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Lisbon's fight against brain drain


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After a few days in Lisbon be sure you’ll want to move there instantly. The vibe, the food, the music at every corner, the attention to tradition, the laidback atmosphere, the picturesque sun-kissed little streets and the tall buildings covered in iridescent pastel tiles gleaming in the rays… it’s honestly one of the most authentic feelings.

But, although Lisbon might attract a large quantity of tourism for the aforementioned reasons, while chatting to locals there is one main thing that rings resentment in their voices. There is little chance for students like me and you, and little chance for our future specifically. Students our age are leaving Lisbon due to a suffocating soaring unemployment rate, causing brain drain to bleed the land of sandy beaches dry.

While unemployment has fallen from an early 2013 peak, from 18% to 12%, youth joblessness is still of roughly 30%, including almost 200,000 as permanent emigrants, according to a University of Coimbra's "Brain Drain and Academic Mobility from Portugal to Europe” report.

The last time Portugal saw an exodus on this scale was in the 1960s, under the dictatorship of Antonio De Oliveira Salazar.

Plus, many youths have left Lisbon also due to the quality of employment rather than the actual lack of it. 70% of employed youth earned below 1,000 Euros per month in Portugal, but more than a half now make over 2,000 abroad.

For example, Portuguese nurses tend to move to Germany, where they go from earning five Euros an hour with no fixed contract and making 500 Euros a month, to having a steady job, making 2000 Euros a month and even getting free language courses.

This is a great opportunity for Lisbon students, also proving that they are prepared and qualified, but 70% of these emigrants living in Britain, Germany and France plan to stay for good.

This means other nations will reap the benefits of at least $11.5 billion invested in the Portuguese educational system. That’s hundreds of millions in future lost tax revenues and, according to scholars, a general ageing of the population that weighs on the pension system drastically.

However, this story I tell is nothing more than a sad one. Luisa Cerdeira, economics professor at Lisbon University, speaks to Reuters: "I don't see much light at the end of the tunnel here."

So it seems there’s no solution to this issue in the near future, which means that students will continue seeking opportunities outside of their country before the government manage to take the situation to heart. 

Sofia is travelling in Europe as part of The National Student's Student Travel Writer 2016 competition, with Eurolines. See more entries to the Student Travel Writer competition here.

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