Portugal - Economy and Demographics UA-4944458-2

Portugal’s Economy

Portugal has been a member of the European Union since 1986, and has enjoyed healthy economic growth since then.

Portugal’s major industries include textiles and footwear, automotive products, oil refining, wood pulp and paper, fish canning, cork (Portugal is the biggest European producer of cork oak), etc. Tourism represents also an increasingly important sector, especially in the region of the Algarve and in the Atlantic Madeira archipelago.

Agriculture is an important economic factor as well: The country exports 75% of its agricultural and cattle production (e.g. grain, grapes, olives, potatoes, tomatoes; beef, goats, poultry, sheep). Wine production has also taken on a greater significance: about 15 million liters of wine are produced per year, and it Portugal the world’s eighth-largest producer of wine.

Portugal’s important exports include clothing and footwear, machinery, chemicals and cork while the country imports, among others, chemicals, machinery and transportation equipment, petroleum, and textiles. France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and the USA are the main trading partners of Portugal.


Portugal is fairly homogeneous linguistically and religiously. In July 2008, the country had about 10.6 million inhabitants (52% of women; 48% of men); in comparison, there were about 2.9 million residents in 1801.

The Portuguese population has grown slowly for several reasons: A high infant mortality rate for much of these two centuries and an extreme emigration rate – between 1960 and 1970, more than one million Portuguese emigrated, mostly to other European countries. But these trends have reversed in recent decades: Life expectancy has gone up; the infant mortality rate and the fertility rate have experienced a broad decline; and many Portuguese have returned from former Portuguese colonies in Africa.

Portugal is now a country of net immigration: By the end of 2003, legal immigrants represented about 5% of the population. The immigrants don’t only come from the former African and Asian colonies, as the largest communities are, among others, from Brazil, Ukraine, Cape Verde, Angola, Russia, and also from parts of Latin America, China and Eastern Europe.

The great majority of Portuguese are Roman Catholic (84.5%). Religious minorities include a little over 300,000 Protestants, about 50,000 Muslims, 10,000 Hindus, and about 1,000 Jews.

Contrary to other European countries, most residents identify with their city, town or village, and there is practically no regional affiliation.

The most densely populated cities are Lisbon – the capital -, Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia, Amadora, Braga, Coimbra, Almada, Funchal, Setúbal and Guimarães. Algarve, Aveiro, Coimbra, Lisbon, Minho, Porto and Viseu are the Greater Metropolitan Areas (GAMs).

Portuguese is the official language in the country, with the Mirandese, only spoken in the villages of Miranda de Douro.