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‘Affiliate Content’ is used to describe content that contains affiliate links. Euronews is compensated for the products and services linked to this article. This content is produced by Euronews affiliates and does not involve Euronews editorial staff or news journalists.

Digital tech nomads are pricing Portuguese workers out of the country

Huge disparities in income between locals and tech migrants led to fierce competition for rental properties
Huge disparities in income between locals and tech migrants led to fierce competition for rental properties   -  Copyright  Canva

By Nathalie Marquez Courtney

Traditionally known as the city of pretty tiles, cobble-stone-clad hills and delicious custard tarts, in recent years Lisbon has also become synonymous with a certain kind of tech worker – the so-called “digital nomad”.

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Even before the COVID-19 pandemic created a slew of remote employees flocking to destinations across Europe, the Portuguese capital was a popular spot for techie expats, thanks to its sunny climate, friendly community, relaxed pace of life and, often, low tax rates.

However, this seemingly idyllic lifestyle came at a cost, one that locals have increasingly found themselves paying.

Huge disparities in income between locals and tech migrants led to fierce competition for rental properties, with many local workers finding themselves priced out of their own neighbourhoods.

New research shows that many Portuguese workers have to work multiple jobs or leave.

Lisbon’s double-jobbing locals

Earlier this year, a Statistics Portugal study showed that 5 per cent of Portuguese working-age adults – more than 250,000 – reported holding down two or even three jobs.

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Additionally, Business Roundtable Portugal, a group of the country’s biggest private companies, says that almost 40 per cent of Portuguese graduates leave every year to seek better work opportunities elsewhere.

With a monthly minimum wage of €820 and with 50 per cent of people earning less than €1,000 a month, it’s little surprise that locals struggle to compete with the deep pockets of digital nomads, many of whom are on high salaries from their United States-based VC-backed tech employers.

And while inflation and increased costs are something most major European cities have experienced, many Portuguese locals cite Lisbon’s soaring housing costs as the main reason.

Over the past five years, Lisbon rents have risen by almost 30 per cent, making it a more expensive place to rent than Milan, Madrid and Berlin. Across Portugal, house prices have nearly doubled since 2018, the highest appreciation rate in Europe.

The Portuguese government’s “Mais Habitação” programme, which came into effect last October, introduced a series of legislative changes designed to increase the availability of properties in the long-term rental market over short-term lets.

And though it has increased supply, rental prices are still high.

The future of tech jobs in Portugal

However, low costs are not the only reason tech workers flock to the city; as one of Europe's fastest-growing tech cities and 2023’s European Capital of Innovation, Lisbon is determined to remain an attractive tech hub despite these challenges.

The new digital nomad visa (which allows digital nomads to move to Portugal if they make at least €3,280 per month) shows that they are keen to still be seen as an attractive hub for skilled tech workers. Plus, the pathway to citizenship – and an EU passport– is shorter than in other EU countries (five years, compared to Spain’s ten).

Digital nomads move on: The “new” Lisbon

Tech workers looking to leave Lisbon or experience another affordable destination could look to the Spanish city of Malaga. Savills Executive Nomad Index, which ranks the world’s 20 most desirable destinations, placed Malaga second (and number one in Europe).

Though smaller than the Portuguese capital, it boasts a similar mix of elements that made Lisbon so attractive in the beginning, including a reasonable cost of living, great culture, easy beach access and a warm climate. Like Lisbon, it also boasts exceptional internet speeds, a must-have for any travelling techie.

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