Welfare for Immigrants

Curbing 'Social Benefits Tourism'

People wait outside a job center in Berlin. Politicians want to reduce the number of foreigners collecting welfare benefits. Credit: DPA
People wait outside a job center in Berlin. Politicians want to reduce the number of foreigners collecting welfare benefits.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Lawmakers are concerned by a perceived increase in “social benefits tourists,” or foreigners who come to Germany solely to collect benefits.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The Federal Social Court ruled in December 2015 that after living in Germany for at least six months, penniless E.U. foreigners are entitled to some form of welfare.
    • While spending for German recipients declined by about 11 percent since 2007, it increased by about 2 percent in the immigrant population.
    • Berlin spent €6.7 billion on welfare benefits for non-E.U. citizens in 2013.
  • Audio

    Audio

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When it comes to what is known as “social benefits tourism,” London and Berlin are taking a stand.

British Prime Minister David Cameron argues that only immigrants who have worked in Great Britain for at least four years should be entitled to social benefits.

And while German Chancellor Angela Merkel doesn’t want to go that far, she too is pushing for a change in the law so that immigrants don’t become too comfortable collecting social benefits.

In September 2015, more than 422,000 registered recipients of Germany’s Hartz IV welfare benefits were from non-European Union countries, a 17-percent increase over the previous year. The increase is a consequence of continued strong immigration, especially from Eastern European countries that have joined the European Union more recently.

But the problem may not be nearly as bad as politicians may think.

“There is no reason to call this social benefits tourism,” said Herbert Brücker of the Institute for Employment Research. That’s because the number of people with jobs among the immigrants has also risen sharply – by 22 percent among Eastern Europeans alone.

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