News from the Commission > Impact of mobile EU citizens on national social security systems

According to a study just published by the European Commission in most EU countries, EU citizens from other Member States use welfare benefits no more intensively than the host country's nationals. Mobile EU citizens are less likely to receive disability and unemployment benefits in most countries studied.

In the specific case of cash benefits such as social pensions, disability allowances and non-contributory job-seekers allowances financed by general taxation rather than contributions by the individual concerned (so-called special non-contributory cash benefits - SNCBs), the study shows that economically non-active EU mobile citizens account for a very small share of beneficiaries and that the budgetary impact of such claims on national welfare budgets is very low. They represent less than 1% of all such beneficiaries (of EU nationality) in six countries studied (Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Malta and Portugal) and between 1% and 5% in five other countries (Germany, Finland, France, The Netherlands and Sweden).

László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, said:

"The study makes clear that the majority of mobile EU citizens move to another Member State to work and puts into perspective the dimension of the so called benefit tourism which is neither widespread nor systematic. The Commission remains committed to ensuring that EU citizens that would like to work in another EU country can do so without facing discrimination or obstacles. The Commission is also working with Member States to help them to further improve implementation of existing EU rules that coordinate social security. The Commission recognises that there can be regional or local problems created by a large, sudden influx of people from other EU countries into a particular geographical area. For example, they can put a strain on education, housing and infrastructure. It therefore stands ready to engage with Member States and, in particular, to help municipal authorities and others use the European Social Fund to its full extent."

The study also found that:

  • the vast majority of EU nationals moving to another EU country do so to work
  • activity rates among such mobile EU citizens have increased over the last seven years
  • on average EU mobile citizens are more likely to be in employment than nationals of the host country (partly because more EU mobile citizens than nationals fall in the 15-64 age bracket)
  • the majority of currently non-active EU citizens who move have previously worked in their current country of residence (64%)
  • non-active EU mobile citizens represent a very small share of the total population in each Member State and between 0.7% and 1.0% of the overall EU population.
  • on average, the expenditures associated with healthcare provided to non-active EU mobile citizens are very small relative to the size of total health spending (0.2% on average) or the size of the economy of the host countries (0.01% of GDP on average).

Other studies

The latest study's results complement those of other studies that consistently show that workers from other Member States are net contributors to the public finances of the host country. Migrant workers from other Member States usually pay more into host country budgets in taxes and social security than they receive in benefits because they tend to be younger and more economically-active than host countries' own workforce. These studies include the OECD's International Migration Outlook 2013, the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration study on Assessing the Fiscal Costs and Benefits of A8 Migration to the UK and the recent study by the Centre for European Reform.

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