NI household incomes 'lowest in UK'

Published Tuesday, 25 March 2014
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Two reports into pay for Northern Ireland workers have claimed that the economic crash has hit people harder than their counterparts in other areas of the UK with household incomes over three times less.

NI household incomes 'lowest in UK'
Report authors have called for an improvement in the quality of jobs. (© UTV)

A report, prepared by the New Policy Institute of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, says Northern Ireland families have suffered a dramatic fall in income leaving them, on average, £39 a week less well off.

That represents a 16% drop in incomes between 2006 and 2012, compared to a UK average of 5%.

Rising unemployment and more people working part time are among the key factors blamed for declining incomes for those families who are desperately struggling to cope and the report estimates that around 400,000 people are living in poverty.

The report found that over the last five years poverty among adults under the age of 30 rose by 50% and the proportion of those unemployed almost doubled.

Welfare reforms, especially the so-called bedroom tax, could also hit Northern Ireland households harder with over 53% of claimants affected compared to 23% in Britain.

Also, the move from disability living allowance to personal independence payment (PIP) will be twice the proportion claiming.

Around a quarter of those reassessed for PIP are expected to lose their entitlement altogether with a further third receiving lower entitlement, according to the report.

Julia Unwin, chief executive of the social policy research and development charity, said the findings revealed a series of worrying trends.

She said: "They are a wake-up call for governments in Stormont and Westminster.

"We have to tackle the underlying causes of poverty, such as the number and quality of jobs on offer."

Report co-author Tom MacInnes added: "The recession and its aftermath hit Northern Ireland harder than the rest of the UK.

"In particular, the rise in unemployment and part time work has hurt family incomes across the board, but the poorest have fared worst.

"Possibly most worrying is the big rise in poverty among the under 30s.

"With welfare reform on the horizon, already diminished incomes may decline even further.

"Reforms that cut the incomes of those supported by benefits or that require more people to actively seek work - without improvements in the quality of jobs on offer - are likely to exacerbate problems further."

We need a comprehensive strategy to reduce poverty for people in Northern Ireland.

Julie Unwin, JRF

Meanwhile, a second report, also published on Tuesday, has said that Northern Ireland has a "significantly higher" number of people on low pay than those in the rest of the UK.

The Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) has said those 169,000 people are earning less than the £7.45 current estimated living wage.

The living wage is a relatively new concept and is calculated as the amount of money needed to cope with the demands of modern living.

The National Minimum Wage is set by the government at £6.31 for workers over 21.

NERI says there are 9%, or 61,000 people earning only the National Minimum Wage or less.

People in Upper Bann, north Antrim, east Londonderry, Newry and Armagh are most likely to work for less and women and young people are those most likely to be in a low pay bracket.

The report, funded by the unions affiliated with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, says low pay is most evident in the accommodation, food, retail, residential and social care sectors.

NERI economist Paul Mac Flynn said: "Northern Ireland has significantly higher levels of low pay than any other UK region and low pay is of most concern in sectors of the economy that are growing.

"This level of low pay is a serious threat to the domestic economy and any chance of recovery."

Mr Mac Flynn called for tougher enforcement of the National Minimum Wage, more promotion of the living wage and for consideration of sector wage agreements.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
3 Comments
culchy in the stix wrote (248 days ago):
AAll the more reason for our politicians to stand up for us, not English gerrymandering, and say no emphatically, we won't enforce further hardship on our citizens in the most deprived part of the UK.
jean in dungannon wrote (248 days ago):
There are some people and if they had £1000 per week it still would not be enough; They have no idea how to economize. They want money for drink, smoke eat out and goodness knows what else. My husband was the breadwinner in our house and we had four children to feed and clothe so there was no money for any holidays. Nor did we get any Benefits except family allowance which was not a lot in those days. There is NO poverty in Northern Ireland now for there is money for everything only working.
Bad Pay in Belfast wrote (248 days ago):
Hardly surprising when Invest NI sells Northern Ieland as a low cost base due to wages being lower than the rest of the UK. I work for a large company and UK mainland workers get at least 15-20% extra pay than workers doing the same job from Northern Ireland.
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