Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence


Child Poverty in Northern Ireland

  The causes of the high levels of child poverty in Northern Ireland are complex but inter-related. They are: unemployment, low pay, a higher cost of living and slightly larger families. High levels of unemployment and underemployment remain a problem in Northern Ireland, despite the official figures suggesting an improvement. The Labour Force Survey shows that long term unemployment as a percentage of total unemployed is much worse for NI than any other region of the UK—3.5% compared to a UK average of 27.5% and 34.2% in the North East, which is the next worst. When the numbers on government training and work schemes, those underemployed and those not registered as unemployed but nonetheless seeking work are taken into account, unemployment rates in parts of Northern Ireland are high. For example, the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion suggests that real unemployment in the Foyle constituency is closer 24%.[122] A recent recruitment campaign in Derry City by Debenhams department store drew 6,000 applicants for some 200 jobs.[123] Further we know that, within the UK generally, the employment rate for disabled people is significantly below the level for the wider population. There are high rates of disability and long term illness in NI; the 2001 Census revealed that 41% of households have one or more people with a limiting long-term illness.

  Households in Northern Ireland earn on average 20% less than those in the rest of the UK.[124] Further, NI is promoted to foreign direct investors as a low wage economy. For example, the Invest NI website tells overseas companies that wages are "up to 32% lower than in the US and 25% lower than the EU average".[125]21% of average household income is derived from social security benefits, compared to 12% in the UK generally. As a result of lower wages and greater dependence on benefits, average household income is 22% lower than the UK average. At the same time, providing necessities such as fuel, light and food costs everyone more—26% of average household income in NI compared to a UK average of 20%.[126]

  While the fertility rate in NI has dropped considerably in recent years and now stands at 1.9, the region continues to have a higher proportion of children in its population than any other part of the UK, with 36.5% of all households containing dependent children.[127]

9 September 2003

122   Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion (formerly Unemployment Unit), Unemployment in Parliamentary Constituencies, February 2003. Back

123   Derry Journal, 1 July 2003. Back

124   (HMSO, 2000), Regional Trends. Back

125 Back

126   NISRA (2000), NI Family Expenditure Survey Report for 1998-99. Back

127   NISRA (2003), Census 2001: Key Statistics, Table KS21. Back

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