Workers from Bulgaria and Romania could be up to nine times better off by moving to Britain next year, figures show, as campaigners said the UK would be twice as attractive for them as it is for Polish workers.
Bulgarian workers earning the minimum wage with a family and two children would take home £543 a week in the UK, compared with the equivalent of just £62 back at home, an analysis by the campaign group Migration Watch UK found.
Even single workers from the two countries, who will get unrestricted access to work in the UK from January 1, would be up to five times better off, the figures showed, taking home around £250 per week instead of £50.
Some Conservative Cabinet members fear that the removal of restrictions for EU migrants from Romania and Bulgaria from next year will mean tens of thousands of extra foreign workers will head to the UK, putting pressure on housing and public services.
Child benefit for two children alone, even if they were to remain in their home countries, would be the equivalent of a week’s take home pay at the minimum wage in Romania, and even more in Bulgaria, the report found.
The analysis comes as Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, unveiled plans to ensure migrants from the EU have to live in Britain for up to a year before they can claim benefits.
Up to 250,000 Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants could flood into Britain in the next five years, the group has predicted, after ministers refused to give an official estimate.
Taking into account the differences in the cost of living, the report also found the economic incentives for Bulgarian and Romanian workers to move to the UK were about twice those for Polish workers.
“With the success of the Polish workers well known to them, it is hard to imagine that the UK would not prove an attractive prospect,” the report said.
“The financial incentives to migrate to the UK from both Bulgaria and Romania are very strong, much more so than in the case of Poland.”
Sir Andrew Green, the pressure group’s chairman, added: “The wage differences turn out to be simply stunning.
“Given that the economic incentives for Romanian and Bulgarian workers are twice those now enjoyed by Polish workers, it would be absurd to suggest that there will not be a significant inflow.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “In terms of European immigration, we are working across government to look at the pull factors that may encourage EU nationals, including those from Bulgaria and Romania, to come to the UK.
“The Government has made clear it will continue work to cut out abuse of free movement.”
He added: “We are working to cut net migration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands by the end of this Parliament and our tough new rules are already taking effect with overall net migration falling by a quarter in the past year.”