Postcard from... Quarteira

 

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A hot spring sun beats down on the promenade at Quarteira, with its pristine beach and cute cafés offering cheap beer and great seafood. It’s a heady mix for anyone who’s just struggled through a British winter.

But something is wrong. This small town near the tourist trap of Albufeira (pictured) is a lively place during the Algarve off-season, but the population is skewed – there are few young locals enjoying the mini-heatwave. Indeed, young locals seem outnumbered by tattoo shops on the main drag – an odd industry to thrive in such conditions, perhaps.

So where has the youth of Portugal gone? Put simply, the country’s economy is not working. Seven years after the world recession hit, youth unemployment still hovers around 30 per cent, and youngsters cannot afford to stay in their home towns, or even their homeland.

More than half of young Portuguese questioned in a recent Publico survey said they were considering emigrating to find a job. With neighbour Spain in similar doldrums, young people are looking further afield. Economists fear this mass emigration will hurt the country for decades, robbing it of its brightest and best and harming the careers of those just starting out.

At Faro airport, one young graduate with perfect English says he is on call 18 hours a day to shuttle tourists between resorts. He’s paid piecework – no customers, no pay – and it’s all he can get. So he’s leaving, and his answer is London. He’s lived there before, working baggage at Heathrow, and even that seems a better life.

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