Working in Portugal



Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Iberian Peninsula is Portugal, a country known for its seafaring history and abundance of natural resources. Though its economy is dubbed as advanced and high-income, job opportunities are still scarce, and the unemployment rate is currently high at 10.5%.

If you can learn Portuguese, then you’re on our way to a bright future that includes basking on a Portuguese beach. Mastering the local language can pull some weight to get that elusive job. Another inevitable setback for expats seeking employment in Portugal is the country's bureaucratic red tape, which has derailed its economic growth. And that is certainly bad news for expats looking for stable employment, as most skilled professions require a license and certification from local offices. Consequently, to combat the old-fashioned bureaucracy, you can hire an agent to act on your behalf to apply and process employment papers.

Leading Sectors and Job Market

The Portuguese economy is built on its several leading sectors which include fishing, forestry and agriculture. Portugal has dramatically diversified its economy during the recent years and shifted its gears to textile, oil refining, tourism and automotive sectors. In 2015, this country had a recorded labour force of 5.2 million whereas 7.5% are employed in agriculture, 24.5% in industry and a massive 68.1% in the services sector. Modern technologies and research companies also found their way to this country and set up offices in the large cities such as Porto and Lisbon.

As mentioned earlier, employment opportunities are not abundant, but that doesn't mean that no jobs are available. Teaching the English language is a good, promising career prospect. Expats can also seek jobs in the blooming and expanding green energies and ICT sectors which are the leading companies that currently work on the country’s renewable energies sector. There are also potential jobs that will be available for professionals and skilled workers who have experience in the aerospace industry and biotechnology.

Average Salary and Work Conditions

The current Retribuição mínima mensal garantida (national minimum wage) in Portugal is EUR 557 per month while the minimum wages in the Autonomous Region of Auzores is EUR 584.85 and EUR 568.14 in the Autonomous Region of Madeira. Average monthly salaries range from EUR 700 to EUR 800 which can be enough to get by in Portugal. Salaries can be paid on a monthly, daily or hourly basis, as agreed by both parties. It can be paid by bank transfer, but there are some employers who still pay by cheque or cash. Whatever the form of payment is, the employee is entitled to a payslip, which shows the breakdown of remuneration (gross pay, allowance, deductions, income tax, etc.).

Normal working hours should not exceed eight hours per day or 40 hours per week. By law, Sunday is the compulsory weekly rest day. All employees in Portugal are entitled to a Christmas bonus (equal to one month's pay), paid on 15 December. Employees also receive holiday pay.

The Portuguese Work Culture

Family is the core of the Portuguese society. They are loyal to their family members and put them above anything else, even business and work. Nepotism is also one of their key traits whereas they believe that hiring someone they trust and know deeply is of utmost importance. They are also conservative and very traditional. They keep a sense of formality and are most of the time polite when dealing with other people.

Portugal’s business culture is deeply influenced by hierarchy. The locals respect authority and rank so expats must respect those who hold high positions. Authoritarian is the approached used in the Portuguese work environment so one must know who recognise the person in charge. Initial greetings, on the other hand, are polite and gracious. A common greeting is a firm handshake with direct eye contact.

Most Portuguese also take vacation during August so avoid scheduling an appointment on this month. The locals from the north are more punctual than those from the south. Being late for five minutes is still considered on time. Agendas and presentations should be well prepared and are back up with figures and charts.


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Work Guide

Expat Services in Portugal