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Background Information on Northern Ireland Society - Economy, Finance, Industry and Trade



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Text and Research: Fionnuala McKenna and Martin Melaugh
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change

Economy, Finance, Industry and Trade

The information below refers mainly to the 1990s.

  • The subvention from Britain to Northern Ireland was £3,340 million in 1995-96. The subvention represents the shortfall between the total amount of money that is raised in Northern Ireland, mainly in taxation, and the total amount spent in the region, mainly on public services and security. The subvention grew steadily over the period from 1970 to 1996 (NI-ECO-02; NI-ECO-03). More recent figures for the subvention appear not to be available.

  • Northern Ireland is currently enjoying a period of economic growth, with output and employment rising and unemployment falling.

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is defined as the sum of all incomes earned from productive activity. GDP per head is taken to be a good indication of a region's relative prosperity. Between 1989 and 1996, GDP per head in Northern Ireland increased almost by 58%. This compares with a 49.9% increase in the UK as a whole. Having said this however, GDP per head in Northern Ireland remained lower than the rest of the UK.

  • Personal disposable income in Northern Ireland has been consistently lower than the rest of the UK, and average gross weekly earnings are also lower than those in other parts of the UK. In 1997, average gross weekly earnings in Northern Ireland were £319.70 compared to £372.20 in England.

  • Unemployment in Northern Ireland fell from 16.8% in 1986 to 8.2% in 1997.

  • Manufacturing output in Northern Ireland has increased significantly over the past 5 years, and at a faster rate of growth than that of the UK as a whole. Between 1997 - 1998, Northern Ireland output increased by 2.3% in comparison to an increase of 0.2% for the UK as a whole. Industrial production in Northern Ireland increased in the 5 years between 1991-1996 by nearly 17%, whilst the rest of the UK increased by only 11.7%.

  • House prices in Northern Ireland rose at a significantly faster rate than the general UK rate of inflation. Northern Ireland house prices in the 3rd quarter of 1998 were 55.6% higher than prices in the same quarter of 1993. The boom in house prises contined until the collapse in 2008.

  • In the late 1990s leading supermarket chains in Britain made major investments in Northern Ireland, and created thousands of new jobs.

  • In 1997-1998, the highest proportion of public expenditure in Northern Ireland (32.12%) was spent on Social Security, and 11.25% was spent on law and order.

  • There is a considerable amount of cross-border trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, with the Republic being Northern Ireland's No. 1 export market. However, analysis of visible trade figures (excluding services) shows that Northern Ireland has experienced a trade deficit with the Republic of Ireland every year since 1981. The trade figures for 1997 show that Northern Ireland exports to the Republic amounted to £663.7m (IR£716.1m), whilst imports from the Republic totaled £947.7m (IR£1,022.5m). This in turn represented a trade deficit of £284 million (IR£306.4m).

    Sources:
    The following tables provide further breakdowns of statistics on the economy in Northern Ireland. Much of this material has been taken from the Northern Ireland Annual Abstract of Statistics (1998), Regional Trends and the Irish Almanac and Yearbook of Facts (1999).
    Readers may also find useful information at the website of the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency {external_link} or the Department of Finance and Personnel, Economics Division {external_link}.

    List of Tables

    Table NI-ECO-02: Subvention (£ million) to Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom, 1966-67 to 1992-93
    Table NI-ECO-03: United Kingdom Subvention (£ million) to Northern Ireland, 1979-80 to 1995-96


    The Tables

    Table NI-ECO-02: Subvention (£ million) to Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom, 1966-67 to 1992-93
    Year

    Actual Prices (£ million)

    1992 Prices (£ million) 3

    Including Security

    Excluding Security

    Extra Army Costs

    Including Security

    Excluding Security

    Extra Army Costs

    1966-67

    52

    n/a 1

    n/a 2

    489

    n/a 1

    n/a 2

    1967-68

    63

    n/a 1

    n/a 2

    576

    n/a 1

    n/a 2

    1968-69

    74

    n/a 1

    n/a 2

    644

    n/a 1

    n/a 2

    1969-70

    74

    n/a 1

    2

    612

    n/a 1

    17

    1970-71

    88

    n/a 1

    7

    673

    n/a 1

    54

    1971-72

    126

    n/a 1

    14

    883

    n/a 1

    98

    1972-73

    181

    n/a 1

    29

    1,173

    n/a 1

    188

    1973-74

    312

    292

    33

    1,890

    1,769

    200

    1974-75

    389

    280

    45

    1,969

    1,417

    228

    1975-76

    565

    413

    60

    2,279

    1,666

    242

    1976-77

    620

    450

    65

    2,202

    1,598

    231

    1977-78

    688

    515

    69

    2,149

    1,609

    216

    1978-79

    848

    648

    81

    2,389

    1,826

    228

    1979-80

    944

    695

    96

    2,280

    1,678

    232

    1980-81

    1,090

    781

    111

    2,224

    1,594

    226

    1981-82

    1,064

    716

    149

    1,980

    1,332

    277

    1982-83

    1,149

    783

    143

    1,996

    1,360

    248

    1983-84

    1,305

    921

    141

    2,167

    1,529

    234

    1984-85

    1,489

    1,077

    121

    2,353

    1,702

    191

    1985-86

    1,536

    1,087

    135

    2,301

    1,629

    202

    1986-87

    1,593

    1,099

    144

    2,312

    1,595

    209

    1987-88

    1,570

    1,010

    166

    2,160

    1,390

    228

    1988-89

    1,698

    1,095

    174

    2,178

    1,404

    223

    1989-90

    1,757

    1,095

    201

    2,115

    1,318

    242

    1990-91

    2,018

    1,291

    218

    2,249

    1,439

    243

    1991-92

    2,436

    1,620

    317

    2,540

    1,689

    330

    1992-93 4

    3,296

    2,365

    n/a 5

    3,296

    2,365

    n/a 5

    Notes:
    1. Separate figures for security costs within subvention are available only from 1973-74. Until 1978-79 the costs shown were law and order costs borne on United Kingdom votes: from 1979-80 the cost are those of the NIO and the NI Court Service.
    2. Figures for extra Army costs are available only from 1969-70.
    3. Actual prices have been converted to 1992 prices by applying the appropriate Gross Domestic Product Deflator.
    4. Figures for 1992-93 are provisional.
    5. Figures for extra Army costs for 1992-93 are not yet available.
    Source:
    Written answer by Mr Mates to House of Commons parliamentary question from Mr. McNamara on 22 March 1993. http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ cm199293/cmhansrd/1993-03-22/Writtens-5.html
    Table also available as:
    Rich Text Format (RTF) Document; Microsoft Excel Document


    Table NI-ECO-03: United Kingdom Subvention (£ million) to Northern Ireland, 1979-80 to 1995-96
    Year

    Total 1

    Maff Expenditure In Northern Ireland

    National Insurance Transfers

    Grant In Aid

    Northern Ireland Office Expenditure

    Vat Refunds

    Defence Expenditure 2

    Courts Expenditure

    1979-80

    956

    37

    72

    590

    245

    12

    96

    4

    1980-81

    1098

    35

    99

    640

    308

    16

    111

    6

    1981-82

    1073

    35

    96

    585

    339

    18

    149

    7

    1982-83

    1141

    52

    85

    630

    356

    18

    143

    7

    1983-84

    1302

    51

    77

    775

    372

    27

    141

    14

    1984-85

    1479

    53

    95

    905

    401

    25

    121

    14

    1985-86

    1544

    65

    60

    955

    437

    27

    135

    13

    1986-87

    1606

    72

    175

    845

    481

    33

    144

    14

    1987-88

    1656

    69

    155

    855

    546

    31

    168

    16

    1988-89

    2159

    63

    185

    1300

    582

    29

    174

    23

    1989-90

    2108

    80

    210

    1150

    639

    29

    201

    28

    1990-91

    2117

    86

    225

    1065

    700

    41

    218

    28

    1991-92

    2543

    95

    125

    1495

    806

    22

    317

    32

    1992-93

    3236

    95

    40

    2185

    916

    n/a

    320

    41

    1993-94

    3505

    121

    40

    2392

    952

    n/a

    n/a

    n/a

    1994-95

    2895

    141

    145

    1650

    959

    n/a

    n/a

    n/a

    1995-96

    3340

    152

    125

    2129

    934

    n/a

    n/a

    n/a

    Notes:
    1. Total excludes defence expenditure (by Ministry of Defence) and courts expenditure (by Lord Chancellor’s department)
    2. Until 1993, the House of Lords Hansard reported each July on the ‘subvention from the UK to Northern Ireland’. The inclusion of Courts Service and Ministry of Defence expenditure, using this source, is therefore from 1979/80 to 1993/94.
    Source:
    Hutchinson, Graeme. (1998) ‘Public Expenditure In The Regional Economy Of Northern Ireland: Has The Growth Of The 1970s Been Sustained?’, Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland, Vol. XXVIII, Part I. [Read before the Society, 22 October 1998]
    Original sources: Financial Statement (Northern Ireland) - various issues; Hansard (House of Lords)
    Table also available as:
    Rich Text Format (RTF) Document; Microsoft Excel Document



    Gross Domestic Product: Northern Ireland, 1990-1996

    .1990 19911992 19931994 19951996
    By type of income (£million)
    Income from employment6,618 7,3217,653 7,9428,295 8,6998,943
    Income from self-employment and gross trading profits 2,7892,794 2,9463,253 3,5633,815 3,896
    Rent906 1,0351,193 1,3251,377 1,5011,575
    Less stock appreciation147 51132 86144 125-57
    By industry (£million)
    Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry435 477513 526582 627651
    Mining & Quarrying47 5152 5571 8488
    Manufacturing2,150 2,2352,198 2,4332,496 2,6572,769
    Electricity, Gas & Water281 371346 369372 361381
    Construction703 649729 701712 765789
    Distribution, Hotels & Catering1,288 1,4141,463 1,5601,666 1,8441,949
    Transport & Communication554 598617 632674 750784
    Financial & Business Services1,511 1,6531,901 2,0952,306 2,3962,530
    Public Administration & H. M. Forces 1,4981,648 1,7511,822 1,7071,715 1,751
    Education & Health Services1,547 1,8141,942 2,0662,359 2,4932,555
    Other Services152 188149 175147 198224
    GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT10,166 11,09811,661 12,43413,092 13,89014,471
    % increase in GDP - 9.167 5.072 6.628 5.291 6.095 4.182
    GDP per head (£)6,396 6,9307,205 7,6207,974 8,4238,700
    GDP as % of UK2.2 2.32.3 2.32.3 2.32.3
    GDP per head as % of UK78.0 81.781.7 82.181.6 82.681.2

    Source: Irish Almanac and Yearbook of Facts, 1999, p.178
    Northern Ireland Annual Abstract of Statistics, p.144




    Gross Domestic Product: Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales
    1989-1996

    .1989 19901991 19921993 19941995 1996
    £ million
    England370,745 401,346416,033 434,078458,553 484,358506,245 534,945
    Wales18,830 20,30620,918 21,41022,311 23,77425,088 25,995
    Scotland36,253 40,23142,231 44,58946,840 49,72052,518 54,430
    Northern Ireland9,232 10,16611,098 11,66012,434 13,09113,890 14,470
    As a percentage of the UK (less continental shelf and statistical discrepancy)
    England85.2 85.084.9 84.884.9 84.884.7 84.9
    Wales4.3 4.34.3 4.24.1 4.24.2 4.1
    Scotland8.3 8.58.6 8.78.7 8.78.8 8.6
    Northern Ireland2.1 2.22.3 2.32.3 2.32.3 2.3
    £ per head
    England7,755 8,3638,630 8,9739,448 9,94410,352 10,897
    Wales6,562 7,0567,234 7,3877,676 8,1618,601 8,899
    Scotland7,113 7,8858,269 8,7249,148 9,68810,224 10,614
    Northern Ireland5,832 6,3966,930 7,2057,620 7,9748,423 8,700

    Source: Office for National Statistics. Regional Trends 1998, p.145




    Personal Income and Disposable Personal Income , 1986-1996:
    England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

    .1986 19911992 19931994 19951996
    Personal Income (£m)
    England 282,285 437,054462,619 483,995506,465 537,673570,500
    Wales14,108 22,30823,588 24,190,25,445 27,07828,004
    Scotland29,083 45,44448,930 50,924,52,323 55,732,57,774
    Northern Ireland7,666 12,11213,076 13,86414,680 15,61416,128
    £ per head
    England 5,962 9,0669,563 9,97310,398 10,99511,622
    Wales5,004 7,7158,138 8,3238,735 9,2839,587
    Scotland5,679 8,8989,573 9,94610,195 10,85011,266
    Northern Ireland4,893 7,5638,080 8,4968,942 9,4699,696
    Personal Disposable Income
    £ per head
    England4,719 7,0847,555 7,9598,252 8,6999,256,
    Wales4,044 6,3096,690 6,8587,168 7,5997,881
    Scotland4,520 7,1437,747 8,0568,193 8,7019,102
    Northern Ireland4,028 6,3856,839 7,2087,537 7,9608,181

    Source: Regional Trends 1998, p.150




    Average Gross Weekly Earnings of Adult Employees in Northern Ireland, 1997 (£ per week)

    .1991 19921993 19941995 19961997
    Full Time Manual
    (inc O/T)
    177.5 191.6194.4 198.6209.35 216.4221.25
    Full Time Manual
    (exc O/T)
    161.3 171.1174.1 178.45186.65 194.0198.3
    Full Time Non-Manual (inc O/T)275.75 304.8318.5 324.3338.5 343.5358.7
    Full Time Non-Manual (exc O/T)261.95 289.05302.0 306.95324.3 330.8343.65
    Part Time Manual
    (inc O/T)
    72.5 75.2575.0 81.1584.15 92.187.85
    Part Time Non-Manual (inc O/T)79.95 87.589.4 92.2111.25 103.0132.05

    (Figures taken from Northern Ireland annual Abstract of Statistics, 1998, p119)




    Average gross weekly earnings, 1997:
    Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales (£ per wk)

    .Males Females All Persons
    England414.0 301.3 372.7
    Wales363.5 269.0 330.1
    Scotland378.0 272.4 336.8
    Northern Ireland 355.9 265.2 319.7

    Source: Office for National Statistics, Regional Trends, 1998.




    Unemployment in Northern Ireland: Claimant based, 1973-1997

    .
    Number
    Percentage of the Workforce
    Males Females Persons Males Females Persons
    1973 20,300 6,600 26,800 5.1 3.2 4.5
    1974 19,600 6,000 25,600 5.0 2.8 4.2
    1975 25,700 8,700 34,400 6.5 3.9 5.5
    1976 32,200 12,400 44,700 7.9 5.5 7.1
    1977 35,500 13,500 49,000 8.8 5.8 7.7
    1978 37,900 14,800 52,600 9.3 6.0 8.1
    1979 37,100 15,400 52,500 9.0 6.0 7.9
    1980 44,100 18,700 62,800 10.7 7.2 9.3
    1981 61,700 23,600 85,200 14.8 9.1 12.6
    1982 69,500 26,800 96,300 16.8 10.2 14.3
    1983 78,100 27,800 105,900 18.2 10.3 15.2
    1984 80,400 29,000 109,400 18.7 10.5 15.5
    1985 82,000 29,900 111,900 18.8 10.6 15.6
    1986 89,100 32,500 121,600 20.3 11.4 16.8
    1987 88,300 32,100 120,400 19.9 11.1 16.4
    1988 81,500 29,600 111,100 18.3 10.1 15.0
    1989 76,400 27,000 103,300 17.4 9.0 14.0
    1990 72,300 23,100 95,300 16.3 7.6 12.8
    1991 76,100 23,100 99,100 16.7 7.4 12.9
    1992 80,700 24,000 104,700 18.0 7.7 13.8
    1993 80,100 23,600 103,700 18.0 7.6 13.7
    1994 75,200 21,800 971,00 16.6 6.9 12.6
    1995 68,600 19,500 88,100 15.3 6.0 11.4
    1996 65,000 19,000 84,000 14.7 5.8 10.9
    1997 50,000 13,400 63,200 11.3 4.1 8.2

    Source: Northern Ireland Annual Abstract of Statistics, 1998, p.101




    Northern Ireland: Public Expenditure, 1994-2000

    .1994-
    1995
    1995-
    1996
    1996-
    1997
    1997-
    1998
    1998-
    1999*
    1999-
    2000*
    Sector (£m)
    Law, Order & Protection Services 959934 901929 912923
    National Agriculture & Fisheries Support 141152 186176 164165
    NI Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries Support 160132 151152 137137
    Industry, Energy, Trade & Employment 432430 474488 459444
    Transport177 174172 165161 161
    Housing226 246248 243243 240
    Environmental & Miscellaneous Services 208217 243205 171160
    Fire service40 4243 4444 44
    Education, Arts & Libraries 1,2951,355 1,4011,376 1,3831,401
    Health & Personal Social Services 1,4181,518 1,6001,645 1,6721,690
    Social Security2,232 2,3802,586 2,6522,750 2,854
    Other Public Services75 6285 5656 55
    Euro-Regional Funded Expenditure 6263 9594 10389
    TOTAL7,425 7,7058,185 8,2258,255 83,63

    * forecast

    Source: Irish Almanac and Yearbook of Facts, 1999, p.178




    Northern Ireland: Top 30 Companies 1998

    RankCompany Nature of BusinessEstimated Turnover
    (£ m)
    Profit
    (£ m)
    Number of Employees
    1NIE Plc Electricity Service 500.4 76.72,130
    2Short Bros. Plc. Aircraft Manufacturers358.0 30.18,492
    3Glen Electric Ltd Domestic Heating347.8 23.23,473
    4Powerscreen International Plc Screening Equipment304.8 42.31,974
    5F.A. Wellworth Supermarket Proprietors291.6 17.24,979
    6United Dairy Farmers Dairy / Milk Products261.9 0.7716
    7F.G. Wilson Group Electrical Generators247.1 35.31,563
    8Dunnes Stores (Bangor) Ltd. Supermarkets223.0 18.11,615
    9Norterl (NI) Telecommunications215.5 25.71,186
    10John Henderson Ltd. Grocery Wholesa180.6 2.9956
    11Harland & Wolff Group Ship Building178.3 (-1.5)1,701
    12J & J Haslett Ltd. Grocery Wholesale173.0 7.0904
    13Charles Hurst Ltd. Vehicle Distributors166.4 5.2523
    14Stewarts Supermarkets Ltd. Supermarkets154.9 0.13,905
    15Nigen Ltd. Electricity Supply142.9 23.3368
    16Moy Park ltd. Poultry Products140.8 (-0.3)2,758
    17Nacco Materials Handling (NI) Ltd. Fork Lift Manufacturers140.2 5.8752
    18Premier Power Ltd. Electricity Supply128.0 6.3392
    19Desmond & Sons Ltd. Clothing Manufacturers118.3 71.02,447
    20Alchem Plc. Pharmaceuticals113.1 1.7238
    21Leckpatrick Dairies Ltd. Dairy Products112.0 2.6192
    22Maxol Oil Ltd. Petroleum / Oil Distributors110.5 (-0.9)87
    23Daewoo Electronics UK Ltd. Video Recorder Manufacturers110.3 (-0.4)854
    24NI Transport Holding Transport107.3 6.23,588
    25Boxmore International Plc Packaging Manufacturers100.7 16.81,017
    26Andrews Holdings Ltd. Animal Feeds & Flour96.7 2.3885
    27NI Co-Op Society Ltd. Supermarkets95.9 3.0887
    28Lamont Textiles Ltd. Textile Products94.7 6.11,216
    29Rotary Group Ltd. Electrical Engineers93.1 3.82,023
    30Fayrefield Foods Ireland Ltd. Dairy Products92.8 0.418

    Source: Irish Almanac and Yearbook of Facts, 1999, p.168




    Number of Overseas Companies in Northern Ireland, 1997

    Company's country of origin Number
    North America 52
    United Kingdom 47
    Rest of Europe 14
    Republic of Ireland 13
    Asia / Pacific 10
    Germany10
    Total 152

    Source: Irish Almanac and Yearbook of Facts 1999, p.170




    Northern Ireland: Top Five Export Markets by Sector, 1996/1997

    Country (£m)Textiles, Clothing & Leather Food, Drink & Tobacco EngineeringOther Total
    Republic of Ireland86.3 165.453.5 246.9552.1
    Germany9.7 29.1133.9 91.5264.2
    United States27.3 9.4142.7 25.1204.2
    Asia28.2 26.6211.6 41.3307.7
    France16.9 64.953.9 58.6194.3
    Total168.4 295.4595.6 463.41,522.8

    Source: Irish Almanac and Yearbook of Facts, 1999, p.174




    Northern Ireland: Trade figures, 1992-1997

    Year Imports
    (tonnes)
    Exports
    (tonnes)
    199212,937 4,392
    199313,859 4,688
    199414,380 4,958
    199514,952 5,083
    199614,918 4,981
    199714,175 5,142

    Source: Irish Almanac and Yearbook of Facts, 1999, p.173




    Cross-Border Trade, 1990-1997

    Year Imports by RoI
    from NI (IR£m)
    Exports by RoI
    to NI (IR£m)
    1990200.1 816.1
    1991496.1 789.4
    1992468.2 825.1
    1993417.2 701.0
    1994536.8 721.9
    1995651.2 785.3
    1996642.4 822.6
    1997716.1 1,022.5

    Source: Irish Almanac and Yearbook of Facts, 1999, p.173




    Economic Statistics, 1992-1996 - Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

    Year (£m)1992 19931994 19951996
    Northern Ireland Gross Domestic Product 11,66012,434 13,09113,890 14,470
    Consumer Spending9,373 9,80510,475 11,222
    Personal Disposable Income 11,08111,887 12,54113,236
    Republic of IrelandGross Domestic Product 29,98032,218 34,84438,638 42,104
    Gross National Product 26,77128,698 31,26934,129 36,983

    Source: Irish Almanac and Yearbook of Facts, 1999, p.178




    Indirect Indicators of Demand, Northern Ireland 1994 to 1998

    .% Change on Previous Year
    1994 1995 1996 1997 1998
    New Car Registrations 8.0 0.3 6.0 12.7 18.4
    New Private Housing Starts 8.8 3.7 3.4 10.5 2.3*
    * Percentage change between the third quarter of 1997 and the third quarter of 1998

    Source: DOE




    Cost of Living and Inflation Rates in the UK, 1987-1997

    Long-term index of consumer goods and services
    Comparable purchasing power of £1 in 1997
    Rate of inflation (annual average)
    1987
    101.9
    1.55
    4.2
    1988
    106.9
    1.47
    4.9
    1989
    115.2
    1.37
    7.8
    1990
    126.1
    1.25
    9.5
    1991
    133.5
    1.18
    5.9
    1992
    138.5
    1.14
    3.7
    1993
    140.7
    1.12
    1.6
    1994
    144.1
    1.09
    2.4
    1995
    149.1
    1.06
    3.5
    1996
    152.7
    1.03
    2.4
    1997
    157.5
    1.00
    3.1

    Source: Whittakers Almanac, 1999, p.609


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