Internal Migration and Regional Population Dynamics in Europe: Portugal Case Study

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Rees, P. ; Carrilho, M-J. ; João, P. ; Durham, H. ; Kupiszewski, M. (1998)
  • Publisher: School of Geography

Report prepared for the Council of Europe (Directorate of Social and Economic Affairs, Population and Migration Division) and for European Commission (Directorate General V, Employment, Industrial Relations and Social Affairs, Unit E1, Analysis and Research on the Social Situation). \ud This paper reports on internal migration and regional population dynamics in Portugal. It examines internal migration patterns and trends in two years, 1981 and 1991, and compares them. Portugal is a country that has reached a population plateau and is currently experiencing very little overall population growth. In 1981 its population was 9.83 millions, only 9.87 millions in 1991 and 9.96 millions in 1997. During the 1980s natural increase steadily diminished and in the 1990s it has virtually ceased. International migration was predominantly negative in balance during the period between the mid 1980s and early 1990s, but has moved into small positive gains in the last few years. When population changes for the 1981-91 period are examined, the picture is broadly of gains in the major urban-centred regions of Norte and Lisboa Vale Tejo, and in the resort industry region of the Algarve. In the more peripheral regions, population decreases occurred, that is in the Centro, Alentejo and Açores regions with Madeira being roughly in balance. Natural increase was strong in the Norte and island regions and compensated for net out-migration, while elsewhere it was weak. All Portuguese NUTS 2 regions except the Algarve lost through migration, with emigration dominating any counter-flows due to internal migration. \ud However, the strong influence of internal migration is apparent when the components of population change at concelhos scale are analysed. The largest cities, Lisboa and Porto, lose population in the 1981-91 period, particularly the capital, and part of the population losses represent migration to surrounding concelhos in the Outer parts of the city regions. Most of the rest of Grande Porto outside of the main city gains population through migration. Around Lisboa these suburban migration gains were experienced by the margins of Lisboa itself, the northern suburbs along the north bank of the Tagus and in a majority of the concelhos of Península Setúbal across the Tagus estuary from Lisboa, namely the southern suburbs linked to the city by two major road bridges. \ud The Censuses of 1981 and 1991, which count migrants in the circa 15-month period before the census date (14½ and 15½ months in the two censuses), provide a picture of how internal migration affects people in different life stages. The all ages pattern of migration in 1979-81 is one of greatest losses from interior and eastern regions (NUTS 3 scale), lesser losses from remoter coastal regions and gains to the urban regions centred on Porto, Lisboa and the Algarve resorts. However, the centres of the Porto and Lisboa regions lose migrants, confirming the earlier interpretation of the components of population change. The situation in 1989-91 was similar but there were fewer regions with great migration losses, more regions with moderate losses and gains around the main urban nodes and the southern tourist coast. This general pattern of redistribution characterises the childhood and family ages (0-14, 25-44) and is intensified in terms of losses from the large cities and suburban gains in the 45-64 age group. Young persons, however, behave differently. In 1979-81 most of the regions of the country lost internal migrants in the 15-24 age group, while Lisboa, Porto and the Algarve experienced substantial migration gains. So, while the family ages showed a de-concentration pattern, the ages at which young adults start independent life careers showed centralising tendencies. The spatial pattern was broadly similar in 1989-91 but more interior regions posted migration gains. The retirement ages, 65 to 74, showed similar centralisation for the female population but not for the male. This age group was the only one that exhibited strong gender differences in the pattern of migration and considerable changes between 1979-81 and 1989-91. Whereas in the former period, the pattern was very much one of interior loss and coastal and urban region gain, in 1989-91, losses from the interior were relatively lower and moderate gains more widespread. At the oldest ages of 75 years or more the strong pattern of interior loss and coastal gain reasserted itself. \ud Portuguese population dynamics thus exhibit some rural depopulation (mainly of the young and the very old), some urbanisation (migration to more densely settled regions around the biggest cities), some suburbanisation (de-concentration within the largest urban regions) and some regional flows to resource exploiting regions (sun and sea in the resort coast of the Algarve). Population gains in the 1981-91 decade also occurred in several coastal and interior small towns and medium-sized urban centres outside of Lisboa and Porto. This reveals that urbanisation was not just a metropolitan phenomenon but was a widespread process. Note that when considering whether the Portuguese population is centralising or decentralising, attention must be paid to the scale of migration observed. So, for example, population may be moving into the metropolitan regions of Lisboa and Porto and therefore centralising, but within those regions the population may be shifting from city to suburbs and to outer parts of the city region, and therefore decentralising. This nested system of flows may be obscured if attention is focused exclusively on total net migration. \ud
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