Should Portuguese Youth Leave the Country? (BBC News)


Interview given by Maria da Graça Carvalho to the BBC News on the migration from Portugal to Africa by those skilled Portugese who may find it difficult to get work in Portugal.

BBC: The Prime Minister of Portugal suggested in a speech that those who find it difficult to get work in Portugal should emigrate. What is your view on this?

MGC: Prime Minister was misunderstood.  He suggested that in the current economic crisis - where new job opportunities are sadly scarce (the jobless rate amongst youth is approaching 30% - is is in the interests of young Portuguese to gain experience of the world by travelling and working in different cultures.  This is nothing new in Portugal and Portugal has had a long history of Portuguese citizen's living and working outside of their native country.  Similar patterns are found across Europe with young people leaving to work abroad - often as volunteers.  I am sure that something similar is to be found in Britain with regard to the Commonwealth countries, for instance.  It is certainly the case in Ireland and it is also, of course, the case across the Central and Eastern European countries.  In French the expression is Les voyagesforment la jeunesse.  In English, it is "travel broadens the mind". 

However, it is true that in the current economic climate, many university graduates are having difficulty finding work through no fault of their own.  It is the responsibility of the government and politicians in Portugal to do all that we can to ensure the best possible recovery of the economy after the difficult years following the crash of 2008 and, hence, to ensure that Portuguese people in general benefit from as high a standard of living and quality of life as is possible.  This is a difficult task but the new government is doing all it can to make sure that the recovery is as rapid as possible.  

BBC: One of your focuses as an MEP is on young people - do you find that there is a trend in Portuguese youth to look to Africa, or Brazil (former colonies) for their future, rather than Portugal?

MGC: It would certainly appear that there has been an increase in young people leaving Portugal to gain experience of the world and of the world of work abroad.  It is a part of the new globalised economy and reflects the high growth rates to be found in such countries as Brazil.  We are lucky to have a a network of international connections within the Portuguese speaking world - with a world population of around 240 million people speaking Portuguese as their first or their vehicular language - and young people are in a position to take advantage of easier travel to open up new horizons within this world.      

BBC: Do you think a mobile labour force is just a fact of life in the globalised economy, or should measures be taken to try and retain skilled labour in Portugal? 

MGC: Evidently, any government will seek to ensure that the country has a dynamic economy, one that offers attractive career options to qualified young people.  The fact that a relatively high percentage of graduates have chosen to leave Portugal in recent months and years is a sign of the increasingly high quality of our education system and the transitory effect of a downturn in the economy.  The rates of graduates that are travelling to experience new horizons is, in one respect, a sign of the dynamism of Portuguese youth.  

BBC: Will the migration of young people from Portugal to former colonies like Brazil and Mozambique and Angola, delay or hinder an economic recovery in Portugal? Or does it help take pressure off the state?

MGC: The more ties there are with emerging economies there are, the better it is. Globalisation is a real challenge for Europe and we must seek to take advantages of the possibilities it offers in a spirit of cooperation in an increasingly interconnected world.  Not all of the minority of graduates that leave the country actually travel to Angola or Brazil.  Somewhere in the region of a quarter of the 6 to 7% of people that leave the country actually move to English speaking parts of the world such as the United States, Canada or Australia.  This gives them experience of different cultures, languages and work patterns and enables them to adapt more readily to a rapidly changing world.  

BBC:  What would you say to your son or daughter if they wanted to go and work in Africa?

MGC: As I have already suggested, travel broadens the mind and an experience of working in Africa - or elsewhere in the world - strikes me as being an valuable experience, something that is to be encouraged.  I myself was lucky enough to have undertaken a part of my own studies in London and I look back on the period as one that offered me a host of real benefits.  

BBC: What does Portugal and Europe need to do to build a future and find employment for it's young people in times of economic crises such as this?  Should they be encouraged to go abroad?

MGC: In this time of austerity - one that is faced by Europe as a whole - it is imperative that we find ways of creating real, sustainable growth in Portugal and in Europe as a whole.  I have a number of ideas on the subject such as the use of structural funds to boost youth employment. My main experience is in the field of research and innovation and it is imperative that Europe develops its potential in this respect.  A growing economy offers young people the chance to make long term investments in the welfare of their own country.  However, it is not something that precludes the marvellous opportunity that we have in this shrinking world to experience new horizons and cultures and, in the process, contribute to their development.