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

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    its ok for the champagne socialists to impose their view of multiculturism, but most people living outside this bubble will recognise that employment opportunities for unskilled labour are being diminished by economic migrants. the fact that a good number of these are working low paid cash in hand jobs does of course have the implication that many can claim benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    What I find odd is that we have such an enormous migrant workforce, people coming here as there are clearly jobs available or they set up their own cleaning/building/gardening firms, etc yet we still have a huge UK born unemployed figure? Why is that? Is it because our unemployed are too comfy or is it that our unemployed chose not to partake at school and are virtually unemployable?

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    @276 gOLLUM

    Do you know of any major study pointing out the problem of benefit tourism? The Sunday Telegraph covered this story as a huge splash, are they also biased?

    The BBC ran a long story for a long time on child sex grooming in Rochdale. Why did they not avoid that one?

    I think there is a better reason for the BBC not covering those stories beyond a left-wing conspiracy

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    Dont blame the EU, blame your own crap gouvernment for out of controll imigration!

    No other EU country under the same law has a real problem with imigration!

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    Where are the figures DC? Another set of manipulated numbers, just like the employment figures, the deficit, economic performance etc...
    What is funny is that the usual "bloody foreigners" whiners, are happy to accept money from China, a country with appalling working conditions and pay, to help us get cheap products.
    Pot calling the kettle black!
    Proud to be British, no thanks, it's embarrassing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    How about introducing a rationing system. I loaf of Sunblest a week. 250gr marg, 10 grs of tea and so on for each person. Then sending it home for children would not be so easy, but would benefit the kids more. All that protein in a UK meal!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    'But the UK government still want's tighter rules on access to benefits'

    So have the taxpayers for decades!!

    Just stop talking about it AND DO IT. NOW! NOW!! NOW!!!

    Somebody actual do something for OUR people for a change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    28. pique

    simple answer...any non national claiming benefits should have whatever they receive charged back to their own country.


    I love this idea. Except there will always be problem. Benefit seekers sitting on white sand beaches while tax payers earn their way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    @275 steve

    "EU Migrants contribute more to the exchequer in taxes than they take out, most are of working age that means rather than costing the NHS extra they are paying extra into it!"

    What is the cost of the UK citizens who are now out of work and the the 21% of our youth who are unemployed? Surely we should be looking after them first before opening the doors to unlimited immigration?

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    I used to work for a company that employed a family of 6 Polish workers. Incredibly they each claimed benefits for their children that lived in Poland. The system is just not fair for the UK citizen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    Benefit tourism claims: European Commission urges UK to provide evidence

    So now we see the real reason behind this report. It will be difficult to provide evidence, the nationality of benefit claimants were not recorded until the coalition came into power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    As usual readers here are like religious people. when confronted with evidence that contravenes their innate beliefs and prejudices they huff and puff and post vitriol with no evidence to discredit the study

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    Sadly the Conservatives are being led by the nose on this by UKIP and the right.
    The vast majority of people who come here from the rest of The EU come to work. When they do they work hard (Remember the Conservative Conference slogan about rewarding hard work?)
    ... and what happens to the Brits working in the rest of the EU? They too are entitled to benefits in those countries, if they need them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    So the Government cannot produce evidence about so-called "Benefit Tourism". I'm not surprised about the Government lying. The idiots need to realise that everybody comes here for the "black" cash economy, which they have no intention of dealing with. They are sacking tax collecors and inspectors in the name of austerity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    A british person fails at school and doesnt get a job. He then goes on benefits. How does this person in any way deserve the benefits more than a migrant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    It would be better If all EU states had equal benefits systems, then you'd know migrants were travelling strictly for employment opportunities. As it is, I suspect the UK system exerts a significant "pull factor"...

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    287. Juvenalian Precariat
    Whatever her reason it's no excuse to be abusive to people

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    It's not the number of migrants, it's the failure of the UK governments to increase the infrastructure proportionally. NHS, social housing, schools, roads, trains, rubbish disposal, energy generation are all under funded.

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    #45.NW1837 I would also suspect that those leaving the UK have better skills than the ones arriving so there is a imbalance there. It's not just about numbers but what people bring to the party or take from it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    Re-negotiation of EU rules is needed:
    When unemployment in a member state reaches 5% --- then that country has the option to halt all but essential economic migration from other EU member states
    Is that too complicated?


Page 23 of 38


More Europe stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.