According to João Cerejeira, an economist specializing in the labour market, the 2021 Censuses confirmed trends that had already come from behind and show that 2011 was a turning point for the first decade in which the population decline “wasn’t because of the high emigration balance”, as happened in the 1960s/1970s, but by mortality, which is not balanced by the birth rate or by the positive immigration balance.
“This is a structural trend that will continue in the coming decades (…) This is a challenge that Portugal will have to face in the coming decades”, he said.
The economist, who is also professor at the University of Minho, defended the need for an immigration policy and highlighted the case of Odemira, which is "an exception in a context of an increasingly depopulated interior", but where agriculture demonstrates that "there are activities in the interior that, if they are dynamic, they also attract population”.
“Now, it will be an essentially immigrant population, if they are jobs that are not wanted by the nationals and that also tend to have low salaries. It ends up being a symptom of a lack of labour in Portugal and the way to solve it is by attracting immigrant labour", he said, considering that this will be "a growing trend", which may be observed.
Cerejeira also highlighted that the 2021 Census shows the end of the trend of decades in which the population of the surroundings was concentrated in the capitals of districts in the interior, because these cities are also losing people.
“It is worrying, because it means that we have urban centers in the interior that are not having the capacity to renew themselves generationally. And these [cities] would be the centers for the fixation of services, of population, for the attraction of new activities, which could bring some dynamism to the interior, but which are losing the capacity they had shown in recent decades", he stressed, highlighting that “population loss, in the long term, will have serious local economic effects”.
On the positive side, the professor highlights the high growth of Braga, a municipality that is on the coast, but which is not integrated in any of the metropolitan areas (in Porto and Lisbon) and which “has a combination of attracting companies” and “a great capacity in terms of expansion in the real estate, which allowed for cheaper housing than some of the neighboring municipalities”.
João Cerejeira even considered that “the issue of housing price will be decisive for the capacity of some localities to manage to attract the population, whether national from other municipalities or also immigrant population”.
“This means that there is room here for local public policies. Now, that we are in a year of municipal elections, it is time for having policies that manage to set up companies, to attract activities that generate employment and that have this capacity to attract population”, he said.
The Algarve and the Lisbon Metropolitan Area were the only regions that registered population growth in the last 10 years.