Immigrants less likely to claim benefits, study finds

Central and eastern Europeans claim fewer benefits, put lower burden on public services

People queue  outside Bishop Street Social Welfare Office in Dublin:  a report from EU research agency Eurofound found immigrants are less likely than the local population to claim welfare benefits.  Photograph: Frank Miller

People queue outside Bishop Street Social Welfare Office in Dublin: a report from EU research agency Eurofound found immigrants are less likely than the local population to claim welfare benefits. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Immigrants from central and eastern Europe are less likely than the local population to claim welfare benefits and use public services, according to a report on Ireland and eight other host countries.

However, the study shows that take-up of certain benefits, including employment benefits, is higher among these immigrants than the native population.

The analysis, conducted by Eurofound, an EU research agency focused on living and working conditions, comes at a time of intense scrutiny of the impact of migration on European welfare systems.

British prime minister David Cameron has made welfare reform one of the planks of his effort to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU in advance of his Brexit referendum.

In a 2013 letter to the president of the European Council, the home affairs ministers of Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK claimed certain immigrants from other member states placed a burden on their public services.

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It found that overall the “EU10” citizens made a positive fiscal contribution to the host countries’ economies. They claimed fewer benefits and put a lower burden on public services than the local population.

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In the case of social housing and pensions, these immigrants’ take-up rates were significantly lower.

Since work is the main reason for leaving their home countries, EU10 citizens’ welfare claims focus on unemployment services, although take-up of education is also increasing, the research indicates.

The figures suggest that because they are concentrated in younger age groups, these immigrants tend to use health services less than local people.

The nine host countries analysed by Eurofound were Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Assessing the impact of increased use of education services, the report found that certain countries, such as the UK, had high concentrations of immigrants in certain regions.

“The increasing pressure this puts on schools could cause tension, especially in rural areas that have no previous experience of immigration,” it states.

The most recent estimate for Ireland shows that, in 2012, EU10 immigrants were almost 18 percentage points more likely to receive jobless benefits than natives. This means the situation has completely changed since 2008, when they were less likely to receive benefits.

The estimate also suggests that, although immigrants in general are more likely to receive unemployment benefits than Irish nationals, the difference is greatest between Irish nationals and EU10 citizens.

The report speculates that this could be explained by factors such as the immigrants’ disproportionately worsening labour market position and the fact that by now most EU10 immigrants have accumulated enough time in work to qualify for jobless benefit.

Drawing policy pointers from the research, Eurofound said there was a need for greater employment support for EU immigrants because of the disadvantages they faced in the labour market and in integrating.