Older people in low income

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • Over the period 2006/07 to 2008/09, 22% of pensioners in Northern Ireland were living in low-income households, equivalent to some 60,000 people (using a low-income threshold of the 60% of median income after deducting housing costs).
  • Northern Ireland’s 22% rate is some 4 percentage points above the Great Britain average of 18% and higher than that in any of the Great Britain regions except for London.
  • Northern Ireland’s 22% rate for pensioners is slightly higher than the 22% rate for the Northern Ireland population as a whole.
  • Similar proportions of single pensioners and pensioner couples are in low income.
  • 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.
  • Research published in 2005 suggested that the minimum income that people over 65, with no defined disability, would need in order to live in a healthy way was £123 a week for a single person and £193 a week for a couple. 1  These figures, which exclude rent or mortgage and rates, are therefore after deducting housing costs.  They exceed the 2004/05 low-income thresholds by £23 a week for a single pensioner, and £7 a week for a pensioner couple.

Definitions and data sources

The first graph compares the proportion of pensioners in low-income households in Northern Ireland with the regions of Great Britain.

The second graph shows the risks of being in low income for people in different family types.  Note that a couple (and therefore both of its adults) is classified as a pensioner couple if either of the adults is of pensionable age.

The data source for the first two graphs is Households Below Average Income, based on the Family Resources Survey (FRS).   Income is disposable household income after deducting housing costs and the low-income threshold is the same as that used elsewhere, namely 60% of British contemporary median household income.  All the data is equivalised (adjusted) to account for differences in household size and composition.  Note that in 2007 DWP made some technical changes to how it adjusted household income for household composition (including retrospective changes) and, as a result, the data is slightly different than previously published figures.  The averaging over three-year periods has been done to improve statistical reliability.

The third 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 third graph and map is the quarterly Department for Social Development Pension Credit statistics.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  The FRS is a well-established annual government survey designed to be representative of the population as a whole and the Northern Ireland sample has been boosted to improve sample sizes.  However, the Northern Irish sample is a recent addition to the survey and is yet to be fully quality assured by the Department of Work and Pensions.

1. Morris, J., Dangour, A., Deeming, C., Fletcher, A. and Wilkinson, P. , Minimum income for healthy living: older people, 2005 Age Concern Reports.