The Deputy Prime Minister has waded into the argument about EU migrants on
benefits by giving his support for “ensuring that EU jobseekers cannot
claim out-of-work benefits from day one”.
Nick Clegg, in
an op-ed for the Financial Times, said they must wait three months
and “support will depend on demonstrating a genuine prospect of
The Lib Dem leader’s piece comes months after the head of the Conservatives
in the European parliament, Syed Kamali MEP, called for migrants to have
their benefits blocked in a new contributory system where people ‘pay in’
first before making claims.
Mr Kamali’s comments
in the Times are themselves not unfamiliar arguments in the Tory
Iain Duncan Smith, Work and Pensions Secretary, previously said unemployed
foreigners from the European Economic Area (EEA) would be barred from
claiming benefits in a future Tory government.
But let’s have a look at the numbers: how many of those who receive welfare
payments are EU migrants?
Between 2008 and 2013, the number of EU working age benefit claimants doubled
from 65,000 to 130,000.
Data in a House
of Commons Library briefing note released on earlier in October show
that the majority of non-UK working age benefit claimants are still from
outside the EU. And of course, the vast majority of claimants are British.
The charts above and below show that EU claimants are the smallest group
receiving either working age benefits or tax credits.
The data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HMRC, also show
that the majority of welfare recipients are British.
In 2014, 4.9 million (92.6 per cent) working age benefit claimants were
British while only 131,000 (2.5 per cent) were EU nationals. The number of
recipients from outside of the UK — but not from the EU — was 264,000 (five
Likewise, in the latest data from 2013 for those tax credits, 3.9 million
(84.8 per cent) families receiving the benefits were British citizens,
302,000 (6.4 per cent) were EU citizens and 413,000 (8.8 per cent) were from
outside of the UK.
But the data do show that among single families receiving either working
family tax credit or childs tax credit, the majority of within non-UK
claimants are from the EU: 157,600 single families from the EU receive one
or both of the benefits while 146,000 of those from outside of the EU do.
Jonathan Portes, directer of the National Institute of Economic and Social
why EU migrants would receive tax credits in the Observer: “Many
migrants from the EU … are in low-paid work (including self-employment) and
so receive tax credits; as the numbers settling here permanently have grown,
and they start having kids, this has become quite a significant phenomenon.”
According to the Roderick McInnes, author of the Commons Library analysis, it
is important to note when looking at the data that it does not offer a
“complete picture” as the numbers are based on individuals who were not UK
nationals when they applied for National Insurance. They could have since
applied for British citizenship.
Between 2008 and 2014, the number of benefit claimants increased by more than
130,000. The total number of migrants receiving working age benefits also
increased in the last five years from 288,000 in 2008 to 395,000.
But only 113,700 EU migrants were on key out-of-work benefits in February this
year of which only 65,000 were on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). In February,
more than 1.1 million were unemployed although the DWP said last month the
figure dropped to below a million for the whole of the UK.
What does this all mean? It suggests that whatever the arguments for and
against reducing the number of EU migrants receiving British benefits,
delivering such a reduction wouldn’t make a significant difference to the
overall welfare bill which is estimated to be £208 billion for the year
2013-14. And seeing as the take-up of benefits among migrants is so small,
it’s also worth asking how big of a draw Britain’s welfare system really is.
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