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 709.

    when all EU countries gives the same benefits for all then the system will be fair . Until then there has to be curbs on these benefits

  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    What they don't mention is that most of the migrants that do work send the money back to there own country which is a strain on our economy. And those who don't work we have to pay for and give free medical care.
    If the system was the same across the EU then the European Commission would have a case but it isn't as nowhere in the EU offers the same benefits and health care as the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 707.

    I am a migrant. I moved for work, and if I lose my job or fall ill, I fully expect the country that is now my home to provide me with benefits. I've paid enough for the privilege.

    No way would I want to be forced back to my country of origin to have to live off lower benefits.

    It's been 12 years since I left the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 706.

    @696. Billythefirst - I honestly don't know, perhaps we need thelostdot's "1642"(see 695)?
    As for the EU I think that's just the same puppeteers, pulling different strings. And a national revolution is easier than a pan-European one :).

    @698 - You really think the major parties represent the man in the street, lol. It's a Hobson's Choice come the GE - I'll say it again, 3 shades of magnolia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.

    I'm guessing that would be the Faragistani embassy Rob?

    Elections - our chance to decide which politicians get to trouser the most brown envelopes - you're right about people not thinking though - that's why we've ended up with a US style “choice".

  • rate this

    Comment number 704.

    plenty of people addressed this biased flawed study. its not a myth......child benefit being a prime example

  • rate this

    Comment number 703.

    There is no patriotism in the capitalist system. Sending work and technology to the likes of China and India and allowing ‘mass?’ immigration to push down wages at home is all about making money for share holders. The Tory press, as always throw up smoke screens saying immigration is some sort of left wings conspiracy, but the problem is a result of the actions of their sponsors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 702.

    Amazing how few of the posts here actually relate to the article!

    Despite endless propaganda peddled by the press - read what it says. That is- that the idea that people migrate to the UK simply to claim benefits is a myth!

    Now - does anyone actually wan't to speak to the point of the article?

  • rate this

    Comment number 701.

    675. What-Ever
    All humans have the right to warmth, food and a roof over their heads.
    Provide that to the jobless and nothing else. How can that be wrong?
    Go to a third world country and look at the standard of living there and then start talking about human rights. We are spoilt in this country - our basic needs are ensured by the state - historically and geographically we are the exception.

  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    Find it hilarious some of the anti-EU comments people make. I bet most people making these comments barely know what the EU does. So we want powers back from Brussels eh? Any idea just what powers we have given Brussels and why for one second do you think the bunch of jokers we have in Praliament are better than those across the channel? EU fights to defend privacy whilst no 10 is taking it away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    As an EU citizen you can come to the UK claim jobseekers,get an NI no. and then when in a low paid job (of which we have too many!) claim tax credits, free healthcare and dentistry, & housing benefit. Although as we know some Polish people don't use the NHS because it is basic......however we too largely benefit from it by creating a high degree of welfare dependency through same low paid jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    688 Peter N

    I'm sure most "public opinion" you read about comes from one unrepresentative section of society - those who no longer work and have time to comment.

    Most people are too busy working to contribute to "public opinion".

    Thankfully we have elections every few years when they do get a chance to have their say, and it's usually a long way from the rather extreme opinions found on here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    A recent conversation with a migrant at one of our embassy's went as follows.

    I would like to apply for a visa? yes we could give you a working visa..


    How soon after I get to the UK can i start claiming benefit?

    Signed true story

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    Peter, not being obtuse - how will such independence manifest itself positively for the UK given that those who govern us are simply puppets implementing the requirements of global banking concerns media magnates and assorted corporates?
    At least the EU is trying to curb powers of the deregulated hedgie bandits as well as improve the lot of consumers - in marked contrast to Rip Off UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    If we did all the things UKIP and the Libertarians want we would be the USA. A disgusting place that thinks it's OK to leave kids to die of a tooth abscess. Nobody here wants this kind of rubbish. Almost nobody will vote for UKIP. The CONS lied to get votes and even then didn't get a win, just a coalition. Nobody in the country wants to go to the right DEMOCRACY is failing, maybe 1642 next!

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.

    @192. Ramki - "Having said this I dont agree with EU's border free policy, every country has right to control its own border."

    Britain does control its own borders. It's not a part of the Schengen Agreement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    "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 other words, they don't know. I also wonder at the number of migrants that have become british citizens and won't figure in the report.
    My point is that if 1 person can do it, then so can 100M. I am shocked to discover that 33% of migrants are inactive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    688. Peter N
    I AM a UKIP voter.
    But only by default. None of the parties are credible over the question of a referendum, so there is only UKIP left.

    However, apart from getting out of the EU, much of the UKIP 'policy' is risible. If Adam Afriyie could convince that smug buffoon Cameron to show some humility, maybe I'd consider Tory again.

    But Cameron + humility?
    Not gonna happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    You receive your state pension anyway but your small contribution to your gold plated pension is way beyond the average person in the private sector. I still want a breakdown of the basic state pension, the pension credit recipients and the civil service pensions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    On the day that the chancellor eases visa restrictions on the Chinese to allow entry to the UK without a UK visa,. How will the border control be able to tell if someone is here illegally or not?
    The problems caused by immigration are not just caused by those arriving from the EU.


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