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25% of Portuguese companies already use foreign labour

The Bank of Portugal (BdP) reveals that in 2023, 22.2% of companies based in Portugal employed foreign workers. This is a significant increase on the 7.9 % share identified in 2014.


At the end of 2023, the number of foreigners working as employees in Portugal totalled 495,000, an increase of 35.5% on the previous year and nine times higher than at the start of the decade. This increase was also reflected in the proportion of companies that had to resort to immigrant labour in order to meet their needs.


While in 2014 only 7.9% of companies based in Portugal had workers of foreign nationality, a decade later that percentage rose to 22.2%. In other words, around a quarter of companies.


The evolution seen over the last ten years, says the BdP, is the result of the reduction in the working-age population and the lack of labour in specific sectors, which "has boosted the need for Portuguese companies to hire foreign workers".


At the same time, it has brought the country closer to the situation of most European Union countries in terms of the weight of foreigners in the total labour force.


The 495,000 immigrants registered with Social Security last year represented 13.4% of all employees (in 2014, there were 55,600 and they represented 2.1% of the total). But when you look at the data in more detail, you realise that this percentage is much higher in municipalities "with significant agricultural activity, especially in the southern region". This is the case of Odemira, where 76.1% of employees are foreigners, and Ferreira do Alentejo, where this proportion is 48.9%.


In the north, Cinfães stands out, with the third highest percentage: 37.4% of employees in this municipality are immigrants.


It is in the agriculture and fisheries sector that foreigners are most prevalent: four out of ten workers are foreign nationals, compared to two out of ten before the pandemic.


The BdP points out that the weight of foreigners is also very important in accommodation and catering (31.1%), administrative activities (28.1%) and construction (23.2%).


Brazilian workers are the largest group, accounting for 42.3% of all foreigners, and dominate in all sectors except agriculture and fisheries. In this sector, Indian (34.6%), Nepalese (15.3 %) and Bangladeshi (13.8 %) nationalities stand out.


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