Alentejo: Eastern Portugal’s brain drain

As our road trip through Europe continues, our teams on the ground are looking to get your view, your voice on our coverage. In the eastern part of Portugal, they have come across entire towns and villages that have all but lost their young population.

Like in other places in Europe, young qualified workers are leaving in search of employment opportunities elsewhere.

In the years Portugal was plunged into a massive debt crisis, the country is estimated to have lost some 500,000 (of its 10 million) inhabitants. And the percentage of young qualified workers leaving still is among the highest in the EU.

We are now in Alentejo, a region in Portugal that is struggling to keep its youth here. We want to ask residents how they saw things change over the years. And if there’s a way to bring young people back.

Manuel has been a postman for 23 years and spent the last 13 delivering letters here in Monsaraz, a small town of 780 inhabitants near the border with Spain

“I have seen it change with tourism, with big tourism projects.” Manuel said.

But that wasn’t enough to attract young people back. “There are no jobs so they have to leave. I have a son who lives in Timor. He’s a teacher there.” One man told Anelise. “The youngest people here are my son and my daughter. Ah, what will they do? They will look for work. But it won’t be here. They will have to leave. They will have to leave because there’s nothing here.” The waiter in one restaurant told us.

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One passer-by told Anelise Borges that “In the agriculture sector… there should be more investment in agriculture. So that there could be different products cultivated here. Like in Badajoz, there they have big farms and their products can leave via highways straight to other countries.”

Portugal’s economy has moved back to pre-crisis levels and is expected to grow by about 2 per cent this year. However, low living standards, and lack of investment in rural areas means many young Portuguese still look for opportunities elsewhere in Europe.

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