Londonderry is most equal part of NI, new report finds

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Londonderry and the west has the highest proportion of people in Northern Ireland among the bottom 20 per cent of income earners in UK terms, according to a new paper on economic inequality.

The North West also has the lowest proportion of people with incomes in the top 20 per cent, research by the Centre for Economic Empowerment, which was published yesterday, has found.

The report, commissioned by the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA), reveals that Londonderry is more equal than Belfast and the East of the province. The authors, Adam Tinson, Hannah Aldridge and Tom MacInnes, say they found several dimensions of regional inequality.

“Firstly, it is possible to say that Belfast is the most unequal part of Northern Ireland, as it has a high proportion of people in the bottom of the income distribution (25 per cent) and a high proportion at the top (18 per cent),” they report.

“For the other regions, the East has a lower proportion at the bottom and the West has a lower proportion at the top.

“The second is about inequalities between regions. “The East is generally the most prosperous region, with relatively few people at the bottom of the distribution and relatively high proportion at the top.

“In contrast, only 10 per cent of people in the West are in the top fifth, while 27 per cent are in the bottom fifth,” they add.

The authors reveal that Northern Ireland is the most equal part of the United Kingdom, which is a relatively unequal country when compared to other European countries, and that Londonderry and the West is the most equal part of Northern Ireland.

“There are two broad reasons to be worried about economic inequality. The first are normative concerns around perceptions of fairness or how deserved disparities in economic outcomes are,” the authors state.

“The second set of concerns is based around the consequences of economic inequality on social and economic outcomes. This is a highly contested field of work, though the impacts on social mobility, economic growth and aspects of income stand out from the literature review.

“Public policy should be concerned with economic inequality, though it is not clear that it should be the top priority. In the case of Northern Ireland, low employment and persistent deprivation might be higher social priorities.

“Recent proposals to reduce inequality from Piketty, Atkinson and Stiglitz are largely beyond the powers of the Northern Ireland Executive, which should temper expectations about the prospects of a large fall. However, there are still relevant proposals, such as codes of conduct for pay and bolstering institutions which reduce inequality,” they add.