Portugal has municipalities that have lost population since the end of World War II and it is unlikely that phenomena such as teleworking will alter this landscape, in the opinion of geographer Álvaro Domingues, from the University of Porto.
In an interview, the geographer, a professor at the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto, stressed that teleworking covers only one section of the Portuguese population and that eventual changes of residence to spaces outside large urban agglomerations, driven by the pandemic of covid-19, will depend always from those who can pay them.
There are counties that are losing population since the end of World War II. I don’t see them recovering, because for centuries they lived on poor agriculture and terrible social conditions, health, quality of life, everything”, He affirmed.
Douro municipalities are among those that have lost population since the 1950s and “continue to lose”, although never having produced as much wine in the region as now, he noted: “The thing that was said ´if there is no longer true economic growth, if there is investment, there will be population attraction because there will be jobs´ ”.
According to the geographer, companies in the region are now “highly technological” and resort to multinationals for seasonal work from outside contractors (Nepal, India, Bangladesh).
Furthermore, when it comes to gauging trends, it is necessary to take into account that society is very heterogeneous, he stressed: “What may be true for a certain social group, may be irrelevant, or the opposite, for another”.
Living in the countryside or in sparsely populated areas will also depend on conditions such as the children’s school, infrastructures, including the technological network, and access to services, many of which are closed or reduced, particularly during the period of intervention of the ‘troika’ in Portugal.
In those almost two thirds of the territory where the population is very old, after more than a century of emigration, there is a lot of emptied land, there are many places where two or three families live. No matter how much confinement there is, it’s easier to go out on the street, because we don’t find anyone”, He acknowledged.
If in the 19th century the Portuguese were “massively going to Brazil”, after the Second World War they were “everywhere”, he recalled. “I think there are Portuguese people all over the planet, from Australia to Northern Canada. I even suspect that there are more Portuguese people outside Portugal than inside! ”Estimated Álvaro Domingues, a specialist in human geography.
Portuguese society, in spite of everything, has a very low income level, has a very unfair distribution of wealth, has a percentage of people who, on average, earn the minimum wage which is very high”, He warned.
“As always, there is a change for those who can afford it, who have the possibility to choose, because most do not choose”, He observed when asked about the search for a new lifestyle, following the pandemic.
Álvaro Domingues stressed that the territory is a social construction, “change the society will change the territory”.
If the social change is expressive, for example, the search for alternative residences that are not the usual ones …, but I have no news of that. Statistically, even those municipalities that say they have had some population recovery or housing demand, are talking about small numbers”, He assured.
But as the situation has been decades of emptying, suddenly, stagnation seems like a positive sign and a lot of value is given to that.”, He considered.
For Álvaro Domingues, Portugal suffers from a tradition of “very centralized” policies since D. Afonso Henriques and during “the tough era of the ‘troika’” sectoral “disastrous” decisions were made, which left the map “even worse”.