Honors Thesis Spotlight: Integration of Brazilian versus Other Lusophone Immigrants into Portuguese Economy and Society


The relationship between Lusophone countries—former colonies of Portugal that speak Portuguese—and Portugal is at the forefront of many studies. The relationship between these countries is fairly positive (Portugal retains economic and diplomatic ties with some of its former colonies) and many individuals in former Lusophone countries immigrate to Portugal to seek better opportunities. However, there seems to be a difference in the experiences of Brazilian immigrants and immigrants from other Lusophone countries, and some believe there is a “special relationship” between Brazil and Portugal. This thesis seeks to compare these differences and evaluate if there is indeed a special relationship that favors Brazilian immigrants.

The author conducts a literature review, a quantitative data analysis of previous studies, and distributes an original survey to six Brazilian immigrants in Portugal.

The literature review reveals that Brazilian immigrants receive preferential treatment in the legal context as opposed to other Lusophone immigrants. Based on the annual SEF (the Portuguese equivalent to Homeland Security) report, Brazilian immigrants have been increasing in number far more than other Lusophone countries. While economic and political crises in Brazil might explain the recent influx of Brazilian immigrants, Brazilian immigrants receive more “golden visas” than other Lusophone immigrants. These golden visas are a part of the Golden Resident Program; the program eases and expedites the process of immigration for immigrants who will invest in Portugal, usually white, upper-class individuals. Furthermore, a  statute from a treaty between Brazil and Portugal gives another avenue to speed up the process of immigration; Brazilian immigrants are given leniency on visa requirements.

This treaty also has provisions for the education of Brazilian immigrants. A study done by Merçon reveals that the University of Algarve in Portugal places special emphasis on recruiting international students that spoke Portuguese. The study discusses the possibility that Brazilian students are preferred over other international students because of more financial wealth.

The literature review also revealed that Brazilians sent more money back to their home country, however, the data on this is not thorough enough to accurately determine if this is due to a “special relationship” between Brazil and Portugal.

In order to assess if the special relationship is true, the author looks at the economic experiences of all immigrants. Immigrants as a whole earned lower salaries than native Portuguese citizens; however, Brazilians deviated from the average salary of immigrants more than other Lusophone immigrants. While this might suggest that there is a special relationship between Brazil and Portugal, a study by Blanco dos Santos reveals a more nuanced answer. Brazilian immigrants felt they were discriminated against by society, but felt that the structured organizations in society were fair. Thus, the study discovered that socially, Brazilian and African immigrants were treated similarly, however, the special relationship played a role in the “fairness” that Brazilian immigrants felt in the structured society of Portugal. 

 The raw data analysis reveals that Brazilian immigrants were more highly educated and earned a higher household income than other Lusophone immigrants. Most Brazilian immigrants surveyed were employed and were able to find more stable, full-time employment than other Lusophone immigrants. While Brazilian immigrants seem to have more stable opportunities, other Lusophone immigrants were more certain of their living situations improving than Brazilian immigrants.

The author’s survey reveals that due to the career barriers and prejudice that Brazilian immigrants face in Portuguese society, there is not much evidence for a special relationship between Brazil and Portugal. The participants of the survey discussed that while they moved to Brazil for more education and career opportunities, there are still some barriers to securing a job. Participants were able to connect easier with other Brazilians than Portuguese nationals (as they felt some prejudice from Portuguese individuals), however, they felt a general acceptance by Portuguese citizens. The author highlights that the participants were white, middle-class Brazilians, thus their experiences might deviate from lower-class Brazilian immigrants.

The author concludes that there is a difference in the experiences of Brazilian and other Lusophone immigrants. This difference favored Brazilian immigrants; they had higher education, household income, and full-time employment levels than other Lusophone immigrants. The author argues that these advantages are due to less racial discrimination that Brazilians face. While this study did not examine the effects of race on the experience of immigrants in Portugal, the author highlights that future research should be done to understand the full extent of this factor. Nonetheless, the author finds evidence of a special relationship between Brazil and Portugal—but only in the legal context. This special relationship does not carry over into Portuguese society; Brazilian immigrants face societal discrimination in Portuguese society. Overall, there are many gaps in research regarding Portugal, and the Brazilian and other Lusophone immigrants’ experience.

Grace Phair Montgomery is a graduate from the College of Social Science and Public Policy at Florida State University. This post is a summary of Grace’s honors thesis, written by COSSPP blog intern Jacqueline Rao. You can learn more about Grace here. You can learn more about this project here

Source for featured image: https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/portugal-portuguese-flag-textile-cloth-fabric-waving-on-the-top-sunrise-mist-fog-gm1060038566-283349142

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