Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Northern Ireland is the lame duck of the UK

With the most economically inactive population here, the smallest contribution to the national economy and the worst performance in cutting greenhouse gases, the Office of National Statistics reveals...

People in Northern Ireland are the most work-shy
People in Northern Ireland are the most work-shy

A new survey suggests that people in Northern Ireland are the most work-shy and environmentally unfriendly in the UK, and we contribute a mere 2% to the entire economic output of all four regions.

On the bright side, we earn slightly more than people in Wales and our house prices are the lowest in the UK.

The Region and Country survey, conducted by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), aims to paint a picture of the UK regions between 2011 and 2012.

It explored aspects such as population, age, employment and house prices.

The survey showed that Northern Ireland's population of 1.8m makes up 3% of the UK but contributes just 2% to the economy. So even though we are small, we're still punching below our weight.

The ONS profile also shows we have one of the youngest populations of the UK with a median age of 37.6 years. The region also has the highest proportion of people aged under 16 compared with England, Scotland and Wales, at 21%.

In terms of productivity, 28% of people are economically inactive and we have the lowest percentage of people in work of all the UK regions at 66%.

The survey reveals that the business creation rate in Northern Ireland was just 6.5% in 2011, the lowest of the UK countries and English regions. The UK average was almost double at 11.2%.

Workers' productivity is also lower than any other region in the UK – we use 16% more wealth than we create. However, only the south east of England and London produced positive figures.

While we may not create as much wealth as the rest of our UK counterparts, the workforce in Northern Ireland still earns slightly more than the Welsh.

Those people in work earned, on average, £460 a week, compared with £455 in Wales, £498 in Scotland and £513 in England.

And in terms of construction, one of the key indicators of economic growth, just over 5,000 homes were built by the private sector in Northern Ireland.

However, at £130,000, house prices are more than £30,000 cheaper than anywhere else.

Elsewhere, 16% of all children here live in "workless homes" where neither mum or dad are employed. Just England's north west and north east had higher rates, at 17 and 18% respectively.

And all that tallies to Northern Ireland contributing a mere 2% to the UK's economy.

Wales was not far ahead, contributing 4%, while the Scots contributed 8% to economic activity.

In terms of education, 18% of working age people had no qualifications, the worst in the UK.

The region also had the lowest reduction in greenhouse gases.

Up to 2011, harmful gases were reduced here by 17%, half of what Scotland and England managed in efforts to improve the environment. Both regions reduced harmful emission by almost a third, while Wales recorded a 21% drop.

If that wasn't grim enough reading, it may be some cold comfort that you may not have to live with it for long – only the Scots have a lower life expectancy than people in Northern Ireland.

The average male born here in 2011 has a life expectancy of 77, and for people in Scotland it is 75, while those living in the south east of England can expect to live into their 80s. For women here the figure was in the 80s, but still among the lowest in the UK.

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