminished government capability) can’t find jobs and are being replaced with “younger and cheaper, less experienced but more aggressive” workers. But while younger people have more time til their own retirement and therefore more opportunity to make up for low wages now, middle-age people don’t have that luxury. And it is much harder for them emigrate, too – they have obligations that the young don’t have and lower tolerance to risk. Why nobody ever talks about them?

  5. These words are unfortunate from an elected representative. This incredible statment from a politician of a Party that shared power these last 37 years! What on hell are they usefull ? Shame on them.

  6. Emigration is as sensitive an issue in Portugal as it is in Ireland. If he thought he could safely make these remarks, the situation is dire and the Portuguese know it.

  7. I will add that his statements may resonate historically. During the Napoleonic Wars, when Portugal was occupied by France, the Portuguese Royal Family and court fled to the then-colony of Brazil. I suspect that there is a strain in Portuguese culture that regards Brazil as a haven when things become intolerable in the homeland. Yes, it is that dire. The PM and I am sure much of the population of Portugal realize that their situation is pretty much hopeless; and that any floundering attempts by France, Germany, and Belgium to save themselves will be at the expense of the weaker nations of the EU. And that there is little that Portugal can do to protect itself.

    It is going to be an interesting year, in the Chinese sense.

    Subotai Bahadur

  8. It continues to astonish me that everything is on the table *except* changing the rules that strangle Portuguese competitiveness. Emigration, austerity, default, exiting the euro followed by devaluation and currency confiscation, it’s all possible except for the dog that doesn’t bark, deregulation and legalization.

  9. @ TMLutas – I had the same thoughts….anything is on the table except “that which must not be considered.” Weird intellectual and emotional blindspots….

    – Madhu

  10. Perhaps while France and Germany agree on what to do with their union, Portugal may decide that their future lies better with Brazil and not with Europe, England´s with the United States and Canada, Spain´s with México, Argentina and Chile, Greece to surrender all its territories to Turkey, and Italy to be under a UN-IMF mandate until all of berlusconi´s legacy is oblivion.

  11. TMLutas:

    You could make the same point about the USA. To hear most pols discuss it, everything is up for discussion except the possibility of radical cuts in govt spending.

  12. As much as I would hate to let facts get in the way of a good philosophical rant, what he actually said was that, since Portugal has an overabundance of teachers, young Portugese who want to continue being teachers should consider emigrating to Angloa or Brazil – Portugese speaking countries that need teachers. Seems like pretty commonsensical advice to me.

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