A rather heated public debate has been taking place in several EU member states recently over ‘welfare tourism’. Earlier this year, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Britain complained to the European Commission that citizens from some Member States (presumably those east of the Oder) were coming to their countries in order to scrounge off their generous benefits systems without contributing anything in return.
In response, the European Commission published a report which found that “workers from other Member States are net contributors to the public finances of the host country” and that “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.”
The report compliments the findings of other studies that find EU migrants are net benefits to the social security systems of Member States, including studies from the OECD, the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration and the Centre for European Reform.
Not everybody is convinced, however. We had a comment sent in from Kim arguing that it stands to reason that low-skilled migrants must ultimately be harmful to welfare systems:
Unskilled labor moves to countries with beneficial welfare programs [until] in the end it will be the death knell of the welfare state.
We took Kim’s complaint to Phil Bennion, a British Liberal Democrat MEP, to see how he would respond:
In addition, we put Kim’s comment to Joan Burton, the Irish Minister for Social Protection. As the minister responsible for Ireland’s welfare system, how would she react?