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Are Bulgarian and Romanian migrants more likely to claim UK unemployment benefits? | Immigration Matters

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Owen Spottiswoode, writing for, looks at the real facts behind a report in the The Daily Express, 29 September 2011, that Bulgarian and Romanian (A2) migrants were more likely to be claiming UK state benefits than A8 EU migrants and British Citizens.

Full Fact takes a look at whether or not it shows that immigrants have been claiming more in out-of-work benefits.

The Government has this week made available previously unpublished research on the ‘social and economic impacts of immigration’, which has resulted in sensational headlines as well as fodder for the anti-immigration pressure groups.

In his Daily Telegraph column on Monday, London Mayor Boris Johnson accused the Left of “rewriting history” on immigration, after one report showed that inward migration from Eastern Europe was expected to be much higher than was officially estimated.

The Express took a different tack, arguing that “migrants to the UK are more likely to be claiming unemployment benefits than the native population.”

Using one of the recently-released reports on the impact of A2 migration (which covers Bulgaria and Romania), the paper writes that it “showed that while just over 3.7 per cent of the local population claimed jobless payments, 5.7 per cent of immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria took the handouts along with 5.3 per cent of migrants from outside the EU and 3.7 percent of eastern Europeans who joined the EU in 2004.”

However, reading the full report, it is easy to see where these figures come from. The report, ‘Identifying social and economic push and pull factors for migration to the UK by Bulgarian and Romanian nationals‘ show figures giving information on benefit claims by UK nationals and immigrants, which at first appear to indicate that Bulgarains and Romanians are claiming more benefits than other migrant groups.

While this figure in isolation would appear to support the Express’s interpretation, on closer inspection the truth begins to unravel.

The report doesn’t actually show the proportion of migrants claiming a given benefit, but the proportion of benefit claimants from different backgrounds claiming a given benefit. (i.e. If you sum up each column in the table, it will add up to 100, allowing for the effects of rounding.)

This is important, as both the report and the Express acknowledge that there is a “relatively small pool” of benefit claimants from the A2 and A8 group of migrants compared to the ‘native’ population.

As the report explains: “Of the relatively small pool of A2 and A8 migrants who claim benefits, the share of A2 migrants claiming unemployment benefits is higher compared to other migrant groups.”

According to the report, in a representative group of 100 individuals, around 40 would have claimed some form of social benefit among UK nationals, compared to 15 from the A2 group of countries, 23 from the A8 group, and 39 from elsewhere.

Using these baselines, we can use the information given in part 2 of the table to work out that around 1.48 per cent of UK nationals claimed unemployment benefits between 2004 and 2009, compared to 0.86 per cent among A2 immigrants, 0.85 among A8 immigrants and 2.07 per cent among other immigrants.

So are more migrants more likely to claim unemployment benefits, as the Express claims? Well if we take the mean of the three migrant groups given, we can see that an average of 1.26 per cent of migrants claim unemployment benefits: a smaller share than among the ‘native’ population.

However whether we should be making these comparisons at all is very doubtful.

Above the relevant table, the report’s authors have thought it important enough to place the following warning in bold:

“The results relating to A2 and A8 migrants in Table 7 below should be treated with particular caution due to low sample size amongst this group especially when looking at the propensity to claim particular types of benefits from what is an already small pool of migrant benefit claimants.”

In composing the headline that it did, the Express has therefore not only used the data provided in the report inaccurately, but seems to have gone against the explicit guidance issued by its authors. Source:

Even though they are full European Union members, when it comes to employment and working in the UK Bulgarian and Romanian citizens do not have the same rights as other Europeans, for instance from Poland, Slovakia or other A8 Accession countries.

Bulgarians and Romanians do not enjoy full free movement of Labour rights at the moment and as a result many are forced to work outside the rules through agencies. 

Employers can get around immigration and employment laws by employing workers via agencies. Reputable agencies make proper immigration checks on their workers, but not all are so vigilant.

Joanna, an administrator for NVQ vocational and management training institution, Majestic College, has met a large number of Bulgarian and Romanian workers working on a ’self employed’ basis (some without Yellow Cards) via agencies on ‘unfavourable’ terms and conditions. She said:

‘Some workers are exploited by agencies or employers who use the fact that they are illegal to control them and deny them basic employment rights.

‘Once they start a course with us we help them legalise their stay and apply for a Yellow Card.

”We also help find them a proper job – employed and paying tax via the employer, not as self employed, and once they have this security they are much happier’

After 12 months of continuous legal work a Bulgarian or Romanian student worker can apply for a permanent residence ‘blue card’.

The UK Border Agency has even started compelling Bulgarians and Romanians to take out Comprehensive Sickness Insurance cover when applying for yellow card registration as a working student. The insurance, a form of private medical cover, is a new requirement introduced as part of changes to the BR1 Yellow Card form in June.

The revised BR1 form does not make it clear that a student will need Comprehensive Sickness Insurance, as the actual question relates to those applying as ‘self sufficient’ EU applicants.

See also:

Immigration Rules for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals 

Free Movement of EU nationals explained 

Comprehensive Sickness Insurance now required for Bulgarian and Romanian study work yellow cards

Meeting of the Migration Advisory Committee with representatives of Romanian professional associations in the UK

Bulgaria and Romania Schengen visa bid blocked by Netherlands and Finland

BR1 Form for ‘Yellow Card’ Registration revised

If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: or visit

Majestic College offer special packages for EU students. They also have a number of employers looking for staff right now and are willing to employ Bulgarians and Romanians.

For more information call Joanna on 0208 207 1020 or email

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2 Responses to “Are Bulgarian and Romanian migrants more likely to claim UK unemployment benefits?”
Read them below or add one

  1. “…working on a ’self employed’ basis (some without Yellow Cards)…” and “…a permanent residence ‘blue card’” is nonsense. Why? The Yellow Registration Certificate is NOT compulsory for the self employed and possessing a Blue Registration Certificate doesn’t mean you were granted permanent residence. You get the latter after 5 years of exercising Treaty Rights or in 2012 at the earliest for those who came in 2007.

    Anyway – it’s clear the whole benefit claiming story was made up by the paper. Period.

  2. […] this week the press published figures arguing that “migrants from Bulgaria and Romania to the UK are more likely to be claiming unemployment benefits than the native population”, which later proved to be […]

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