The Portuguese say they are descended from the so-called Lusitans, but the residents usually have a relatively mixed ethnic background. Geographically, the population is concentrated in coastal cities. The country’s population is steadily declining as more Portuguese die than are born and more emigrants than immigrants.
In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the population shrank as poverty and unemployment forced many to emigrate. After the fall of the dictatorship in 1974 (see Modern history), emigration declined, and when Portugal’s colonies in Africa became independent shortly thereafter, 700,000 Portuguese returned from mainly Angola and Mozambique (so-called retornados). Many Portuguese people also returned to their home country in the late 1990s when the economy improved and labor shortages arose.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Portugal, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
Immigration began to slow down from 2003 when economic growth slowed down. When the economic crisis erupted in 2008 (see Economy), with a sharp rise in unemployment as a result, many Portuguese began to apply abroad again, especially to Brazil, Angola and Mozambique. In the period 2011–2016 alone, around 586,000 Portuguese left the country, and a total of over two million Portuguese are now estimated to live abroad. In addition to Brazil, large Portuguese minorities are in France, Canada, South Africa and the USA.
This has led to a large shortage of educated staff and in recent years, by offering tax relief, among other things, the government has tried to encourage well-educated Portuguese to return home.
Hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals
In 2015, there were just over 390,000 foreign nationals in Portugal with the right to reside in the country. In addition, a large group of illegal immigrants came. In 2007, a law came into force that made it easier for immigrants to obtain citizenship. This also applies to immigrants who were in the country without a permit, provided they could show that they had jobs. At the same time, rules were introduced to adapt immigration to the needs of the labor market. Most immigrants come from former Portuguese colonies such as Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and Brazil, as well as from Ukraine, Romania and the United Kingdom.
Hostile xenophobia and discrimination against ethnic minorities, especially the approximately 50,000 Roma, is not uncommon in terms of housing, employment and access to education.
In connection with the debt crisis, in 2012 a so-called golden visa was introduced, which allowed citizens outside the EU to obtain a residence permit in Portugal against investing at least half a million euros in the country. About 8,000 such residence permits had been issued by 2019, primarily to wealthy Chinese but also to Brazilians, Turks, South Africans and Russians. In addition, 15,000 relatives will be added to those who have been granted such visas. This has resulted in investments of almost EUR 5 billion. A review of the system was announced in the fall of 2019 (see also Calendar).
Sparsely populated inland
The population is concentrated in the regions around the major cities on the Atlantic coast. Inland and the plains of the south, on the other hand, are largely sparsely populated, and in many villages the population has fallen in recent years, as many flee the countryside to seek a better life in the cities.
Many pensioners from other EU countries, mainly British, have moved to the Algarve in the south.
As in many other European countries, the proportion of older people in the population is growing. In 2015, almost every fifth Portuguese was estimated to be over 65, creating stress on health care and social security systems.
The Portuguese claim to be descended from the Lusitans, a people group of Celtic and Iberian roots who lived in the western part of the Iberian peninsula when the Romans invaded the area in the 20th century BC. During the migrations in the 400s AD, the population received Germanic elements, especially in the north. The Moorish era, the time after the Arab conquest of the seventh century, has left Arab tracks in the south. The colonial era from the 16th century onwards led to an immigration of people from Asia, Africa and South America (see Older history).
Portuguese – a world language
In 2015, descendants of Jews (Sephardi) who were persecuted and expelled in the 15th century (see Older history) were legally allowed to obtain Portuguese citizenship. The decision was made by the government after investigating which evidence of kinship was required to obtain legal right to citizenship, such as names and family trees showing on a Sephardic background. Since the British voted in June 2016 to leave the EU, about 300 British Jews had applied for Portuguese citizenship two months later, citing Sephardic origin.
Portuguese is one of the major world languages and native languages for a total of around 200 million people. It is official language in Portugal and is spoken throughout the country and in former colonies. Portuguese is a Roman language with roots in Latin but especially in southern Portugal you notice the influence of Arabic. Words from African languages - and in recent years English and French – have also been recorded.
In 2008, Portugal decided to change the spelling rules of the Portuguese language to better align with the Portuguese spoken in Brazil. A number of critics thought the decision was a capitulation to a growing Brazilian influence on the language.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
Number of residents
10 293 718 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
64.7 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
8.4 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
10.7 per 1000 residents (2016)
-0.3 percent (2017)
1.3 number of births per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
52.7 percent (2017)
81 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
84 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
78 years (2016)
- small groups of immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe and from former colonies such as Brazil, Angola and Cape Verde
Spelling reform raises criticism
The National Assembly decides to change the spelling rules of the Portuguese language so that they are better in line with the Portuguese spoken in Brazil. A number of critics think the decision is a capitulation to a growing Brazilian influence on the language.
Portugal adopts the Lisbon Treaty
By a large majority, the National Assembly votes for the Lisbon Treaty (see December 2007).