Working in the Algarve

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 is also a region of high unemployment and considerable poverty. The inland region of the Algarve is very rural and occupied mainly by older people, farmers and expats. Fishing, farming and tourism are the main industries, none of which offer high wages or professional opportunities.

Opportunities for employment in the Algarve are limited for expats unless they are fluent in Portuguese or have a specialist skill. It is possible for EU citizens to work in the Algarve without a work visa, but advice needs to be sought from an accountant or financial advisor with regard to setting up a business, registering for residency status, or the payment of taxes as a non-resident. Portugal is keen to attract overseas income and has various schemes in place to benefit the expat earner.

Job market in the Algarve

Unemployment in the Algarve is high and wages are relatively low, so there are usually plenty of local people looking for work. Portuguese people also generally have a high standard of English, which means that native English speakers are not especially in demand. There may be opportunities for teachers of English as a foreign language to work privately or in language schools in Faro and other large towns. Work in tourism is typically low paid and seasonal with long working hours to be expected.

Some expats have started their own 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 country. WiFi and plentiful cheap flights to northern Europe make ‘commuting’ possible for those whose profession does not require them to be based in any one place. Earning northern European pay rates whilst 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 such as The Algarve Resident 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 is 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.

Work culture in the Algarve

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

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

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