Why is welfare tourism such a big thing? Because rich people care about it

Ipsos Mori (a partner of King’s) has an interesting report on public attitudes to immigration in Britain which came out on January 2. In relation to the previous post on welfare tourism, there is one graph that I found particularly interesting (below). It shows the main reasons given by people who consider immigration to be a problem, by class of income. Unsurprisingly, people on low incomes are primarily worried about their jobs. People on high incomes are not so worried about their jobs but much more about the pressure on benefits and public services. Incidentally, this is precisely the issue that the government is taking issue with, with a number of restrictions on access to benefits and health services for new entrants. By contrast, to my knowledge there have been no measures to protect wages and working conditions of the kind that I documented here, which could potentially answer concerns of lower income groups.

Once again, this seem to show that the concerns of higher income groups always tend to prevail politically, as recently document here. More than 50 years ago, Schattschneider had already argued that “The flaw in the pluralist heaven [of democracy] is that the heavenly chorus sings with a strong upper-class accent”.


3 responses to “Why is welfare tourism such a big thing? Because rich people care about it”

  1. Interesting findings, though I’m sure that competition for benefits is a sort of secondary concern for poorer people (what Kitschelt dubbed ‘welfare chauvinism’ in his 1995 book). Moreover, the figures might be shaped by the situation in the UK, where benefit levels are comparatively low and means testing is rather strict (whatever the Mail says) compared with some continental countries (e.g. France).

    • I fully agree, especially on the second point. I wonder if people on low incomes are actually less worried about welfare tourism because… they actually know how unattractive UK benefits actually are: they’re more likely to receive them themselves. On the second point, the UK is probably the best case of the “paradox of redistribution”: the more you target benefits with means-testing, the more you develop hostility from the middle class who pays for welfare but doesn’t receive much in exchange. In Continental Europe, welfare is more legitimate because the middle class also benefits from social insurance.

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