Are migrants “taking advantage”?

The Daily Express headline trumpets, “Migrants take advantage of generous welfare state”.  The basis for this is a briefing paper by Migration Watch which uses Labour Force Survey statistics to break down the receipt of certain benefits by country of origin.

The Express writes:  “Those in favour of mass migration love to make out that all migrants come here to work hard but this report shows us the truth.”  The briefing paper does not have anything to say about that; the nearest it gets is a comment that African, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people are more likely to be long-term unemployed.  Groups that claim more benefits are described as “worse”; groups that claim less in benefits are “better”.  Migrants are more likely to claim Child Benefit, Tax Credit and Housing Benefit (all benefits available to working people) than others.  The clue about what’s happening is in the first, Child Benefit:  migrants are more likely to have children.  They are also much more likely to be aged 25-44 than the rest of the population, and the higher numbers of child benefit claims  (and lower rates of pensions claims) just might have something to do with that.   Twice as many people who are not migrants claim pensions.  The figures don’t then prove anything directly, and although Migration Watch has tried to undermine the arguments in favour of immigration in their other work, there’s no evidence here about that.

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