Portugal Country Guide Part 1
Republic located in the western part of the Iberian peninsula, which borders on the north and east with Spain and on the south and west with the Atlantic Ocean. Its capital is Lisbon.
Territory and resources:
The Portuguese territory covers a continental portion, with 88,705 km2 and about 10,500,000 inhabitants (estimates for 1995), and an island part, with the Autonomous Region of the Azores 2,335 km2 and about 240,000 inhabitants and the Autonomous Region of Madeira 796 km2 and about 250,000 inhabitants.
According to intershippingrates, mainland Portugal is approximately rectangular in shape, 861 km long between Melgaço (Minho) and Cape Santa Maria (Algarve) and a maximum width of 218 km between the mouth of the Neiva River and the Douro River, north-east of Miranda do Douro . Altogether, 11.6% of the territory is above 700 meters of altitude and 13.1% does not reach 200 meters (61.5% of that portion is south of the Tagus River).
Two large rivers cross Portugal in a general east-west direction, the Douro and the Tagus. To the north of the Douro River, in the northwest, are the mountains of Peneda (1,416 m), Soajo (1,415 m), Gerês (1,544 m) and Marão (1,415 m); to the east of these mountains are the plateau areas of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro. Between the Douro and the Tagus, from the northwest to the southwest, extends the mountain range of the Serra da Estrela (1,991 m), Açor (1,339 m) and Lousã (1,204 m).
To the south of the Tagus River are located, in the northeast of Alentejo, the Serra de São Mamede (1,027 m) and between the Alentejo and the Algarve the Serra de Monchique (902 m). The largest watercourses in Portuguese territory are the Douro (322 km), Tejo (275 km), Guadiana (260 km), Mondego (220 km), Zêzere (200 km), Sado (175 km), Vouga (136 km) ) and Mira (130 km). Of the lagoons, the largest are Castelo de Bode (3,500 ha), in Zêzere; Alto Rabagão (2,212 ha), in Rabagão; Santa Clara (1986 ha), in Mira. Of the land, 2,965,000 ha are arable, 586,000 ha of permanent cultivation, 530,000 ha of pastures, 3,641,000 ha of trees, 44,000 ha covered in water and 1,443,000 ha with different uses.
Portugal exports textiles, footwear, transport vehicles and machinery, pulp, cork, wood, chemicals and food products (wine, olive oil and tomatoes); it imports fuels and other mineral products, agricultural and food products, chemicals, paper and wood.
Since 1986 there has been a marked improvement in the situation in infrastructure and transport and communications equipment in Portugal. However, significant differences remain compared to the European Union average, even taking into account that the specific characteristics of the country determine different levels of needs.
Portugal has an important natural heritage and shows, throughout the territory, a satisfactory environmental quality compared to that of the other countries of the European Union. However, there are occasional situations of degradation, especially in the areas of water resources management and nature conservation. Portugal’s water availability is around three times higher than the European average.
Population and government:
To the approximately nine and a half million inhabitants living in Portugal, there should be added three million Portuguese people around the world (around 900,000 in France and 600,000 in both South Africa and Brazil). Of the Portuguese, 89% are Catholics.
The urban population rate is around 55%. Main population centers: Lisbon, Porto, Amadora, Coimbra, Setúbal. Of the active population, 10% are dedicated to agriculture, 30% to industry, 10% to civil construction and public works and 50% to services.
Demographic stabilization, declining fertility and aging.
After the intense emigration to Europe (1960s) and the return of the population of the former African colonies (1970s), the population finally consolidated itself during the last decade, registering 9,862,540 inhabitants in 1991. Demographic stabilization was largely due to a sharp decline in fertility, with an estimated 1.44 children per woman the value of the synthetic fertility index for 1994. As a result of this phenomenon and the increase in the average life expectancy life also accentuated the trend towards an aging population that began in the 1970s.
Return of emigrants and growth in immigration
Another salient feature of the Portuguese demographic evolution in the 1980s was the phenomenon of the return of emigrants. Most of these would have taken up residence in their region of origin. The traditional structure of the rural settlement has, therefore, undergone important changes, among which we can highlight the increase in the built area. At the same time, there has also been a marked increase in immigration over the 1980s, with the number of foreigners legally resident in Portugal rising from 70,594 in 1985 to 157,073 in 1994. It is in the metropolitan area of Lisbon and, to a lesser extent, in the area metropolitan area of Porto, as well as in the Algarve, that foreign communities have sought to establish themselves preferentially.
Trend towards population concentration
Despite the relative stability in the global numbers of the population residing in Portugal, the demographic behavior of the different parts of the territory has still proved to be quite contrasted in the recent past. In general terms, the changes can be summed up in the following points: decrease of the resident population in most of the interior, with the exception of some urban centers, and worsening of the conditions of demographic aging; reinforcement of population concentration on the coast, not only due to the higher natural growth rates, but also due to the fact that they correspond to the areas of greatest job offer and preferential destination for internal and external migratory movements.