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Sunday, 26 August, 2001, 19:07 GMT 20:07 UK
Tide turns for Portugal's workers
New shopping centre in Lisbon
There are vacancies in construction and tourism
By the BBC's Alison Roberts in Lisbon

A Portuguese government study has concluded that the country will need to bring in 22,000 foreign workers by the end of this year to help meet its labour needs.

The study is the first produced by the Institute of Employment under a law that in January laid the basis for Portugal's first ever immigration policy.

Long a country of emigration, Portugal saw the tide turn after it entered the European Union, which has transformed its economy.

Labour shortages, a booming construction sector and the authorities' reputation for turning a blind eye to illegal employment have accelerated the process, attracting tens of thousands of migrants from eastern Europe.

Tourist visas

They travel across the continent on tourist visas and are placed by local agents, mainly in construction.

Illegal immigrants
Many new arrivals are well educated
Like the thousands of workers from Portugal's former colonies who preceded them, the new arrivals - many highly educated but earning a pittance in their home economies - were unmolested by the authorities but exploited by employers.

As their numbers swelled and abuses became more flagrant, the government was obliged to act.

It passed a law under which foreigners working in Portugal illegally could gain a one year permit renewable for up to five years.

Since that took effect in January, 89,000 immigrants have taken advantage of the scheme.

Fully 35% are from the Ukraine, followed by Brazil with 19%, then Moldova and Romania.

Latin language

Officials speculate that one reason so many are from these last two countries is that Romanian is a Latin language like Portuguese. The Ukrainians come mainly from areas bordering Romania.

The new law also calls for regular reports on Portugal's labour needs.

The first found that 80,000 jobs must be filled this year, mainly in construction, tourism and agriculture, more than 20,000 by immigrants.

So far the process has been uncontroversial with a string of sympathetic stories in the media about newcomers finding their feet or contending with dastardly bosses.

So long as key industries are crying out for labour the welcome is likely to remain warm.

See also:

11 Jul 01 | Europe
Europe's immigration vision
04 Jul 01 | Europe
Germany's immigration revolution
06 Feb 01 | Europe
Asylum seekers: Europe's dilemma
07 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Portugal
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