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Working in Lisbon

Among many expats, the idea of going to Lisbon may have lost much of its appeal, due to the economic and fiscal problems the nation has suffered in the past few years. Our guide informs you about the state of the city’s economy and possible ways working in Lisbon might still be worthwhile.
Most of Lisbon's GDP is generated in offices — the service sector is dominant here.

Lisbon’s Dominant Service Sector

As the city is the capital of a major Westernized country, Lisbon’s economy today shares many features with those of other expat hotspots around the globe. The most prominent and obvious feature is, of course, the major role of the services sector — not very surprising in our modern times. Many of the largest Portuguese corporations have their headquarters in Lisbon, including some national major players such as the Portuguese Telecom and the largest energy supplier, Energias de Portugal.

Lisbon’s seaport has been an important facet of the city’s economy since the olden times, and while it did not retain the dominant position in European trade it once had, it is still a major trans-shipment center. In terms of ship servicing, transfer of goods, and as a large employer, the seaport still has great significance for Lisbon.

For anyone involved in Portuguese mass media, working in Lisbon is an important career step: the nation’s TV stations, major newspapers, and all other forms of media are represented in the city in one way or another. In many cases, the main operations are located in the city. Needless to say that Lisbon is also the heart of Portugal’s financial sector. To sum up: for Portuguese corporations working in the tertiary sector, it is vital to have employees working in Lisbon.


Within the Greater Lisbon Area, the municipality of Oeiras has developed into the preferred choice of multinational corporations looking to reap the benefits of working in Lisbon without being constrained in terms of space or having to deal with the city’s high rents. Corporations that are, in one way or another, part of the daily lives of most of us have established representations in Oeiras, including, among others, Nestlé, Samsung, and Nokia. Fittingly, the municipality is home to various business parks grouped by field, facilitating ease of business and creating synergies between the various companies in Lisbon’s northern suburb.

Industries in Lisbon

If you are not employed in the services sector, but would still like to gain some experience working in Lisbon, you might have to look outside the city proper — more specifically across the Tagus River. The southern shore of the river is home to large-scale industrial enterprises, specializing in the fields of textiles, oil refinery, and steel, amongst others. This area is the largest center for industry in the Lisbon Metro Area apart from the seaport and a major employer — however, in terms of GDP contribution, Lisbon’s secondary sector is not quite as strong as the services sector.

Economic Dominance and Deep Divides

It is perhaps not very shocking to find that Lisbon’s powerful economy has made the city the wealthiest region in all of Portugal. The median income of an employee working in Lisbon is well above those in other parts of the country, Porto included. However, Lisbon also holds the questionable distinction of being the home of the largest income gap in Portugal: the city is second in terms of poverty risk while having the highest per capita GDP. This, combined with the recent troubles detailed below, has put quite some strain on Lisbon’s society.

Dealing with Recent Social Issues

We are pretty sure that the troubles Portugal has experienced in the past few years have not escaped expats interested in working in Lisbon. The situation is still very tense, both in terms of employment opportunities both for expats and, of course, locals, as well as actual earnings, which are among the lowest in the EU. Many who would have otherwise loved being expats in Lisbon may be put off by the austerity measures put into effect by the EU and Portuguese government, or just give up their dream in the face of the troubles the country is still hoping to overcome in the near future. For a closer look at the problems and possible countermeasures, please see our article on working in Portugal.


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