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Newcastle upon Tyne Liberal Democrats

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The facts on free movement of people in the EU

November 9, 2014 3:16 PM
By European Movement

Most recent data do not suggest that "welfare tourism" or exploitation of the benefits system is a significant problem among mobile EU citizens. A report by the European Commission shows that the vast majority of EU citizens move to another EU member state to work, not sponge.

In most Member States mobile EU citizens represent less than 4% of the total population.
In 4 Member States (Ireland, Belgium, Spain and Austria) they represent 5-8% of the total population.
In 2 Member States (Cyprus and Luxembourg) mobile EU citizens represent >10% of the total population (Luxembourg = 39%).

78% of all the 14,1 million mobile EU citizens were of working age (15 to 64), compared to a share around 66% amongst nationals (European Commission).

More than 77% of working-age EU mobile citizens were economically active, compared to less than 72% amongst nationals (European Commission).

68% of working-age mobile EU citizens were in employment, compared to 65% amongst nationals (European Commission).

GDP of EU-15 estimated to have increased by almost 1% in the long-term as a result of post-enlargement mobility (2004-2009) (European Commission)

Recent intra-EU mobility flows generated an overall income gain of around 24 billion euros for EU citizens (European Commission).

There is no evidence of mobile EU citizens representing an excessive burden on social security systems in the host Member States.

In the period 2005-2009 citizens from EU-8 (central and eastern European) countries living in the UK experienced a higher fiscal burden than the native population. At the same time, they claimed lower tax benefits or credits, and received lower social housing benefits (European Commission).

A recent study by the Centre of European Reform shows that just 1.7% are on Jobseeker's Allowance, half the rate of the host population.
A far smaller proportion of A8 immigrants receive disability, pension, and child benefits than British people.
Very few European migrants live in social housing, and only 5% receive housing benefit.

The proportion of the NHS budget spent on non-active EU migrants is between 0.7% and 1.1%.

According to a recent study by the OECD, immigrants to the UK have made a positive fiscal contribution.

A study by the UCL's Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, found that in the year to April 2009 workers from Eastern Europe contributed £1.37 in taxes for every £1 of services they used. Native Britons on the other hand contributed just 80 pence for every pound of services they consumed.

As of February 2011, 16,6% (over 5.5 million) of working age UK nationals were claiming a working-age benefit from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) compared to 6,6% (371.000) for non-UK nationals. Just 1,6% of all claimants are mobile EU citizens.

According to DWP estimates, of 1.44 million people claiming Jobseekers Allowance in 2011, 8.5% of these were non-UK nationals, of which fewer than 38,000 claimants were from EU countries, approximately 2.6% (European Commission Report).

The 600.000 figure mentioned in the UK press refers to non-active migrants, a category which includes as well as job seekers, older schoolchildren, students, retired people, people taking time out of the labour market to bring up children and other direct family members.

64% of non-active EU migrants in UK have previously worked in the UK. The study by the Centre of European Reform shows that just 0.2% of migrants claim unemployment benefit but have never worked in the UK

The proportion of EU migrants in this non-active category is far lower - 30% - than the 43% in the general population.

The share of non-active EU migrants from the total population in the UK was 1.2% in 2011 and stayed the same in 2012.

The vast majority of non-active EU migrants (79%) live in economically active households.

Employment rates are relatively higher for non-UK EU-born citizens and this group of workers is estimated to account for 4,3% of UK employee income taxes.

According to the Office for National Statistics the employment rate among EU migrants is 77% and, while that of British nationals is 72%.

According to the study by the OECD, EU mobile workers main motivation for moving to another EU member state is work.

According to the European Commission report, migrant workers from other Member States, not only in UK but EU-wide, pay more in taxes and social security than they receive in benefits and services because they tend to be younger and more economically-active than host countries' own workforce.

The Fiscal Sustainability Report, published by the Office for Budget Responsibility in July 2013, found that if there was a complete ban on immigrants, UK borrowing would rise from 75% of GDP in 2012 to 174% of GDP in 2062.

A report by Centre for Economics and Business Research argues that curbing EU immigration could cost the UK £60 billion in lost GDP by 2050 and drive up national debt.

Note: The European Commission report does not include evidence of 'welfare tourism' in the UK because the British Government was unable to provide any.

The European Movement UK is Britain's longest standing pro-European organization, campaigning for decades to inform the debate around the benefits of EU membership. We are a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization, funded exclusively by our members. Visit to see how you can join us and help keep Britain in the EU.