Last week, the Daily Express published a story with the headline “Migrants ‘milking’ benefits system: Foreigners more likely to claim handouts”, drawing upon figures from a Migration Watch report that investigates the economic characteristics of migrants in the UK in 2014. The purpose of this post is not to critique the claims made by the newspaper nor the report itself, but rather to investigate whether the source of the data, the Labour Force Survey (LFS), is capable of providing evidence that is robust enough to support these claims.
As the study points out, migrants in the UK do not uniformly match the age profile of their host country as a whole and predominantly fall into the 25-44 age bands. It follows that analysis of benefit claims by migrants should be broken down by age, yet the picture that emerges of the differences between the UK-born and non UK-born population is not entirely clear. The charts below – taken directly from the report – show that claimant rates for certain benefits are higher among the non UK-born (e.g. housing benefit) while for others they are lower (e.g. out-of-work benefits). The implication is that a nuanced narrative might be more appropriate than broad statements about migrants’ likelihood to claim.