The UK benefits system is so generous and easy to access that it is likely
to prove a “magnet” to people from poorer EU countries as the economic turmoil
in the region intensifies, says a new report out today.
With all movement restrictions for economic migrants from Romania and
Bulgaria due to be lifted at the end of next year there is a real possibility
that many thousands will come to the UK.
The report, from think-tank Migration Watch UK, has compared in detail the
benefits available in the UK with those in the EU14. Crucially it also looked at how easy or
difficult it is to access them.
The research shows that we have the fourth most generous system of any
country in the EU in
our provision of a range of benefits to low income workers. Access to unemployment benefit is also much
easier and in some cases can be paid without the applicant having to make
any prior contribution.
Ireland and Denmark, with populations of 500,000, 4.5 and 5.5 million
respectively, have more generous benefits than the UK but access to them is
much more tightly regulated than here.
UK is more generous than Germany and much more generous than France, the
Netherlands, Spain and Italy in topping up low wages. Access to unemployment benefit is also much
easier in the UK with no set time limits.
The paper examined in detail two scenarios; the first is a family made up of a
worker, a spouse and two children where one adult is in work earning 50 percent
of the average wage and the other adult is not working and not drawing
unemployment benefits. The second scenario is a similar family where the sole
earner is now unemployed.
found that the UK is far more generous than most other EU countries, topping-up
low wages by just over 80% through in-work and housing benefits. This makes employment in the UK a very
attractive option for migrants from poorer EU member states, especially after
adjusting for differences in the cost of living,’ said Sir Andrew Green, the
Chairman of Migration Watch UK.
‘You can hardly blame people for taking advantage of such an incredibly
open benefit system. However, the
question is whether it is fair to UK tax payers to allow such generous access
by people who have not paid into the system.
Other EU countries police access to benefits much more effectively. It is time that the British government did
the same,’ he said.