Benefit tourism is a political term coined in the 1990s and later used for the perceived threat that a huge number of citizens from eight of the ten new nations given membership in the European Union in the 2004 enlargement of the European Union would move to the existing member states to benefit from their social welfare systems rather than to work. This threat was in several countries used as a reason for creating temporary work or benefit restrictions for citizens from the eight new member states.
Claims of benefit tourism by EU citizens have been described as unfounded and misleading by research organisations. A major study by the Centre for Research and Migration at University College London, published in 2009, demonstrated that EU migrants to Britain from the new member countries were better educated, more likely to be in employment and much less likely to be claiming benefits than UK-born nationals.
Scare stories of benefits tourism propagated by some media in the UK have been described as 'baseless' by the Migrants' Rights Network, which in March 2011 pointed out that EU migrants must meet the usual Habitual Residence Tests in order to register for British National Insurance (without a National Insurance number you can't receive any benefits), and are in fact moving to other areas of the EU where employment opportunities are better.
In 2013 the European Commission ordered an EU wide study on the impact of mobile EU citizens on national social security systems. This study confirmed that the vast majority of EU migrants move to find or take up employment. No evidence was found that the main motivation of EU citizens to migrate was benefit-related. On average immigrants received less benefits than nationals of the Member State where they are residing.
Another study conducted in 2014 concentrated on the UK specifically. This study showed that from 2001 to 2011, EU migrants that recently arrived in the UK had paid £20 billion in taxes to the UK treasury, after deduction of the benefits they received in that same period.
- The Guardian 21 January 2004: Leader - False figures Retrieved 2011-09-30
- The Guardian 4 February 2004: UK set to act against benefit tourism Retrieved 2011-09-30
- Financial Times 22 July 2009: Wave of EU immigrants pays its way Retrieved 2011-09-30
- Centre for Research and Migration press release July 2009: The Benefit of Migration: new evidence of the fiscal costs and benefits of migration to the UK from Central and Eastern Europe Retrieved 2011-09-30
- Migrants' Rights Network 4 March 2011: The latest rumours of A8 'benefit tourism' from May are unfounded and misleading Retrieved 2011-09-30
- DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion via DG Justice Framework Contract, Final report submitted by ICF GHK in association with Milieu Ltd, A fact finding analysis on the impact on the Member States' social security systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence Retrieved 2015-03-24
- University College London Press Release - Retrieved 2015-03-24; C. Dustmann and T. Frattini, "The fiscal effects of immigration to the UK", The Economic Journal, DOI: 10.1111/ecoj.12181 - Retrieved 2015-03-24 EUobserver "UK makes €25 Billion profit from EU migrants", 5 November 2014 Retrieved 2015-03-24; The Independent, "European Union migrants add £20bn to the British economy – in just a decade", 4 November 2014 Retrieved 2015-03-24