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 329.

    Kind of a non-report, we that Tories and UKIP have vote battle going on and like always, are slinging mud and trying to win back their votes by whatever point other is getting stronger as.

    Being a migrant myself, never in million years I 'liked' going to NHS because its free, I have private dental insurance and my NHS doctor calls me to visit as I dont want to occupy deserving patient's place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    I should have done more research before posting #313 Here is how the reports calculation works:
    33% of EU migrants are non-active, EU stats are that EU migrants in UK are 2.33 m, therefore non active migrants =776,000 which is 1.2% of UK population.

    All very logical and mathematically correct apart from fact that the 2.33 m figure is a total guess and probably a woeful underestimate

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    I am an imigrant - higly skilled, I guess - I mostly struggle with crap UK Managers and "Top(Flop)" Managers - mediocre at

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    It is not the % of the total population which happen migrants that claim benefits that is the problem. It is the total % of migrants as a whole that claim benefit...and I would suggest that number is closer to 100% than 0% and that is the problem. Europe WILL turn out to be something closer to Enoch Powell's visionary nightmare than to any Utopia sold to us by the Multi-Culturalists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    Hey EU minister!!! Show us a set of signed off EU accounts and we will show you the benefit tourism figures!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

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

    Agree totally - I think that we should send their country the bill for the cost of building them a council house as well...

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    It seems strange migrants travel through Germany and France to the UK which seems to be some sort of utopia. For somebody who grew up in the 60's in the UK it seems strange. In the 60's we were encouraged to leave England for £10 to get a better life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    ...and the turkeys didn't vote for Christmas....

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    One benefit tourist is one too many.

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    Does anyone read the above articles?
    "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."
    Just like health tourism it is NOT a problem, so why blame all and sundry for it?
    It is a Daily Heil and government fiction believed by many because the lie has been repeated over and over, Hitler style.

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    This just shows the difference in mentality between people taking the bull by the horns in their lives and people expecting the government to provide them with a job.Working migrants have taken their fate in their own hands and made decisions to improve their lives.This is a mentality that is sadly lost among the youth of britain.How can they succeed if they always put their fate in others' hands?

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    @283 GazingAtTheStars

    There are 600 000 "inactive" eu immigrants living in this country claiming some sort of benefit according to a EU report about to be published.See lonk below

    Less gazing and more concentration before you put fingers to keypad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    8 Minutes ago

    287. Juvenalian Precariat
    Whatever her reason it's no excuse to be abusive to people.
    your right, But our Politicians don't seam to care and they are our leaders!

    Seeing immigrants doing the dirty jobs just takes me back to how the Slave Trade must have been.

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    We have a massive problem with immigration in this country and we have to tackle the disease as a whole not individual symptoms such as EU etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    As an employer, who'd you rather employ on minimum wage?
    A young Uk school leaver with no experience. Or a slightly older Pole/Czech etc who has some 'life' skills & experience? An if they can speak english, even better
    The immigrant most times, And you can't blame them, which is part the reason we have so many young unemployed. Close the doors & maybe our young get a chance at a start in life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    Have these half wits considered the fact that if these migrants weren't here. A lot of the indigenous people would have jobs and wouldn't be claiming benefits?

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    #236 life does not work that neatly. If it did then Scotland is in big trouble because according to one report only 190,000 people in Scotland are net contributers to the tax/benefits system.

    Given that UK govt has no idea how many imigrants are living here how did EU decide 1.2% of population was non active EU migrants?

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    The problem here is that you can mould the statistics to whatever conclusion you want.

    The UK govt would be best advised to avoid a number of claimants or a budget cost debate with the EU and other groups. The point here is the PRINCIPLE - if you aren't entitled to the benefit you shouldn't get it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    What I would like to know could I claim child benefit if I was in Poland or France! would I get free health care , would I be housed if I turned up with my family. I know the answer is no.

    It's just just turning up paying 1 weeks tax and then saying I am entitled to loads of benefits it should be based on how long you or your parents have worked....

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    A typically vague response from Cameron: "widespread and understandable concern". In the Daily Mail and other Tory papers perhaps.
    Well, here is the straight challenge - provide figures to support the claims being made, rather than exaggerated stories about individuals.


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