THE BLOG

The Case of Romanians' 'Benefit Tourism' Is a Myth

24/02/2014 09:34 GMT | Updated 25/04/2014 10:59 BST

The increasing number of jobs advertised by British employers to Romanian citizens is a confirmation that Romanians are hard working people, highly appreciated for their skills and professional expertise and not least for their work ethic.

A recent report produced by the University of Oxford Migration Observatory said that 59.1% of workers from Romania and Bulgaria were self-employed in 2013.

This figure can be easily explained: for many Romanians and Bulgarians the self-employed status was the only legal way to work in the UK. It also explains how it was possible that 40% of the work force who built the Olympic Village in 2012 were Romanians, whereas the constructions sector was closed to them.

This confirms that most of Romanians who wanted to come and work in the UK already did so, in spite of restrictions. They filled shortages on the British labour market. I expect that many Romanians who worked as self-employed will now change their status, and I know that some of them are already discussing with their employers to sign proper work contracts.

But I was bitterly surprised to see that while using real figures, the report suggests a less grounded conclusion: "Regardless of motivation, this status did provide access to the benefits system".

The reality is that in the case of Romanians 'benefit tourism' is a myth because from 5.7million working age benefit claimants in the UK last year, only 1,740 were Romanians, which represents 0.03% of the total claimants, or 1.45% of the Romanian community in Britain. To compare, the percentage of working age benefit claimants for the whole UK population is 9.5%.

The EU labour market has become increasingly competitive and every economy aims to attract bright brains and highly skilled workers. Romania's economy is growing fast, with a 5.2% GDP growth in the final quarter of 2013 - the biggest rise in the EU - and a full-year rate of 3.5%, (the EU average growth was only 0.1%).

In order to keep this momentum, we need our skilled people to stay and contribute to the economy. Last year, the Romanian government succeeded to create almost 100,000 new jobs and in January 2014 more than 10,000 jobs were available. Also, several measures are in place to attract Romanians back home, including grants for setting up new businesses.

Ironically, our employers are now in competition with British employers, who last month advertised 10,367 vacancies for Romanians.