EU study on migrants rebuffs 'benefit tourism' claims

Poles boarding bus at Victoria Station, London, 20 May 09 The influx of Poles to the UK has slackened in recent years

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A European Commission study has found that jobless EU migrants make up a very small share of those claiming social benefits in EU member states.

The study, carried out by a consultancy for the EU's executive, suggests that claims about large-scale "benefit tourism" in the EU are exaggerated.

But the UK government still wants tighter EU rules on access to benefits.

In most of the EU countries studied the portion of EU migrants among welfare beneficiaries was below 5%.

The European Commission says EU migrants continue to make a net contribution to their host countries' finances, by paying more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

According to the latest report, jobless EU migrants form 1% of the total EU population. In the UK the figure was 1.2% in 2011 and 2012.

"The study found little evidence in the literature and stakeholder consultations to suggest that the main motivation of EU citizens to migrate and reside in a different member state is benefit-related, as opposed to work or family-related", the study by consultants ICF-GHK said.

It looked at non-contributory cash benefits across the EU and access to healthcare - that is, benefits that do not depend on a person's national insurance contributions.

EU membership gives citizens across the 28-nation EU the freedom to move to another EU state, work there and claim benefits, though conditions vary considerably from country to country. Most EU countries are in the Schengen zone, where border checks are minimal.

UK concerns

The new study was based on survey data, including case studies, and national administrative records. The consultancy pointed out, however, that there is a lack of official data on non-active EU migrants, so many of the figures are estimates.

In the UK much debate has focused on migrants' access to the National Health Service, which provides universal care and is funded by UK taxpayers.

According to the EU study, non-active EU migrants account for 0.2% of total health spending in the EU, on average.

Responding to the study, a spokesman for UK Prime Minister David Cameron said there was "widespread and understandable concern" about benefit tourism and the UK was working with other EU countries to change the rules on access to benefits.

"There is an issue around access to the welfare system, around fairness as well as a cost issue... We don't think the current system is working," he said.

Healthcare spending on non-active EU migrants - estimates
East to West migration

In 2003-2012 there was a rise in the total number of intra-EU migrants - from 1.3% to 2.6% of the total EU population, according to the EU study.

That period covers the EU's eastward enlargement and the eurozone debt crisis - developments which have spurred migration from parts of eastern and southern Europe.

At the same time, the rate of "economic non-activity" among EU migrants fell to 33%, from 47%.

More than two-thirds of non-active EU migrants are pensioners, students and jobseekers, rather than migrants' relatives or "homemakers", the study found.

The highest numbers of non-active EU migrants, per head of population, are in Luxembourg (13.9%), Cyprus (4.1%), Belgium (3%) and the Republic of Ireland (3%).

The proportion of young, working-age people among EU migrants tends to be higher than in the host country's general population.

The EU's eastward enlargement in 2004 and 2007 brought in 12 new member states, mostly former communist countries lagging behind the other EU members economically.

The number of jobseekers from Poland and other East European countries who came to the UK after 2004 was far greater than the Labour government in power at the time had anticipated.

Next year the EU labour market will be opened fully to Bulgarians and Romanians - whose countries joined in 2007. That has fuelled concern in the UK about a possible surge in the numbers of Bulgarians and Romanians moving to the UK.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 749.

    744. frankslad
    What is different is population and space. Past eras had vast 'empty' lands to make new use of. Also all were aided by their relevant rulers to kill invaders, or die in the process. Now our leaders actually prevent us doing so rather than leading us in defence. Our political class avoided a fight, even appeasement, and went straight to quislings for big pay and power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 748.

    745. JamesStGeorge
    ‘So you get burgled, the answer is not to complain but burgle someone else's home? Survival of the fittest, bravest, most avaricious? No honour, no principle, just grab faster than the rest? Self only’.

    How is applying for a job and moving country any of those things? I should have stayed unemployed in the UK I suppose, more moral?

  • rate this

    Comment number 747.

    Economic Slavery is still slavery what ever way you look at it.

    Liberalism is why the Slave trading of Africans started.

    But they will never learn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 746.

    Spooky @ 740.
    I’m too old now, but don’t regret a second. Good luck!

  • rate this

    Comment number 745.

    #Those in the UK who are complaining should perhaps take old Tebbit’s advice and get on their bikes? It takes guts to up and leave, immigrants are brave, they are not the problem#

    So you get burgled, the answer is not to complain but burgle someone else's home? Survival of the fittest, bravest, most avaricious? No honour, no principle, just grab faster than the rest? Self only.

  • rate this

    Comment number 744.

    Re 736 - I honestly appreciate your pov - but what makes now any different to the past? - or the UK different anywhere else?

    following your logic - should all non aboriginal people leave Australia? - all non Maoris leave New Zealand? - all non native american people leave US/Canada/South America? After all - they are not their ancestral lands.
    Or does it apply from today only- or only to the UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 743.

    736. JamesStGeorge
    This is our ancestral land
    This land has never belonged to commoners. It's always been the property of the royals, the ruling classes and the rich. This sense of sentimental ownership and national pride is something that only emerged a few centuries, ago funnily enough in sync with the inception of modern society, initiated and encouraged by controlling rulers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 742.

    Is it any surprise that government rhetoric and divisive grand standing is found to be lacking in any factual evidence? Since coming to office we've seen the tories systematically demonise the public sector, welfare claimants, unions and of course immigrants. Offering the great British public a variety of distractions to take our minds of falling living standards and a widening wealth divide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 741.

    I'm sorry but many comments admirable though they are miss the point. UKIP put it very simply, it is about the shear number of migrants who have chosen to pass many EU states to reach the already overcrowded Isles of the United Kingdom. The rate of migration to the UK is unsustainable. Excluding India & Africa there are in excess of 500million EU free to enter + another 29million on 1JAN2014

  • rate this

    Comment number 740.

    Just now
    have a four bedroomed house in a hectare of land overlooking a coral reef. It cost 14,000 pounds. Everything is cheaper than UK. But,you have to get on with foreigners & except & respect other cultures. That is a big problem for most Brits, learnt from the press.

    I get on with most religions & cultures so not a problem. I am just the wrong type, too old.

  • rate this

    Comment number 739.

    Dave promised a referendum but has postponed it so far ahead that it won't happen.

    Democracy - do me a favour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 738.

    735. Juvenalian Precariat
    EU = Fascist


    That made me laugh as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 737.

    Spooky @ 733.
    I have a four bedroomed house in a hectare of land overlooking a coral reef. It cost 14,000 pounds. Everything is cheaper than UK. But, you have to get on with foreigners and except and respect other cultures. That is a big problem for most Brits, learnt from the press.

  • rate this

    Comment number 736.

    The benefits or not of immigrants are irrelevant.
    The costs or not of immigrants are irrelevant.
    It is not an accounting exercise. This is our ancestral land, not theirs. However they get in. We have plenty of our own both lazy and and hard working, etc. Even if we were not full up, the space would be ours not there to be filled by the greedy for a better life. The EU is invasion with no fighting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 735.

  • rate this

    Comment number 734.

    They might work here, but they send child BENEFIT back to their country. They should not get any. When they come over here who pays for their homes.? British people want to work but their is only part time jobs they don't pay bills or rent ect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    14th October 2013 - 23:57
    Those in the UK who are complaining should perhaps take old Tebbit’s advice & get on their bikes?

    I would love to up sticks & move to another country, but my age is against me for getting a job, I could only think of retiring to another country but I wouldn't be allowed to because my pension wouldn't cover the cost of living, so I am stuck here

  • rate this

    Comment number 732.

    More to this than the headline, migration legal or not is going to be a major concern in the coming years. First large scale migrations occurred in the 50 & 60's. Work was plentiful, large scale manufacturing countries welcomed migrants to do the lower paid work. Then came outsourcing to the BRIC's, in sourcing of Eastern Europeans, all cheap labour. Indigenous workers feel threatened by this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 731.

    @275 ‘Since pre Roman era Britain has had immigration. Noone counted it then, so it was no problem!’

    Read The Agricola, the Romans weren’t welcomed. Legend Arthur, fighting immigrating Saxons; Alfred Great fought the Vikings, Harold went down to the Normans. It’s a natural reaction to protect what is yours, but xenophobia is just plain dangerous and the Right fan the flames, to hid behind

  • Comment number 730.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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