By Victoria Waldersee
LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal received more money in remittances than any other EU country for the second year in a row in 2018, Eurostat data showed on Tuesday, as the number of emigrants increased for the first time since 2014.
A total of 3.6 billion euros ($3.9 bn) came into the country in the form of workers’ remittances in 2018, ahead of Romania (€3.0bn), Poland (€2.9 bn), the United Kingdom (€2.3 bn) and Italy (€2.0 bn).
In contrast, Portuguese citizens sent just 600 million euros abroad, leaving a surplus of 3 billion euros, also the highest in the EU. The country has not seen a surplus this high since 2001, when it fell from 3.3 billion euros in 2001 to 1.9 billion in 2003.
Approximately one fifth of Portuguese citizens live abroad, according to World Bank data. A total of 860,000 people have left the country since the beginning of austerity in 2011, with government efforts to convince young people to return through fiscal incentives largely unsuccessful.
Instead, it seems, they are sending money home, with the amount of money coming into the country from abroad increasing steadily since the 2007-2008 crisis.
The number of people leaving Portugal has been dropping since 2014, but it increased last year for the first time since then, from 81,051 in 2017 to 81,754 in 2018, government data showed.
Across the EU, only Poland and Romania come close to Portugal’s remittance surplus, with Poland receiving 2.8 billion more than it sends abroad and Romania 2.8 billion.
Already in 2017, Portugal held the record for highest surplus in remittances, beating Poland by 242 million euros.
No other Western European country came anywhere near to Portugal in Eurostat’s figures, with all other spots in the top 10 countries for remittances held by Eastern European countries except Sweden, which reported a 67 million euro surplus.
The EU as a whole sends 22 billion euros more abroad than it receives in remittances, Eurostat data showed.
(Reporting by Victoria Waldersee, editing by Ed Osmond)