Is the UK benefit system really too generous?

By European standards Britain's benefits system is far from generous.

Today’s Times front page didn’t pull any punches. ‘Idle Britons are allowing Romanians to take jobs’, the newspaper proclaimed.

The headline was drawn from comments made by Romania’s labour minister, who appeared to single out Britain’s supposedly generous welfare system as resulting in a larthargic British workforce.

That the Times should run with this as a front page story is testament to just how short some people’s memories are. With all due respect to the labour minister of Romania, she is also not perhaps the best person to comment on the generosity of the British welfare system – unless she really has enough time on her hands to study another country’s welfare system.

In fact, she couldn’t be further from the truth.

Just last month a study by Edinburgh University showed that benefits do not make people lazy. The Europewide study, which was carried out in 28 countries, found that paying high levels of benefits to the unemployed did not result in them becoming lazy or lacking motivation to find a job.

Crucially, the study concluded that motivation levels of those without work are more likely to be affected by the way society views them.

As Dr Jan Eichhorn who wrote the report put it:

“Those who claim that greater unemployment benefits lead to less motivation for people to seek employment should think again – for most people, it is not the degree of state provisions that determines how they personally feel about the experience of being unemployed.”

As for claims about Britain’s overgenerous welfare state, compared to other European countries Britain’s welfare state isn’t really that generous at all. Take a look at the graph below (click to zoom in).

Benefits generous

The study, carried out by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Centre for Population Change last year, found that the UK had below average levels of welfare spending among developed nations.

So no, by European standards Britain’s benefits system is far from generous.

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10 Responses to “Is the UK benefit system really too generous?”

  1. LB

    Good example today

    A DISABLED single mum and her teenage son say they have been forced to cancel Christmas after the so-called bedroom tax cost them nearly £1,000.

    Lisa Taylor agreed to downsize to a two-bedroom flat in Quenington Close, Warndon, Worcester, from her three-bedroom flat in Rose Avenue, Tolladine, where she had lived for a decade because of the tax or “spare room subsidy”.


    So no arguments about there not being properties to down size to.


    Since the bedroom tax was brought in she can no longer afford to buy her son a PlayStation 4 for Christmas.


    Spare rooms on benefits. PlayStation 4 on benefits.

    What was that about it not being generous?

    She’s had a property that’s too large for her needs and we’ve had to fork out the money?

    In Westminster there were benefit claimants on 104,000 pounds a year in housing benefit.

    Yep, its too generous.

    Far better to allow people to save their cash first, and then if unemployed, get help.

    However, you’ve looted the NI, so you can’t even pay pensions.

    That’s what the welfare cap and pensions are welfare agenda is all about.

  2. robertcp

    Can someone tell the Blairites who are always going on about welfare reform?

  3. robertcp

    Of course, one of the reasons is that the largest left of centre party in the UK is dominated by people who work for a living (trade unions). The British welfare state has always been designed to keep people going until they get another job.

  4. Mason Dixon, Autistic

    I don’t think you managed to squeeze enough non sequiters in there.

  5. Dacus

    How “generous: the British welfare system is completely irrelevant. Mrs Campeanu was responding to the accusations of the British government and media that Romanians would emigrate to the UK, to benefit form the generous welfare available in country, the so called “benefit tourism”. Her point was that Romanians fill positions that Britons won’t take as “beneath them”, preferring to stay ion benefit than work in poorly paid difficult jobs.
    She was entitled to her comment as much as the British politicians are entitled to comment about the affairs of other countries.

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