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Country Profiles: Key Statistics - Northern Ireland, August 2012

Released: 13 August 2012 Download PDF

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Population density: by district council, 2010

Map showing range of population density in district council areas within the Northern Ireland region
Source: Office for National Statistics


  1. Mid-year population estimates published on 30 June 2011

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Northern Ireland occupies the north-east of the island of Ireland, sharing a border with the Republic of Ireland (Eire). It covers 13,600 square kilometres (sq km), is the fourth smallest of the UK countries and English regions, and covers 6 per cent of the total area of the UK.

In terms of population Northern Ireland is the smallest country or region with 1.8 million people in mid-2010, an increase of 6.5 per cent since 2001. The Belfast metropolitan area dominates in population terms, with over a third of the inhabitants of Northern Ireland.

In mid-2010 Northern Ireland’s population density was 133 people per sq km. Of its 1.8 million residents, some 36 per cent or around two-thirds of a million, lived in rural areas (those with a population of more than 4,500) in 2008.

People aged under 16 in 2010 made up 21.2 per cent of the population, compared with 14.5 per cent for people aged 65 and over. This compares with averages for the UK of 18.6 per cent and 16.6 per cent respectively.

Life expectancy at birth in the three-year period 2008 to 2010 was 77.0 years for males and 81.4 years for females compared with 78.1 and 82.1 years respectively for the UK.

Northern Ireland was responsible for 2 per cent of the UK’s gross value added (GVA), the lowest share of all the English regions and countries of the UK in 2010. Labour productivity (gross value added per hour worked) in 2010 was 19 per cent below the UK average.

Over one fifth of adults in Northern Ireland had no qualifications in 2011 (21.3 per cent). This was the highest of all the UK countries and English regions, followed by West Midlands with 14.0 per cent.

In 2011 Northern Ireland had the largest decrease in house prices at 8.5 per cent, compared with Wales (1.9 per cent) and Scotland (4.6 per cent).

The employment rate stood at 67.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2012, compared with the UK rate of 70.5 per cent.

In April 2011, the median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees on adult rates who were resident in Northern Ireland was £451, lower than Scotland (£491) and Wales (£460).

Gross disposable household income (GDHI) of Northern Irelands’ residents was the second lowest in the UK at £13,600 per head in 2010, after the North East region.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) average scores in 2009 for Northern Ireland were reading 499, maths 492 and science 511, compared with average scores across the OECD of 500.  Scores for Northern Ireland, Scotland and England were similar, and they scored higher than Wales in all three subjects.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, 15.8 per cent of children lived in workless households, compared with the averages for Wales (20.0 per cent), Scotland (15.8 per cent) and England (15.7 per cent).

Northern Ireland reduced its total greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent between 1990 and 2010.

Between 2000 and 2009 traffic on major roads increased by 15.0 per cent in Northern Ireland, although more recent changes to traffic volume may differ.

The Regional Trends 43 article 'Rural and urban areas: comparing lives using rural/urban classifications' (2.81 Mb Pdf) looks at rural and urban areas statistically for several themes including population, using geographical classifications.

Source: Office for National Statistics

Background notes

  1. Notes and sources:

    All data are published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) unless stated below.

    The data section of this release provides more data.

    Population estimates and population density are for 30 June each year. The mid-2010 population estimates are those published on 30 June 2011.

    Life expectancy figures reflect mortality among those living in the area in each time period, rather than mortality among those born in each area. More information is available in Guide to: Life expectancy in the United Kingdom.

    Gross value added (GVA) measures the economic output of an area. The estimates are workplace based, which allocates the incomes of individuals to their place of work.

    GVA per hour worked is one of the preferred measures of labour productivity. The labour productivity webpage provides access to the latest releases.

    Qualification estimates are for residents aged 16 to 64 from the Annual Population Survey. Please note that these estimates, at national or regional level in England, will not agree with National Statistics published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in the Post 16 Education and Skills Statistical First Release (Table 12). Qualification data are obtained from the ONS’s Annual Population Survey via Nomis.

    The House Price Index is based on mix-adjusted house prices, which allow for differences between houses sold (for example type, number of rooms, location). The annual rate of change shown is percentage change between December 2010 and December 2011.

    Employment rates are seasonally adjusted Labour Force Survey (LFS) headline indicators, for all people aged 16 to 64.

    Median gross weekly earnings are residence-based estimates from the Annual Survey of House and Earnings (ASHE) for full-time employees on adult rates whose pay for the survey pay-period was not affected by absence.

    Gross disposable household income (GDHI) is a good indicator of the welfare of residents of an area. It covers the income received by households and non profit-making institutions serving households and is net of tax payments.

    The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) seeks to measure the extent to which students can apply the knowledge and skills they have learned at school to real-life challenges. OECD (2010), PISA 2009 Results: What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science (Volume I), OECD Publishing.

    Workless households for areas across the UK provide more information about the employment of household and the adults and children living in them.

    Greenhouse gas data are from the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs.

    Major roads are motorways and A roads. Traffic increase data are from the Department for Regional Development, Northern Ireland. Data used to compile 2000 and 2001 figures came from private consultants whereas data for subsequent years have been compiled by Roads Service Northern Ireland.

  2. You may use or re-use this information (not including logos) free of charge in any format or medium, under the terms of the Open Government Licence. To view this licence, visit or write to the Information Policy Team, The National Archives, Kew, London TW9 4DU, or email:

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Related Internet links

Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA) website - Link to the home page of the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA) website

The ONS is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

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