Some perspectives from reading the guidebooks and listening to tour guides in Portugal, the Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands…
Low-skilled immigration makes a country poorer according to the Lonely Planet Portugal guidebook, otherwise filled with politically correct sentiments:
In 1974 and 1975 there was a massive influx of refugees from the former African colonies, changing the demographic of the city and culturally, if not financially, adding to its richness.
The fewer immigrants the better according to Lonely Planet Canary Islands:
Migration from Africa has also stabilized with just 288 migrants arriving here in 2014, compared to a staggering 32,000 in 2006 when some days several hundred Africans would reach the islands in their rickety wooden boats.
Guides in the Canaries told us that, in addition to using military force to resist immigration from Africa, they use police and regulations to resist immigrants from other parts of the EU. To stay in the Canaries one must have either a W-2 job or prove to authorities that one has sufficient savings and income to sustain oneself without collecting welfare.
The accepted narrative in guidebooks and among locals is that population growth historically led to unemployment and poverty for which the only relief was emigration. This is where the “tough to make predictions about the future” angle of the title comes in. During the last 120 years or so, the countries that seemed the most promising destinations for ambitious young Atlantic islanders: Cuba, South Africa, Venezuela. (A lot of folks ended up bouncing back, sometimes a couple of generations after emigrating.)
Separately, for those who didn’t emigrate you might ask what life is like. On the Azores the answer is “awesome.” The islands have fantastic roads, considering the mountainous terrain, which are never crowded. “All of these roads and tunnels were funded by the EU starting in the 1990s,” explained our guide. Every small town has a festival at least once per year and residents will party until sunrise. “There are a lot of little towns here,” explained our guide, “so we’re usually at a festival about once every week.” This prompted a Swiss tourist to mutter “When do these people work?” Locals stress the safety and security of their lives on the islands, the good schools for their children, and the strong connections to family and neighbors. The economy of the Azores is built on agriculture and some islands are just covered in dairy farms. The farther south you go to Madeira and the Canary Islands the more it feels like an artificial tourist outpost, but the locals express some of the same sentiments as do those in the Azores. One thing these folks love is transportation. Towns are clustered around harbors and airports are built absolutely as close to a town as possible. Nobody complains about overflight noise of inter-island turboprops or jets from the mainland.