Poverty levels in North higher than in Republic

21% of people in N Ireland experienced poverty in 2011

Peace Wall in Belfast: household incomes, poverty rates and the job market in the North are all worse than in Britain Photograph: David Sleator

Peace Wall in Belfast: household incomes, poverty rates and the job market in the North are all worse than in Britain Photograph: David Sleator


Northern Ireland has a higher poverty rate than the rest of Ireland, according to a new study from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Just over one in five of the population of Northern Ireland (21 per cent) was experiencing poverty in 2011, compared to 15 per cent in the Republic, the foundation reported in its Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in Northern Ireland 2014 study published today.

Poverty threshold
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which has a remit of identifying the root causes of poverty in the UK, measures income after taxes and housing costs have been paid.

The poverty threshold is adjusted to account for household size and composition.

In 2011/2012, it was £220 per week for a couple with no children, and £308 for a couple with two young children.

It reported that between 2006/2007 – the year before the recession began – and 2011/2012, the average or median household incomes in Northern Ireland fell by just under 10 per cent from £372 per week to £336, compared to 7 per cent in the UK as a whole from £396 to £367.

Household incomes
The study was prepared by the New Policy Institute for the foundation.

It reported that household incomes, poverty rates and the labour market have all worsened in Northern Ireland in the last five years, with the deterioration greater than in Britain.

In the five years to 2012, the poverty rate among adults aged 16 to 29 rose by eight percentage points to reach 26 per cent. Among those aged 30 to 59, poverty has also increased but it has solely been among those in working families.

The study found that the nature of poverty is now very different across the age ranges.

Age disparity
“For younger adults, poverty is dominated by those in a workless family (62 per cent of adults aged 16 to 30 in poverty live in a workless family). But over half of adults aged 30 to 59 in poverty live in a family where someone is in work,” it reported.

“The poverty rate has also become very uneven by age. In 2006/2007 the poverty rate across these age groups was quite even with 16- to 29-year-olds at 19 per cent compared with 18 per cent for those aged 30-59. “

“By 2011/2012 a gap opened and the poverty rate for 16-29-year-olds reached 26 per cent compared with 20 per cent and 19 per cent for those aged 30-44 and 45-59 respectively,” it added.

“This age disparity has occurred across the UK but in GB it has been part of a longer-term trend; in NI the age disparity is a much more recent development,” the foundation reported.

One positive element of the report was that pensioners experienced a decline in poverty.

“The proportion of pensioners in poverty in NI fell from 19 per cent to 16 per cent in the five years to 2011/2012.

“For working-age adults and children, the poverty rate rose over this period,” the foundation reported.

The foundation’s chief executive, Julia Unwin, said the findings pointed to a series of worrying trends.

“They are a wake-up 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,” Ms Unwin said.