Benefits Regime Makes UK Attractive Destination for East European Migrants 

April 04, 2012

The British benefits system makes the UK an extremely attractive destination to East Europeans.  That is the conclusion of a research paper out today.

The paper, ‘Incentives for Polish migration’ from think tank Migration Watch UK, focuses on Poles who are the largest component of migration from the East European countries that joined the EU in 2004.  It demonstrates the need for urgent renegotiation of the entire regime if the three quarters of a million who have already moved here from these “A8” countries are not to be followed by even more as these countries struggle with difficult economic conditions.

The transition period for East European countries which joined the EU in May 2004 ended on 1st May 2011. This means that nationals of these countries now have full access to the welfare state.  Romanians and Bulgarian migrants will have similar access in January 2014 when their transition period also comes to an end.

The issue is that the much more generous UK benefit system to which they are now entitled might attract even larger numbers.

For example, a Polish worker on the minimum wage in Britain with a spouse and two children would earn almost four times what he would earn at home on the minimum wage, once the difference in cost of living has been accounted for.

A Polish worker on the minimum wage who is single and who saves 20% of his pay packet would save what he would earn in a week at home.

‘It is entirely understandable that East Europeans should want to improve their standard of living and make money which they can send home. It is also clear that many of them are valued for their strong work ethic,’ said Sir Andrew Green, Migration Watch UK chairman.

‘That said, it was a very serious mistake to extend full access to our benefit system to nationals of member states where the standard of living is only about one third of ours.  In fairness to the hard pressed British taxpayer, this must be changed.  We even pay child benefit at British rates to children who have never set foot in this country.

‘The whole EU benefit regime must be renegotiated otherwise there is a clear risk that the number of East European migrants coming to seek work in Britain will shoot up placing even greater strain on our public services and putting the government’s immigration objectives at considerable risk’, said Sir Andrew.

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