NORTHERN IRELAND

Location of low income

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • Data on rates of low income is not available at a sub-regional level.  This is partly because the sample sizes of the relevant survey (the Family Resources Survey) are nowhere near sufficient to provide such estimates and partly because the survey is not designed to be representative at a sub-regional level.  The analysis in this indicator therefore has to use different data, namely data about benefit recipiency.  As discussed below, however, such statistics are likely to underestimate the relative prevalence of low income in rural areas, and this should be borne in mind when looking at the results.
  • For people of working-age, the only directly relevant available data relates to those in receipt of out-of-work benefits.  However, as a) this does not include anyone who is in low income because they are low paid and b) it includes everyone in receipt of out-of-work disability benefits even though they are not means-tested, variations in its geographic prevalence are not necessarily a good proxy for variations in the geographic prevalence of low-income working-age people. 1  For example, the proportion of low-income people who are in working families (as opposed to workless ones) is much higher in rural areas than in urban areas, at least in England (see the indicator on low income by work status in rural England).  As a result, the relative ranking of rural areas by benefit recipiency will tend to place them lower in the rankings than would be the case for low income.
  • For people of pensionable age, the best sub-regional data relates to those in receipt of the guaranteed Pension Credit.  As this is a means-tested benefit available to most low-income pensioners, variations in its geographic prevalence should be a reasonably good proxy for variations in the geographic prevalence of low-income pensioners.  It does, however, have one potential bias due to the fact that non-take-up rate for this benefit is much higher for those in owner occupation than for those in rented accommodation (see the UK indicator on take-up of benefits by older people).  As a result, the relative ranking of areas with relatively little rented accommodation (e.g. rural areas) will tend to place them lower in the rankings than would be the case for low income.
  • The proportion of working-age people who are in receipt of out-of-work benefits is much higher in Derry, Strabane and Belfast than elsewhere – almost twice the rate of many other areas.  With a few exceptions, the proportion is usually higher in the western districts than in the eastern ones.
  • The proportion of people aged 60 and over in receipt of guaranteed Pension Credit is highest in Cookstown, Derry and Strabane.  In each of these areas, the proportion is around 35%, which is more than twice that in Castlereagh, North Down and Carrickfergus (all around 15%).  Districts in the far west and south west generally have higher proportions than other districts.

Definitions and data sources

There is no direct data on the location of low income people within Northern Ireland.  In this context, this indicator looks at the location of people who are reliant on the state for their income.

The first graph and map show, for February 2009, how the proportion of working-age people in receipt of one or more ‘key out-of-work benefits’ varies by local authority.  ‘Key out-of-work benefit’ covers the following benefits: Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance.

The data source for the first graph and map is the Department for Social Development (the data is not publicly available).

The second graph and map show, for February 2009, how the proportion of people aged 60 and over in receipt of the guaranteed part of Pension Credit varies by local authority.

The data source for the second graph and map is the quarterly Department for Social Development Pension Credit statistics.

1. In an attempt to cater for these two problems, some researchers use the “number of income deprived people” statistics from the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Indices of Deprivation.  In these indices (at least in England), the first problem is dealt with by adding in the number of people in receipt of tax credits but still with a low income and the second problem is dealt with by simply excluding all those in receipt of Incapacity Benefit.  The tax credit inclusion clearly improves the reliability of the statistics as a proxy for low income but this cannot be done by external researchers such as ourselves because the Government has deemed the data to be ‘disclosive’.  On the other hand, the Incapacity Benefit exclusion is not an obvious improvement (it is simply excluding them all rather than including them all) and has the disadvantage of making the statistic less obviously meaningful (i.e. moving it from “recipients of out-of-work benefits” to “recipients of selected out-of-work benefits”).