A Better quality of life, safety and security, healthcare and English skills are some of the reasons Swedes are choosing Portugal.

These are the results obtained by the largest study on Swedish International Retired Migrants, which comes from the PhD thesis presented at the Lisbon School of Economics and Management (ISEG) by Dr. Sten Engdahl.

The author was living in Lisbon at the time when he decided to study Portugal and Spain in terms of reasons for attraction and retention. “There are certain reasons why you move to a country but then by living in Portugal you also experience the country, you experience the Portuguese people, and for instance the food, all these reasons make you see new aspects of living in Portugal (retention reasons)”, Dr. Sten Engdahl told The Portugal News.

In fact, the top five reasons that attract Swedish retirees to Portugal are better quality of life, nicer climate and weather, personal safety and security, and the fact that it is very easy to speak to the locals in English. On the other hand, in terms of retention reasons, the results are similar, with the addition of gastronomy, flight connections, and health benefits as elements that Swedish retirees appreciate.

In fact, after living in Portugal for a while, Swedish people fall in love with the good food and wine and for the Health Care. In terms of health, despite most Swedish living in Portugal have a health insurance, 50 percent have used the Portuguese Public Health and are very happy with the health system in the country.

What makes Swedish retirees stay longer?

The research also found what makes Swedish retirees stay longer in the countries, which can be a good contribution, not only for universities, but for policy makers, as “it can help them to decide policies to attract more foreigners to Portugal and Spain”.

More specifically, Dr. Sten Engdahl found out that social-culture adaptation is very important for encouraging Swedish retirees to stay longer in the country. “Proving access to language training about Portuguese history and culture would help people to better understand Portuguese society and the research show that the more they know and the more integrated they feel in Portuguese society, the longer time they would like to stay in Portugal”.

In addition, the thesis reveals that the timeframe to remain in Portugal is directly affected by Tax Incentives and Senior Housing, “and the more important that tax incentives are (like the NHR), the shorter time retirees anticipate staying in Portugal”.

Describing Swedish Expats

Despite not having any information on the specific number of Swedish IRM living in Portugal, according to the Foreigners and Boarders service (SEF), “in 2009 there were 746 Swedish citizens (officially registered in Portugal) and in 2020, the number had increased to 5181. However, most likely the real number is higher than this”, as we have to add all those who have not registered yet.

“The study identifies many country-specific differences between the samples of Swedish retirees in Portugal and Spain. A larger proportion of the sample of Swedish retirees living in Portugal (78 percent) have a university degree compared with the retirees living in Spain (58 percent). On average, language fluency is higher among the sample in Spain (24 percent are fluent, or quite fluent in Spanish) compared with Portugal (13 percent are fluent or quite fluent in Portuguese).”

In addition, “a larger proportion of the sample in Portugal says they have good or very good health (89 percent) compared with the sample of Swedish IRM in Spain (76 percent). A larger proportion of the Swedish retirees in Portugal live comfortably on their current income (82 percent) compared with the Swedish IRM in Spain (62 percent)”.

In terms of accommodation, half of respondents live in the Algarve, 37 percent in Cascais, 6 percent in Lisbon and the rest are spread across the country. Also in this sample, 66 percent own their property in Portugal, 30 percent have long-term rentals and only 4 percent rent their home for the short-term.

A popular thesis

This thesis was based “on the largest study so far on Swedish International Retired Migrants in Portugal and Spain, with a sample of 219 Swedish retirees in Portugal and 356 in Spain”.

The author, who presented the thesis in June 2021, started his research in 2016 with the supervision of Dr. Maria Eduarda Soares, a professor at ISEG – Lisbon school of Economics & Management.

If you would like to take a look at the thesis that has already been downloaded over 20,000 times, please see: https://researchgate.net/publication/...


Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252

Paula Martins