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Portugal: Aging Alert!


By: Ana Fernandes and Paulo Machado (The authors are affiliated with the Portuguese Demographics Association). Published on January 15, 2022, 8:38 AM

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In a few days, the Portuguese will go to the polls again to choose their national representative. It is about our collective future and we see it as our civic duty to mobilize citizens, starting with politicians, to tackle the critical demographic situation in our country. We believe that the demographic question in Portugal is based on phenomena of major influence: population ageing, emigration and rural depopulation and the growing existence of globalization for which we are not prepared.

These are the driving forces behind many of the social, economic and political problems we face. A society that does not renew itself in terms of population does not grow and… ages. Aging and dejuvenation started long ago in the most depopulated areas (with the depopulation of towns and cities in the interior).

They have had an impact on public services such as education (fewer students), health care (more users), social security (with more beneficiaries). Companies are finding it increasingly difficult to find workers. This has repercussions on the economy: less production and therefore a fall in GDP.

In the cities, the sustainability of the historic centers is threatened by the aging population. That trend will not be reversed by better local housing. The need for labor in the most industrial areas and in many productive sectors (agriculture, tourism) is clearly increasing.

The worst way to approach the demographic question is to underestimate it and reduce it too rhetorically to yet another challenge, which is so common in political discourse. The trend towards an ever-lower birth rate and reversing emigration will not be possible with such measures as support for pharmacy expenses, education vouchers, IMI reductions or other palliative measures. The demographic issue has a systemic character, in which living conditions and other highly relevant subjective dimensions play a role. But it is also a cultural issue that has to do with how we see ourselves as a politically sovereign community with a vision of its own future.


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