Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. World
  2. Europe
14 October 2013updated 27 Sep 2015 5:32am

EU study shreds the myth of “benefit tourism”

In defiance of ministers' claims, the new report finds that EU migrants are "less likely to receive disability and unemployment benefits".

By George Eaton

Is “benefit tourism” an economic reality or a political term designed to respond to the misperception that foreigners come to the UK to leech off the welfare state? The EU Commission has just published a report (Impact of mobile EU citizens on national social security systems) investigating that issue and sides decidedly with the latter conclusion. It found that “mobile EU citizens are less likely to receive disability and unemployment benefits in most countries studied.” In the UK, EU migrants account for just 4% of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants while representing more than 5% of those in employment. 

The report also contradicts the claim, published in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph (and based on the study’s findings) that “600,000 unemployed migrants are living in Britain…at a cost of £1.5 billion to the NHS alone”. The 600,000 figure turns out not to refer to those who are unemployed but to those who are economically inactive, including pensioners, students and the disabled. Of this total, those out of work represent just 28%. In addition, the figures published in the study show that EU migrants are less likely than their UK counterparts to be economically inactive or unemployed. Thirty per cent of migrants are “non-active” compared to 43% of British citizens, while 7.5% are out of work, compared to 7.9% of UK nationals (the unemployment rate at the time the study was conducted). 

Here’s the statement from László Andor, the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion: 

The study makes clear that the majority of mobile EU citizens move to another Member State to work and puts into perspective the dimension of the so called benefit tourism which is neither widespread nor systematic. The Commission remains committed to ensuring that EU citizens that would like to work in another EU country can do so without facing discrimination or obstacles.

In response, Downing Street has said that there is “widespread and understandable” concern about “benefit tourism”, suggesting that, once again, rather than giving voters the facts, it will reinforce their fears. 

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy