Northern Ireland's poorest hit hardest by downturn

The poorest families in Northern Ireland have suffered a dramatic fall in their income following the economic downturn, deteriorating at a markedly worse rate than the rest of UK, says new research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

Key findings

  • Household incomes, poverty rates and the labour market have all worsened in Northern Ireland in the last five years. In each case, this deterioration has been greater than in the rest of the UK.
  • Between 2006-07 and 2011-12 the average (median) income in Northern Ireland fell by almost 10 per cent compared with 7 per cent for the UK as a whole. The fall at the bottom of the income distribution was also much greater in Northern Ireland.
  • The proportion of unemployed working-age people in Northern Ireland almost doubled between 2007-08 and 2012-13 to reach 5.8 per cent.
  • The proportion of pensioners in poverty in Northern Ireland fell from 19 per cent to 16 per cent in the five years to 2011-12. For working-age adults and children the poverty rate rose over this period.
  • In the five years to 2011-12, the poverty rate among adults aged 16-29 rose by 8 percentage points, to reach 26 per cent. Among those aged 30-59 poverty had also increased, but solely among those in families with an earner.
  • If disability-specific benefits are not counted as income, Northern Ireland's poverty rate increases from 22 to 24 per cent – at least as high as any part of the UK outside London.
  • The impact of welfare reform in Northern Ireland will be wider than in the rest of the UK: the proportion of claimants in Northern Ireland potentially affected by either the 'bedroom tax' or the change to disability living allowance is double the level elsewhere.

Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of JRF, said: 'This report reveals a series of worrying trends for Northern Ireland, with declining incomes and job prospects leading to rising poverty. These findings are a wakeup call for governments in Stormont and Westminster: we need a comprehensive strategy to reduce poverty for people in Northern Ireland. This means tackling the underlying causes of poverty, such as the number and quality of jobs on offer'.

SourceMonitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in Northern Ireland 2014, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
LinksReport | JRF press release | BBC report


Publication date: 
Mar 25 2014