Is Portugal a good place to live? See if the country is for you

13 de December, 2022

Is Portugal a good place to live? See if the country is for you

Has Portugal ever been in your plans? Or is it a new dream? It is certain that the country has become the destination of many foreigners.
Reading: 11 min

Has Portugal ever been in your plans? Or is it a new dream? It is certain that the country has become the destination of many foreigners. But is Portugal a good place to live? Is it ideal for you? Come, let’s find out.

Portugal is a good place to live and have quality of life

This is nothing new, in fact it is one of the reasons that most attracts foreigners, especially Brazilians, who come to live in the country: the quality of life, and especially the safety.

Safety in Portugal is visible, and can be felt in day-to-day life in the country. And this feeling of safety is confirmed by the official figures.

According to data from the Global Peace Index, the world ranking that evaluates safety in countries, Portugal is one of the safest in the world. Currently, in the 2022 edition, the country ranks 6th (behind Austria, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, and Iceland).

Portugal is a good place to live

Public health in Portugal is used by the majority of the population

Public health in Portugal, which is provided by the National Health System (SNS), is of high quality and is used by almost the entire population. The users (as the people enrolled in the SNS are called) are entitled to register at a health center and have a family doctor responsible for their care.

It is true that family doctors are not always available for everyone, but this is not really a problem, since a doctor on duty is always guaranteed at the health centers. And so is emergency care in hospitals.

Exemption of moderator fees

Furthermore, in 2022 all user fees will be abolished. These fees were paid by the population in order to have access to medical services, such as consultations and examinations. The fee was very affordable, but now the services are all free.

Today, the only fee charged is for access to the emergency service to hospitals without prior referral from the NHS. But still, if the patient needs to be hospitalized, there is no charge.

How does the service work?

In Portugal, the SNS adopts the primary care system. That is, the patient’s first step should be to make an appointment with his or her family doctor. If it is possible, the family doctor himself will make the necessary arrangements for treatment.

If not, the patient is referred by the public system to a specialist doctor or for tests, as needed.

Therefore, it is worth knowing that through Portugal’s public health system it is not possible to make an appointment directly with a specialty doctor. Nor is it possible to choose the doctor who will make the appointment.

Private health insurance

So, if you want to be able to make an appointment with the professional you prefer, or even if you want to see a specialist directly, know that you need to prepare yourself and set aside some money to pay for health insurance.

With private insurance, you have the freedom to choose the doctors and hospitals where you will consult.

Santo António Hospital Building
Santo António Hospital, in Porto, is part of the country’s public health system

But it is worth another warning: the health insurance available in Portugal is different from health plans in other countries. Here, you take out insurance (which averages €30, depending on your profile and age) and pay coparticipation fees for consultations. Depending on the plan, the consultation costs are between 15€ and 25€.

Taxes in Portugal are high

Portugal has one of the highest tax burdens in Europe, especially with regard to income tax (IRS) and social security contributions.

Among the 38 countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Portugal is the 10th country with the highest tax burden, according to the information in the report Taxing Wages 2022.

In 2021, according to the same report, the tax burden of labor-related costs for a couple with children earning two average salaries was 25.1%. For a single person without children, this percentage reached 28%.

In short, the higher the salary, the higher the taxes due, since the country applies progressive amounts on the amount of workers’ annual earnings.

More earnings, more taxes

In Portugal, income tax (IRS) is calculated on a progressive basis, based on tax brackets. There are currently 9 brackets and the tax rates range from 14.5% (for income up to 7,479€) to 48% (for income above 78,834€).

Just so you know, here is how the IRS table looks with the updates for the year 2023:

Annual IncomeIRS Rate
Up to $7,47914,5%
From $7,479 to $11,28421%
From $11,284 to $15,99226,5%
From $15,992 to $20,70028,5%
From $20,700 to $26,35535%
From $26,355 to $38,63237%
From $38,632 to $50,48343,5%
From $50,483 to $78,83445%
Above $78,83448%

Other taxes

In addition to taxes on labor, there are other taxes in Portugal, such as:

  • Property taxes: Municipal Property Tax(IMI), Municipal Property Transfer Tax (IMT) and Stamp Tax (IS);
  • Consumption tax: Value Added Tax(VAT);
  • Automobile taxes: Single Circulation Tax (IUC) and Vehicle Tax (ISV).

Social welfare

But even though the tax burden is high, it is worth saying that the Portuguese government invests the taxes in improving the quality of life of the population.

Here are some examples: recently, an investment of 607 million euros was approved to be used until 2026 for improvements in security equipment and infrastructure.

For health, meanwhile, the 2023 budget has been increased by 10.5%, which will be used for hiring missing professionals, salary adjustments, and improving health services.

Education, health, and security are among the main areas of attention of the government, which currently consists of the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (elected in 2016) and Prime Minister António Costa, who heads the government from 2015. The Prime Minister is part of the Socialist Party and the President was elected as a member of the Social Democratic Party.

Portugal is not a country to get rich

This is a point worth paying attention to if you are thinking about living in Portugal. As we said before, most people who decide to move to the country do so thinking about the quality of life they will have.

When we talk about quality of life, we talk about safety, a public health system that works, and a good quality public education. And that is more than enough for many people.

But Portugal is not a high-wage country, and in general, it is not a country where you make a lot of money – although there can always be some exception. So if you’re thinking of moving with a view to getting rich, maybe Portugal is not the best choice.

Minimum and average wages

In 2022, the minimum wage in Portugal is 705 euros and, according to data from 2021, almost 25% of the population receives this salary range for their work.

Furthermore, about 75% of the workers (2.8 million people) receive less than 1000€ per month, according to a story published by Jornal de Notícias in September 2022.

The average wage in the second quarter of 2022 was 1,439€, which represents an increase of 3.1% according to data from the National Statistics Institute (INE). But the agency warns that in real terms and based on the variation of the Consumer Price Index, this means a 4.6% drop in purchasing power.

Less consumerism

Generally speaking, the Portuguese are less consumerist people. Of course this varies from person to person and also with lifestyle. But the Portuguese are usually not so concerned about changing cars every year or having a brand new car, for example.

Owning a home is a priority, because rents are very high and there are no indications that prices will go down in the short term. According to official figures, approximately 74% of the Portuguese own their own homes.

In other words, the consumption and spending options are different. Besides home ownership, which represents security, one of the things that is most important, and that a good part of the Portuguese invest in, is summer vacation.

Algarve Beach, Portugal
Algarve’s beaches are the favorite to spend the summer vacations

It is quite common for families to make a financial plan to ensure that they will be able to enjoy part of the warm season on one of the Portuguese beaches. In 2022, the average vacation budget was 1,543€.

In Portugal, culture is serious business

In the country, the incentive to culture is taken seriously. And the government of Portugal has been betting and investing more in culture in recent years. According to the government, since 2016 the budget for this area has grown by 48%, second only to investments in health.

The current government plans that by the end of its term, 2.5 percent of the country’s total budget will be allocated to investments in the cultural sector. For 2023, the cultural budget has been increased by 23% to a total of 760.3 million euros.

In addition, there are other measures that are also aimed at strengthening the cultural sector, such as the Sustained Support Program for the Arts 2023-26. During this period, there is an estimated 114% increase in the investment made in the sector, with the aim of reaching the value of 148 million euros, according to the Minister of Culture, Pedro Adão e Silva.

The budget money will be divided among Visual Arts, Music and Opera, Dance, Theater, Programming, Street Arts, and Circus.

Portuguese public education serves 79.6% of the population

According to official data (updated in September 2022), 79.6% of Portuguese students study in public institutions, from pre-school to higher education (1,582,921 students). On the other hand, students enrolled in private education represent only 20.4%, i.e. 404,753 students.

This happens mainly because public education in the country is of quality, being considered an education of excellence and recognized for it.

Another factor worth explaining is that in public schools education is free, and those responsible for the children need only pay for food, field trips, and school supplies for personal use. All basic material is provided by the government.

If you have school-age children and intend to enroll them in a public school, you can rest assured that they will have access to quality education. In addition, they will have the opportunity to interact with Portuguese and foreign classmates from different realities and social classes.

Portugal is not a service country

Before you definitely decide to move to Portugal, it is also worth knowing a little more about the country’s service sector. Generally speaking, Portugal has a “do-it-yourself” culture, meaning that it is quite common for people to clean their own homes, do small household repairs, and mow the lawn in the garden.

Maid service? It exists, of course! But it is not very common, in most cases only people with high purchasing power usually hire this service. In general, it is common to hire at most one cleaning service every two weeks or weekly to give a little help at home.

Tele delivery

Another thing that is very different from Brazil is the famous delivery services. Many foreigners are used to using delivery services for everything: food, drinks, pharmacy and supermarket purchases.

In Portugal delivery services exist (Uber Eats and Glovo, for example), but in a more “timid” way. With the arrival of the pandemic, delivery services have become more popular, but they are still not as widespread and operate with limited hours simply because they are not part of the Portuguese culture.

Almost no 24-hour services

Speaking of limited hours, it is also worth knowing that very few services can be found open outside business hours.

With the exception of a few on-call pharmacies, you are unlikely to find a supermarket open after 9 pm, a gas station with extended hours, or a restaurant that is open past midnight.

Sunday is a day for rest and family and almost all commerce is closed, with the exception of supermarkets, restaurants and shopping centers.

The pace of life in Portugal is slower

This is so true that we have already talked about it in an article about the pace of life in Portugal. And we think it is important for those who are planning to move to the country to know a little more about how things are here, to know whether the Portuguese rhythm makes sense for you or not.

Let’s just say that in Portugal time seems different, and we particularly appreciate that. As we have already explained, 24-hour services are not a reality, and Sundays are reserved for rest and time with the family.

Public services have their slower timelines, you often have to wait weeks for an appointment, stand in line, or wait at home for an official letter.

Work is not everything

Also, in general, people don’t live to work. They work because they have to, of course. But life is more than that, it is made for living, spending time with family and friends, and traveling.

So, if you come from big cities in Brazil or love the pace of a big metropolis, rethink whether Portugal is really for you. Even Lisbon, the country’s capital, has a gentler pace.

If you really want to come, great. But be aware that you will have to adapt to the rhythm of the country!

Conservative or progressive population?

We can say that the Portuguese population is divided, we find movements, ideals, and conservative and progressive people here.

It is worth pointing out that the country has some advances that were even supported by the population. Abortion, for example, has been allowed since 2007 for any situation. The decision was passed by popular vote and was approved by 59.25% of the citizens.

Drug use is illegal, but it is not a crime. Since 2001, the purchase, possession and consumption of drugs is not criminalized. This means that drug users are seen as people who need support and treatment in order to live a life free of addiction, and not as criminals.

Couple of women
Many rights of the LGBTQIA+ population are guaranteed in Portugal

Gay marriage has been a reality since 2010, and the adoption of children by homosexual couples has been allowed since 2016. Portugal is a country that has made many advances in protecting the LGBTQIA+ population in recent years.

Euthanasia, medically assisted dying, has been much discussed in the country in recent years and the debates are heated – but it is not allowed. It has been passed through Parliament a few times, but has so far not been approved because there is no consensus on the subject.

Portugal has also been fighting against discrimination and racism, situations that are still a very present reality in the country in some situations. In 2022, the government created the National Plan to Combat Racism and Discrimination to collect data and make interventions in education, security, health, employment, housing, and justice.

Is Portugal the country for you? Then talk to our consultants and find out how to make your dream of living in the country possible!

Article originally published on our partner site Euro Dicas.



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