Here’s an informative post by Jonathan Portes on a piece in the Telegraph by government ministers (and related report on the BBC) on the 371,000 migrants claiming benefits.
The figures are the “first ever estimates” on migrant benefit claims, but the reporting of the whole numbers, argues Portes, is misleading:
“[The figures say] that 371,000 people, out of a total of 5.5 million, who are claiming working-age benefits, were non-UK nationals when they first registered for a National Insurance number; of these 258,000 were from outside the European Economic Area. Of this latter group, 54% are now British nationals, so presumably the rest are not.
“Meanwhile, for comparison, we can also look at the Labour Force Survey. This says that, of the total number of people in work (about 29 million), some 4 million were born abroad. Of these 2.7 million were born outside the EEA. And of these, 1.3 million are not (yet) British citizens.
“So, summing up these numbers in very rough percentages:
- migrants represent about 13% of all workers, but only 7% percent of out-of-work claimants;
- migrants from outside the EEA represent about 9-10% of all workers, but about 5% of out-of-work claimants
- foreign nationals from outside the EEA represent about 4.5% of all workers, but a little over 2% of out-of-work benefit claimants.”
He goes on to quote research by his own organisation, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, “that non-European economic and student migrants impose costs on UK public services that are small both relative to the total cost of these services and to the share of these groups in the population as a whole.”
Useful evidence, useful context to an arbitrary headline number. But as he says: “The only question that remains for me is why today’s research was not reported this way.”