UK immigration: Why are EU citizens coming to the UK?

James Nickerson
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Border Force At Work At UK Ports
Economic conditions in other countries has led to more immigration (Source: Getty)

As the EU referendum approaches and the debate intensifies, immigration remains a key battleground for both camps.

And while Prime Minister David Cameron has said that his reforms on migrants claiming benefits will reduce the pull factor for those from the EU, a new report states that it is employment opportunities that is the biggest draw.

New research from the Migration Observatory states that EU migrants are less likely to claim out-of-work benefits than their UK counterparts, while a relatively small fraction of EU migrants are likely to be receiving in-work benefits.

Read more: New survey reveals people in Europe want to work in Britain

Instead, most EU citizens coming to the UK for at least one year reported they were coming for work. Those from new EU member states are even more likely to be employed.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics at the last quarterly review also showed that the majority of EU citizens that came to the UK, came for work.

But one factor that has made the UK particularly attractive is the economic conditions in some EU countries.

Take Spain and Italy, which have relatively high wages (but lower than the UK). It's no secret that they are experiencing high unemployment. So it's not all that surprising, given the record high employment in the UK that its citizens come looking for work.

Read more: Think tank Niesr criticises quality of facts in UK immigration debate

And there's more bad news for the government: the National Living Wage could lead to greater incentives for EU migrants. Since the wage will increase to £9, there will be more of a draw.

This has actually been backed up by research from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

However, the Migration Observatory does point out that if companies restructure to reduce reliance on low-wage labour, it could reduce jobs for EU migrants.

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