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Monday, October 14, 2013

EU 'welfare tourism' is not a big problem but that doesn't mean existing safeguards should be removed

The Sunday Telegraph's front page story about a study commissioned by the European Commission into EU migrants and access to welfare has caused a bit of a stir.

As we have pointed out several times before, we support the principle of free movement as it has the potential to boost growth and competitiveness. In addition, the ability for companies based in the UK to easily draw on a wide talent pool is seen by many firms as an advantage of EU membership. However, there is no doubt that EU migration also throws up a huge number of political challenges, such as a substantial loss of national control over who can enter the country, increased competition in low-skilled sectors of the labour market, and increased demand for public services and infrastructure.

Therefore, if public confidence is not to be lost, free movement needs to be managed with extreme care and tempered with other policies including the right of national governments to protect their welfare systems from abuse.

In recent months, the risk of 'welfare tourism' is something that has been highlighted by both national governments and the media, not just in the UK but also recently in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. Several governments have complained that the rules need to be tightened. EU Commissioner László Andor has responded by accusing the UK of pandering to xenophobia and taking the Government to court over the ‘right to reside test’ it applies to anyone seeking to access benefits. Both sides have been talking past each other, and the result is a focus on 'welfare tourism' that is almost certainly disproportionate to the problem it poses.

The available evidence and academic research overwhelmingly suggests that EU migrants have come to the UK in search of work and not to claim welfare benefits. For example, a 2010 study found that migrants from the new EU member states are “59% less likely than natives to receive state benefits or tax credits and 57% less likely to live in social housing.” The study concluded that in the four fiscal years after 2004, these migrants made a positive contribution to the UK’s public finances. In 2008, the ONS estimated that the employment rate of these migrants was over 80%.

Nevertheless, the report cited by the Sunday Telegraph did have some important findings for the current debate between national governments and the European Commission about EU migrants and access to welfare. Much of the focus has been on the study's finding that over 600,000 “non-active” EU migrants are living in Britain. Now this doesn't actually tell us that much about the impact on welfare. For example, these people could be family members of EU migrants working in the UK, pensioners and so on. The fact the UK Government does not currently keep statistics on those who claim benefits means we do not know exactly who is receiving them or how much this costs.

However, what is relevant in this context is that the report found that the "number of job-seeking EU migrants increased by 73 per cent between 2008 and 2011" and that the number of EU migrants coming to the UK "without a job awaiting them has been increasing".

At the moment, it is unlikely that this is having a major impact on the UK's welfare system, but precisely because the UK applies its 'right to reside' test to those claiming benefits (this is an important safeguard because the UK's universalist welfare system is particularly hard to police). But logic would suggest that weakening these rules would create the wrong incentives by allowing access to benefits such as jobseekers allowance more or less from day one. It would also further undermine UK public confidence in the principle of free movement altogether. However, this is precisely what the European Commission's legal challenge to the UK's right to reside test would do, if successful. This is why the UK and other member states are so concerned.

So, in summary, no there is not a welfare tourism crisis at present, but this is no reason for the European Commission to seek to remove the UK's welfare safeguards. It is the European Commission that is moving the goalposts here.


Anonymous said...

This looks like desperate stuff, frankly. That Theresa May's evidence-free policies should prove so popular speaks volumes about the insular, selfish and self-pitying state of the predominant UK mindset. What a thoroughly unpleasant state of affairs.

Rik said...

If you look only at the short term consequences it is not a big problem.
But so was the mass immigration of the uneducated tribes earlier as well.

Most immigrants will as well have good intensions and come to work.
That is not really the issue.

The issue is that lateron in the process problems did arise and could not be reversed. And you get stuck with them and their usually equally dysfunctional children till Kingdom come.

Rumenia and Bulgaria (and similar with eg Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia or Turkey) have potential immigrants that look very similar to the groups with which there are now massive social, organisational and economic problems.
To think you can do the same (and more as the limitations of the influx because of EU rules are less) and expect a different outcome is usually not the smartest thing to do. At least that was Einstein's opinion, but who is Einstein if you have intellectual giants like Malmstrom, Reding and Barroso saying otherwise.

Simply running a huge risk with a very high probability of failure and no realistic means to reverse it when failure arises.

Rubbish reporting btw, with immigration you have to look (very) long term and not and certainly not only very short term as it does.

Anonymous said...


You mentioned something about uneducated masses?

To summarize the article. We are not against free movement of people, there's no proof of abuse, actually there is proof of little or no abuse, but that doesn't mean we are wrong....

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (who are you?)

Your 'evidence-free' comments are ignorant. Are you an EU member of staff?

I live in Ealing (the no.1 immigration hot-spot in the UK, 2nd highest migrant population in the UK, 37% of residents born outside of the UK, largest Polish population in the UK. Source : local MP and Ealing Council) and I, like many others, have had enough.

We are moving by the end of this year.

Here is some "evidence" ;
- 28/30 and even 30/30 children in some classes in my children's school are now from Eastern Europe. And yet just 3 years ago there was a proper balance.

- No interpol checks were undertaken meaning that a number of parents now in local schools are criminals fleeing their own countries

- We have had upto 40 drunks living in our parks over the summer (none of them are from the UK), meaning that parents do not let their children out anymore

- Most days I do not hear a word of English when I walk in the main shopping area

- The drag on services increases by the day. My local doctor (who is senior and been in Ealing a long time) tells me that nobody pays for NHS prescriptions anymore and that their budgets are haemorrhaging cash

Ask the local council how many homes they have given to new arrivals when some local people have been waiting patiently for years. It seems that some have just jumped the queue and have not even made any kind of contribution to the tax system

- We have already had incidences of Romanian cars (the locals have taken pictures of their number plates) arriving early in the morning and just taking anything of value out of people's front gardens whilst they are asleep

Shall I go on? I could but it is just depressing.
The truth is that I have been watching Eurozone contagion here for the last 3-4 years. More and more arrive, many are rich (just check how much Ealing house prices have risen last year and this year and who the buyers are) but many have absolutely nothing to offer. Don't be naive either, it is not in the interest of the EU or Eurozone to listen to the UK's bona fide concerns on immigration and benefits as the less the numbers of jobless people in the EU/Eurozone, the less the cost and the political opposition for them. They are making the UK pay for their mistakes.

The numbers arriving are too many and their skill base too low. Many work on a minimum wage and therefore come into the benefits system and use services at a NET cost to the UK - and all at a time when we are heavily in debt.

It is all just economically and socially unsustainable and our way of life has gone - and all without even a Referendum.

Don't refer to " insular, selfish and self-pitying state of the predominant UK mindset" when you clearly have no idea or experience of what you are writing about. My concerns, and those of local residents, have just gone unanswered for too long.

We just don’t want this!


jon livesey said...

There was a lot of fairly typical EU bait and switch in that "report". It was headlined as showing there was "no evidence" of benefit tourism, but if you actually read the text, there is quite a lot of evidence.

For example, 600,000 unemployed EU migrants living in the UK alone. Plus a pretty stunning 33% "economic inactivity" among all EU migrants.

It's really pretty shameless to claim that this is "no evidence".

Anonymous said...

Further to my comment above, my point is that our children are going to have a dreadful time trying to get themselves a proper education and then afterwards a resonably paid job.

By the time that they leave university (if they can afford it, that is), they will be heavily in debt (£30k to£50k) and will then have to contend with paying higher taxes to pay the interest and capital off of the UK national debt.

Easy decisions by politicians (i.e. not confronting immigration, invoking proper austerity and dodging countless other spending-related issues) is just loading our children with further problems.

The time for easy political decisions has gone.

It is time to confront them and do the right thing for the people of the UK.


Rik said...

What did you expect as outcome?
A 'no-ploblem' was beforehand my and probably your estimate. Combined with most of the media simply passing the message through and not read the thing critically. Take 10 papers all over the board. How many were critical. I still have to see the first one. Your 5 line comment above here alone is better than all the crap I have seen in the media.

The whole set up of the report sucks as well and big time. Simply define everything in a way it fits into the picture that is to be presented. Another example: using free education, subsidised housing, free healthcare is imho using welfare. Even when you have a job.
The issue is that roughly these and a lot of other immigrants because they are in the low income (and subsequently) low tax paying sector simply donot pay enough taxes to cover for the costs of all these things for them and their families. Not even to mention the organisational problems the UK has in this respect.
Low income groups (like with Rumenians or whatever, the group at least that according to Utrecht University will very likely give a huge boost to criminal stats when they arive), are a huge drag on national finances whether they are homegrown or imported. Why import more of that, and increase the problem, if you are basically already unable to deal with the homegrown part. Not even to mention the social issues that are of a similar size.

Problem with is that immigration from the Western world (incl like of Japan) and the top end of nearly everywhere else benefits an economy enormously. Basically in average (considerable financial)nett contributors getting in. Directly and indirectly via jobs, more business and spending.

However this discussion is moving more and more into the direction of the Rumeducated (and worse) groups. And simply it doesnot look sustainable. Imho you need to get the bottom half of immigration properly under control or otherwise the respective populations might simply kick the bottom out under the whole thing also the half of immigration that works very well and adds a lot of wealth for nearly everybody around. And makes it possible for Britishers to move abroad and work there in the process. The Western part therefor is not a real drag. They contribute in avearge much more than they cost (pat more than average taxes and donot have education costs roughly summarised. Plus the numbers in are roughly equal to the numbers Britishers out.
The bottom part is the problem. And when the discussion is not cut into 2 pieces it might end bad for both of them and asap.
Look like yesterday's DT 'Top Tories are pro-immigration' or something similar. Without making the above distinction their electoral base will simply link it with the bottom end of immigration (the part that is viible for everybody), which imho simply is a lost cause especially when you are on the right. 1000 Roma beggers are as visible as 100 000 Japanese and give the indication that the groups are similar size. It is as simple as that.

Meryl Davids said...

As tudy by the commission, that would be the unelected political failures who make up all the lowest common denominator over regulation and have never admitted getting anything wrong telling us they are right and we are wrong the 600,000 are clearly claiming benefits, not children of immigrants or they would not be included in the figure.

Stevlin said...

Free movement of peoples has no place outside of a federation. We do not have a problem with other nationals coming to this country, but such immigration should always be controlled - especially when in an alliance of countries that have widely disparate economies.
What is the point of allowing countless non-skilled immigrants into the country when we have so many unemployed of our own?