In an article published by the Belfast Telegraph detailing a declining number of shoppers on high streets and in shopping centres and retail parks across the province in February, Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, is quoted stating, “The truth is, in Northern Ireland, we have less than half of the weekly disposable income than households in the rest of the UK.”
According to an income tracker report (see page 14) released in January by Asda, in accordance with the Centre for Economics and Business Research, these claims can be substantiated. The report finds that although Northern Ireland experienced the fastest growth in discretionary income, it still remained disproportionately behind the rest of the UK, ranking lowest amongst the regions. It states that families in Northern Ireland tend to spend more money on essential items, and have £98 left a week once these have been paid for. In comparison, families in Great Britain have a discretionary spend of £185 on average — just slightly less than double the calculation for Northern Ireland.
The report noted that the average salary in Northern Ireland is £18,764, compared to £22,044 in the UK as a whole. As well as this, it found that Northern Ireland had the highest percentage of workers on or below the minimum wage, at 10 per cent. A similar report carried out in 2013/14 by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency found the average salary in Northern Ireland to be £17,948, and in the UK as a whole, £23,394.
Finally, figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in June 2015 revealed that Northern Ireland residents had the lowest gross disposable income (income that people have left to live on once their taxes, mortgage/rent and pension savings have been deducted) per head in 2013, where the average person had £14,347 available to save or spend, compared with a UK average of £17,559. The data presented by the ONS also shows the disparity in wealth that exists within the country, with citizens living in Outer Belfast having, on average, a disposable income of £15,208 compared to £12,910 in the North of Northern Ireland.