EU migrants 'more likely to be working than Brits'

Migrants from the European Union are more likely to be in work than UK nationals, but also have a higher rate of claiming tax credits and child benefits, according to a think-tank.

The study found 83% of migrants from the newest EU members - including the eastern European states - were in work, as were 75% from the other 14 EU countries, compared with 74% for UK nationals and 62% for non-EU migrants.

But the analysis showed central and eastern European migrants tended to be in low-skilled, poorly-paid jobs, earning an average of £3 an hour less than UK nationals.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) paper found EU migrants are less likely to claim unemployment or sickness benefits than UK nationals, but more likely to report claiming tax credits and child benefits.

IPPR research fellow Marley Morris said: "Our new analysis of the data on employment, welfare and housing paints a mixed picture of the impacts of EU migration on the UK.

"A large majority of EU migrants are in work and so are paying taxes rather than living off out-of-work benefits, but they are also more likely to be claiming in-work benefits than others in the workforce.

"Many eastern Europeans, despite their qualifications, are working in low-skilled sectors at low pay rates, which may be helping to plug some labour shortages but might also be sustaining low wages and poor conditions in some workplaces.

"Our analysis also suggests that EU migrants are more likely than others to live in the private rented sector, but that doesn't mean they aren't able to access scarce social housing. In fact their likelihood of living in social housing is about the same as the general population."

The review of the evidence highlighted the sharp rise in net migration from the EU since the expansion to the East.

"In the 1990s, EU migration flows to the UK were roughly in the range of 40,000-80,000 per year, while net EU migration was almost zero," it said.

"After the 2004 accession, EU migration flows rose dramatically to over 100,000 per year and have remained high over the past decade. There are now more than three million EU-born migrants in the UK.

"Compared to other EU countries, the UK has the second highest inflows of EU migrants, after Germany."

The report concluded that the squeeze on access to welfare in David Cameron's renegotiation deal was "unlikely to have a significant impact on future EU migration flows".

"These are instead likely to be driven by differences in wage levels and unemployment rates between the UK and other EU countries," the report said.

But Brexit would also have little effect if the UK's new deal with the rest of the EU meant accepting free movement, as Norway had done.

Even if restrictions were imposed, they would be unlikely to reduce net migration to the Government's "tens of thousands" target.

"If the UK continues to participate in EU free movement as part of a new trade deal with the EU, then Brexit is unlikely to have an impact on EU migration to the UK," it said.

"If the UK adopts a new policy to treat EU migrant workers similarly to how it currently treats non-EU migrant workers, then this will most likely lead to a fall in low-skilled EU migration.

"However, this alone will probably not be sufficient to meet the current government's net migration target; to meet that target, further action would be needed."

The research suggested many of those coming to the UK were overqualified for their jobs, with 59% of EU migrants holding university or college qualifications compared to 34% of British residents.

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