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Transitional controls had little impact on Romanians’ and Bulgarians’ access to UK benefits

21 Feb 2014

Most Romanian and Bulgarian (A2) nationals working in the UK before 2014 had full access to the welfare state despite “transitional controls” designed, in part, to limit access to it, the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford shows today.

Data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) – provided in “Costs and Benefits”, a new analysis by the Migration Observatory – show that 59% of migrants from A2 countries who were working in the UK in 2013 were registered as self employed, which meant that they had full access to the UK’s welfare state. This compares to about 13% of UK nationals and just over 15% of other EU migrants.

Transitional controls on access to the UK labour market were introduced when Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 and expired in January this year. These temporary restrictions were designed to limit the access that low skilled migrants from these countries had to the UK’s labour market to specific types of jobs – primarily in agriculture and food processing – and limited A2 nationals’ access to the benefits system until 1 January 2014. However, these controls did not apply to self-employed people.

Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva, senior researcher at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: “There has been a lot of public concern about the end of the transitional controls on Romanian and Bulgarian migrants’ access to the UK labour market and welfare state. But these figures show that limits to welfare access included in the transitional controls did not affect the majority of Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK since 2007.”


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