by Marina Watson Pelaez
LISBON, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- "Securing a job in Portugal is extremely difficult," says Irina Cruz, 28, an unemployed nursery teacher. "There are so many people applying, and even if you do get a job the conditions are not so good. You have to work so many hours for a salary of just 600 euros (802 U.S. dollars) per month."
Irina is now considering leaving her home country.
"Working conditions here are simply not favorable to have a future here, even if I did manage to find a job," she told Xinhua in a recent interview.
By leaving, educated young people like Irina are putting the country at stake of what analysts have referred to as a "brain drain," but they have little choice due to the country's financial instability, especially since the financial collapse that hit Portugal in May 2011, when the country had to receive a 78-billion-euro bailout.
According to data released on Tuesday by the Portuguese National Institute of Statistics (INE), Portugal has lost half a million young people, between the age of 15 and 29, in the last decade.
The statistics are alarming in Portugal: the INE pointed out that around 53,000 people emigrated from Portugal in 2012, and around 26,000 of these people moved to another country permanently.
A pilgrimage even took place in Fatima, central Portugal, on Tuesday to pay homage to Portuguese emigrants, given their significant rise in recent years.
The Portuguese government in several occasions has stimulated its youth to find opportunities abroad, with Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho encouraging unemployed teachers to leave their comfort zones and move to countries like Angola or Brazil, Portuguese-speaking former colonies.
Jose Cesario, Portugal's secretary of state of Portuguese communities, said that despite being a worrying phenomenon, emigration is a problem that has been going on in the country for over a decade, adding that it is a reality the country has always dealt with.
"Young people who emigrate are slightly more qualified according to recent statistics, but still, the number of emigrants with higher education is still lower than the number of residents with higher education who have stayed in Portugal," he told Xinhua.
He clarified: "There are more qualified people emigrating, but the majority of them are actually not highly educated."
The effects of mass emigration in the long run, however, mustn't be downplayed, according to analysts.
"The Portuguese economy is not able to integrate its better trained youth," said political analyst Antonio Costa Pinto, adding that one of the bigger long-term risks is an economic model based on low salaries.
The solution to fight against emigration, he said, is growth and the export sector's capacity to attract a well-trained labor force.
Potugal's economy started to recover during the second half last year, and although the collapse of the country's largest private bank Banco Espirito Santo last week has damaged to some extent the country's reputation, the government is expecting positive growth for the quarter.
The country's main opposition Socialist Party remains sceptical in this respect, pointing to the unemployment figure of over 13 percent as still being too high despite a recent slight recovery.