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 349.

    I believe we would be breaking some EU law to deny benefits to any migrant who finds themselves in need of them. But the real problem lies with us. We need to put our own house in order and educate our children not just to read and write but to have a healthy work ethic as well. Another would be making sure large companies paid a living wage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    Well..... anyone claiming for their family, should be subject to interviews with all the family present. Passports to confirm ID. No passport, no hand outs.

    The UK is the MUG of Europe, and as for the EU disputing the facts - you don't need to be a brain surgeon to work out why.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    All estimates. The NHS rarely identifies if its patients are foreign let alone from which country. The EU reckons those in work contribute more in tax than the 'non- active' take in benefits but I presume these are registered tax payers what about the non-registered non-tax payers? What about all the various available benefits are they included in the calculations? Both sides are just guessing

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    The French have a 10 year wait before you can claim benefits, In Britain you cannot claim in your own right for the first 16 years of life so why are immigrants allowed to claim before 16 years of residency or working and paying British tax?

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    You cant blame migrants for coming here and wanting to better their lives and those of their families.

    BUT as a country we have to say there aren't enough jobs, houses, school and hospital places to support this level of immigration."

    Agreed. So how can it possibly be any "better" to be here? Makes you wonder where the truth lies... Someone knows but isn't saying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    Try claiming any sort of benefit in Spain,short shrift and short answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    There are 600 000 "inactive" eu immigrants living in this country claiming some sort of benefit according to a EU report
    If you read the article carefully, they never actually claim that the 600k are on benefits. This is because they aren't. The Telegraph have been very careful not to tell a direct lie, but ha ve succeeded in hoodwinking you into believing their 'spin'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    We know the Britain is the Best place on earth, But people just need to Realise is immigrants are just too stay.

    And being constantly Reminded we are Racists is like trying to tell us we are not British.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    Number of unemployed in UK = 2.5M
    Migration to UK in last 5 years = 2.5M

    A donkey could work out the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    It's endearing how the EU haters jump at every topic on the EU, thinking they're onto something only for their dystopian visions of bleakness and squalor to be quashed by facts and reality and to then seem them slop off, dejectedly. The good ship EU is the biggest global economy. It has been under pressure, but the hull is holding tight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    EU essense is free movement of people, goods, services, and capital. If any is missing or (worse) intentionally violated, then the perpetrator(s) taunt the core values of the union and should be considered parasitical and spurious in their intentions

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    The imigration situation in the UK is 100% HOMEMADE !

    From people they love "multy culty" but live in gated, white communitys outside the M25....

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    Until recently I worked in a sector with a healthy number of immigrants and I noted one thing - they're just like us. Some of them look to top up their earnings with any benefit they can get and moan when asked to do more than 16 hours, some of them work 40+ hours and are net contributors.

    How about we tackle those who drive BMWs while claiming benefits (statistically most are British nationals).

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    People of UK, please take into retrospect what is the true reason behind this economic mess. Do not let politicians and opportunistic people blind u with fictional problems. Remember the true reason for this recession is the bankers and corporates who are still in control of the government. Rest are all distractions well designed to keep u from knowing the real reasons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    The issue isn't so much people coming to Britain to claim benefits its that they don't leave if they lose their jobs.

    Well educated migrants are needed and required. What we don't need and what we have an over supply of is unskilled labour and this is where the bulk of the net migration is and its that part that needs to b reduced or we can write off another generation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    I would like to be told how many Brits are claiming benefits in the rest of Europe first.

    I rather suspect we would own the high ground....

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    .....and the next EU study should focus on health tourism, I'd love to see them pretend that doesn't happen!

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.


    "Hey EU minister!!! Show us a set of signed off EU accounts"


    The EU's own accounts are always signed off. It is the individual nations' own, as to what they did with the money which lack, and why e.g. the UK recently had to return 100 million of misused farm subsidy.

    Please try to be at least original with your rubbish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    It is my view, based on personal observation, that the major problem in the UK is with non-EU migrants and in particular their desire to turn the UK into their country of origin.

    There is no doubt that EU migrants are increasing, but the non-EU ones are doing so at a far greater rate. It is the latter, I think, who are primarily here for benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    Interesting at 1% that still equates to 1.3 billion pounds, that is just for non-active what is the figure for active does non active include children of active or spouses., remember that still causes a drain on the country and paying tax for a few weeks is not the same as paying over years.


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