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 209.

    Well what a surprise!

    I'm not going to say, they would say that, wouldn't they?

    But, they would say that, wouldn't they?

    Don't forget, these narcissists are never wrong

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    Cameron should put up or shut up.
    If what he says is true, he should provide the evidence.
    But after three years, it seems to me that no evidence means he's been telling porkies and has been caught out by the EU.
    Are your pants on fire Cameron?

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    Batchy 193 this is about EU (LEGAL) migration why would they be hiding under or in lorries?

    Despite the likelihood that it may well be shown that our membership of the EU is massively beneficial and despite the fact that without substantial net immigration we face a demographic time bomb it's 100% certain that the arguments for leaving will come down to this sort of tosh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    186. Alaric the Visigoth
    ##And in return we'll get over 3 millions expats sent back here, many economically inactive.##

    Great! Mostly rich pensioners wasting their spending in other places. Already on our State pensions too. Unfortunately it would be down to the places they are in, who are unlikely to kick them out as they deserve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    As usual the BBC hides the real, hard figures. What you will not see is that there are more than 600,000 inactive (i.e. job seekers' allowance claimants) from other EU countries. Nor does the percentage figure reveal that the cost of these people to the NHS alone exceeds £1.6 billion. The BBC is so desperate to pretend that all immigration is good, they will not dare publish anything against.

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    It would be hard for the UK government to provide specific numbers to the commission. As they have admitted that they haven't a clue how many non EU migrants are in the country, even though every single one of these need to be recorded, then the hordes who arrive daily and just have to wave their EU passport at border officials can only be guessed at. A government guess will be well under.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    When ill in Cyprus the first thing that I was asked for was my passport so that they could identify that I was as claimed a visitor. Then I was asked how did I propose to pay? Insurance? Certainly sir, name of company, do you have the policy with you?
    Then, we waited 3 days for the insurance company to give the go ahead.
    But, what was done was first class, I doubt if our guys could have done more

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    188. LukeLoz
    Well. I am Pole and I am shame of what people from my country doing.
    Due to quite a few posters seemingly pretending to be something they are not, quite a few people will take your post with a huge pinch of salt I am afraid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    194.margaret howard
    "migrants will take jobs from local people"
    Here in East Anglia they take the jobs no local people want
    Rubbish - such a commonly spread myth. Are we to believe that before the floodgates opened nobody swept streets, cleaned toilets, emptied bins, picked fruit etc? We always managed those things before the influx of millions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    While I think about it::
    When I was “person” I thought about stuff
    When I was a “citizen” I thought about stuff that concerned me and
    When I was a “citizen” I thought about stuff that concerned me and other “citizens”
    Now I am a “politician” I think about me

  • Comment number 199.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    Politicians don't get it! They require-:

    School placements
    Our jobs, they will work for peanuts.

    Politicians still don't get it, they will bring grandmas and uncles, more bigger houses, more hand outs, more jobs, less school places and free treatment.

    Our politicians can't see light of day. "Good for the economy", they say, they are running scared... let's call in the clowns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    Very amusing comments on here, the way it seems to be if you disagree with the EU findings you blame the BBC for being biased (for reporting news?)
    If you post items off topic or break the rules the BBC is slaughtering you with censorship.
    Perhaps you should just stick with the Daily Mail and continue to let them tell you what to think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    Publish all the figures you want, slap me a across the face with a wet fish and call me an Englishman. I will still believe what I want and climate change is a con because I found some pictures of ice up North.

    UKIP campaign policy 2015.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Hang on a minute, why should we take any notice of these folk? When did the auditors last sign off a set of EU Accounts? It's about time we took our country back from the seemingly unaccountable EU types.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    155 rr6

    "migrants will take jobs from local people"

    Here in East Anglia they take the jobs no local people want

    If it weren't for them your fruit and vegetables would stay unharvested or too expensive as local people demand high wages rather than leave their Eastenders boxed sets

    Even when forced off their settees before collecting their dole normally scarper after a day or two

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    @181 steve
    One reason the govt don't give figures could be the fact that they don't know how many illegals come in under lorries etc. We need to start rounding the illegal immigrants up and deporting them immediatly-no appeals-just go! That would send a strong message to their friends back home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    I honestly dontly dont believe any migrant is migrating for benefits. THEY ARE MIGRATING TO FIND WORK.Accept it or not Migrants in UK are more hard working people than UK natives and in a way UK government want migrant's tax to pay pensions for its aeging non-working population. Having said this I dont agree with EU's border free policy, every country has right to control its own border.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    139. Pakgila
    .....but that's also a fact
    No, it's not. This is a democracy. People are entitled to their political / economic choices and that includes the EU. To insult them as you do could rightly be perceived as immature btw.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    To those who doubt the credibility of the Commision's report.

    Maybe you should ask our Government why they cannot provide the evidence to support the Daily Mail's position. The Commision have only been asking for three years.

    Forget all the groundless xenophobic guff. Leaving the EU will be the final nail in our economic coffin.


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