Economic inactivity in Northern Ireland

Economic inactivity in Northern Ireland

Economic inactivity describes people aged 16–64 years who are not in formal employment or actively seeking employment. In Northern Ireland, in the first quarter of 2024, there were 314,100 people who were economically inactive, making up 26.7% of the working age population.

Over the last 30 years, there has been a general downward trend in economic inactivity in the UK and Northern Ireland. However, economic inactivity in NI has remained amongst the highest of all UK regions.

The biggest category of economic inactivity in Northern Ireland in Q4 2023 is sickness or disability, with 11.9% of the working age population inactive for this reason. There has been an upward trend in this category beginning around 2013, which appears to have accelerated since 2020.

There are often complex issues behind any individual’s situation. Some people who are economically inactive would like to work, but cannot do so because of their personal circumstances. There may be a lack of services or support to enable them to work.

Inactivity in NI is strongly linked to areas of economic deprivation, including places most affected by the Troubles. Inactivity is highest for older age groups and amongst those with lower levels of qualifications.

Economic inactivity is an important indicator of the state of the Northern Ireland economy, the cohesion of society and public health. This report explains the concepts key to understanding economic inactivity and explores why it matters to policymakers and wider society. It then explores the data detailing economic inactivity in Northern Ireland. The report concludes by summarising the headline findings and pointing towards the policy approaches and further research needed to address an issue of growing concern.

Publication Details

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