Generous Social Welfare Systems Attract More Migrants, Study Finds
Princeton University economists find countries act as 'welfare magnet' for mass migration
Countries that offer easy access to their generous social welfare systems attract more migrants, according to a new study.
New research carried out by economists at Princeton University in the US found that countries that offer free health care, education, housing, and income support to non-citizens, act as a "welfare magnet" to migrants.
The study revealed that generous welfare systems, such as Denmark's, actually attract more welfare-dependent immigrants and "asylum seekers" than those that are less generous.
Researchers examined the effects of welfare generosity on mass international immigration.
Several large-scale changes to Denmark’s welfare benefits for migrants were reviewed by the team.
Researchers concluded that migrants were more likely to make their way to Denmark when they could claim more benefits.
Researchers Ole Agersnap, Amalie Jenson, and Henrik Kleven saw Denmark as an “ideal setting” for studying the “welfare magnet” issue.
The team followed several modifications to Danish immigration law and noted their effects.
The first modification came in 2002 and reduced social welfare benefits for migrants coming from outside of the European Union by 50 percent.
Ten years later the policy was overturned by a leftist government.
In 2015, it was yet again re-instituted after a center-right government returned.
Such conditions allowed for researchers to carry out a “quasi-experimental research design” with “sizeable effects.”
From the data obtained, researchers concluded: “The benefit reduction reduced the net flow of immigrants by about 5,000 people per year or 3.7 percent of the stock of treated immigrants, and the subsequent repeal of the policy reversed the effect almost exactly.”
“While there are many non-welfare factors that matter for migration decisions, our evidence implies that, conditional on moving, the generosity of the welfare system is important for destination choices,” researchers say.
Denmark’s foreign-born population currently stands at 13.5 percent but continues to grow each year.
Meanwhile, the district of Hässleholm in Denmark's neighboring Sweden is facing an economic crisis after a large number of asylum seekers taken in by the municipality is now on mostly on welfare.
In 2010, Hässleholm Municipality in Skåne County, southern Sweden had only 18,500 inhabitants but has since taken in almost 3000 migrants.
According to the latest figures, up to 80 percent of the refugees taken in are now on welfare.