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Visiting France

Immigrants contribute more than they cost, OECD reports finds

media US Air and Marine agents detain undocumented immigrants near the US-Mexico border John Moore/Getty Images/AFP

Immigrants contribute more than they cost to most countries' public finances, a report by the Paris-based OECD revealed on Thursday. But France is an exception to the rule at the moment, the organisation, which groups the world's 34 most advanced economies, finds.

"Migrants contribute more in taxes and social insurance payments than they receive in individual benefits [in most OECD countries]," OECD migration specialist Jonathan Chaloff told RFI. "So it may surprise some people but actually migrants are net direct contributors to the public purse, to the treasury."

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Whether it is negative or positive, immigrants only make a small difference - no more than 0.5 per cent - to national budgets, the report finds.

In general they pay more in taxes and social security contributions than they cost in benefits, although France, Germany and Poland are exceptions, with immigrants costing an average of 1,450 euros a year between 2007 and 2009 compared to an OECD average gain of 3,280 euros.

"When you find a difference between what the native-born and what migrants contribute that’s not so much due to benefit use but to lower employment or to lower wages," says Chaloff. "So raising empoyment levels for migrants would actually increase the fiscal well-being of countries."

The report attributes the French situation to several factors:

  • A relatively high level of immigration in the 1960s, leading to a large number of immigrants receiving old age pensions today;
  • A reduction of immigration in the 1980s, leading to a decline tax and social security contributions;
  • Lower pay than the national average meaning lower tax and social security contributions.

Economic crisis has also reduced immigrants' contribution to public coffers by an average of 20 per cent, the report show.

The financial crisis has also led to many Europeans moving within Europe in the search for work, the report also shows.

The numbers of migrants from countries most affected by the eurozone debt crisis - particularly Greece, Spain and Portugal - has jumped by almost half, despite 12.2 per cent unemployment across the zone.

Germany and the UK the most popular destinations.

The number of Greeks and Spaniards to have migrated to other European Union nations since 2007 had doubled to 39,000 and 72,000 respectively

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