skip to content

EU Citizens living in the UK

On migrants and benefits: 'It's falling in love with a myth.'

Edoardo came to the UK from Italy in September 2013, to study a postgraduate course at Liverpool University, having studied previously abroad in Canada and Turkey. He came to the UK because he wanted to boost his career prospects and experience another way of living. The UK wasn't his first choice; he preferred Montreal but couldn't afford the fees and living costs.

When he finished studying in Liverpool he returned home to Italy briefly but he told us:

‘I didn’t really see the meaning of using my background back home. So in some how I’ve been forced to consider again to be back here in the UK again to grab some more relevant work experience useful again to decide which way I would like to go because now it’s time to find a more permanent contract, to fully develop my competence after a lot of years of studying. […] So I came back to the UK because I thought well let’s see how this country can demonstrate its power, the work power, in terms of trying to fairly compete doing interviews. Give myself 6 months or 1 year […].’

He moved to Cambridge because of the city's proximity to London, its many opportunities for work in the technology sector and that it is one of the driest regions in the UK. He has registered with work agencies and has found many different jobs through those agencies, though he is finding it hard to get into the human resources roles that he really wants.

‘People are not stupid. They look at my name and say “he’s an Italian” but anyway I’ve got the phone [call from agencies and employers] which is something.’

‘I’m not saying here [in the UK] is heaven […] but it’s more fair, there’s a higher level of flexibility, higher level of mobility within the job market. Also it’s a completely another culture in terms of people want to put themselves in continuous challenge at work. People want a permanent contract here, have a mortgage, have a family, even when you are only 25 or 26. […] I see many people with permanent jobs who just want to have a different change of career and decide to leave a permanent job and get another job, even maybe not as highly qualified as what they are doing but still maybe something that is more interesting. Whereas in my culture, if you have a permanent job it means that you are employed by the State and its more unlikely to decide to leave because then there is not much competition and there is not much work in the private sector to find a valid alternative.’

‘Here is not heaven but it’s still good for opportunities even for a foreigner in terms of even with a Masters at least I am considered for a certain range of jobs in an apparent fair manner. That says to me OK this is good. From my point of view the UK is one of the classic places where meritocracy rules. You have no such strange recommendations [people getting jobs] without doing the classic steps of sending your CV, having the interview. In the UK everyone stands in the same queue to be examined or interviewed for the job. Also in terms of private sector, VAT things, for entrepreneurs it is also quite good. Because I had like friends who historically have moved here setting up their own restaurants, opening make up product branch, because taxation is reasonable, all the bureaucracy is lighter.’

I ask Edoardo what he thinks about Brexit and the 'benefits tourism' problem. He says:

‘Cameron had somehow to pay tribute to those people who decided not to vote for Farage but decided to vote for his party by keeping this constant talk about EU yes, EU no.’

‘I think there are people from poor countries with high unemployment who come to the UK who come to abuse the benefits system because it’s so easy to read on Facebook about the experiences of a friend of a friend of a cousin of a friend who got to these benefits. […] But it’s like falling in love with a myth.

Though Eduardo says it is easier to get benefits in the UK than Italy, and some people from poor countries with high unemployment may come for benefits, he personally only knows of one EU national who claimed benefits; his Polish friend who needed help after finishing her university studies. When she went to the Job Centre she was encouraged to become self-employed as a way of reducing her need for social support.