With its stunning beaches and coastal resorts, the Algarve is known primarily as a tourist destination. However, despite the luxury golf courses, apartment complexes and villas, it’s also a region with high unemployment rates. The inland region of the Algarve is rural and occupied mainly by older people, farmers and expats. Fishing, farming and tourism are the primary industries, none of which offer high wages or lucrative opportunities.

Opportunities for employment in the Algarve are limited for expats unless they are fluent in Portuguese or have specialist skills. It’s possible for EU citizens to work in the Algarve without a work visa, but new arrivals should seek advice from an accountant or financial advisor to get assistance with setting up a business, registering for residency status and paying taxes.

Job market in the Algarve

Unemployment in the Algarve is high, and wages are relatively low, so there are usually plenty of local people seeking employment. Portuguese people generally have a high standard of English, which means that native English speakers aren’t especially in demand. There may be opportunities for teachers of English as a foreign language to work privately or in language schools. Work in tourism is typically low-paying and seasonal, with long working hours.

Some expats start businesses, often working exclusively for the expat market. These tend to be in trades such as building, gardening, pool maintenance and personal care, as some expats prefer to employ an English speaker to ease communication. 

Other expats work remotely as writers or business owners in their native countries. WiFi and plentiful cheap flights to Europe make ‘commuting’ possible for those whose profession doesn’t require them to be based in one place. Earning European rates while based in Portugal, with its lower cost of living, is an ideal way for expats to earn an income.

Finding a job in the Algarve

Online portals and expat newspapers advertise existing job offers in the region. Many of these are small ads posted by individuals looking for holiday accommodation cleaners or bar staff. For more professional opportunities, one would need to consider seeking employment in larger cities like Lisbon, where more international employers are based.

Before one considers starting a business in the Algarve, it’s important to research the amount of work likely to be available. New arrivals should remember that many expat tradespeople have been established in the region for decades, and starting from scratch may take some time.

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Work culture in the Algarve

Expats in the Algarve will find that paternalism and hierarchy permeate almost every aspect of local work culture. Personal relationships are important to local business people, so it’s advisable that expats put considerable effort into getting to know their co-workers and employers.

Expats who manage to learn the local language will also find that more doors are open to them, as local colleagues will usually appreciate the effort they’ve put into adapting to Portuguese culture.

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