Northern Ireland pensioners’ income lowest in UK

agendaNi reviews the weekly income for pensioners in 2013/2014.


Pensioners in Northern Ireland have the lowest gross income of all UK regions, according to the latest pensioners’ income bulletin. Single pensioners had a weekly income of £279, £40 below the £319 UK average. This is also below the average for Wales (£291), Scotland (£299) and England (£325).

Pensioner couples in Northern Ireland had the second lowest gross income of all regions. A three-year average of weekly gross income for pensioner couples showed that between 2011 and 2014 Northern Ireland pensioner couples had a gross income of £583 in comparison to the UK average of £667, Wales (£562), Scotland (£653) and England (£678).

Although there have been fluctuations in pensioners’ weekly income over the decade between 2003/04 and 2013/14, the overall change in income has been minimal in real terms. Median gross income has increased by £6 per week in real terms over the period (£405 to £411) while median income (after housing costs) has risen by £9 per week from £257 to £265.

Pensioner couples’ median net income has increased since 2003/04. In 2013/14 median net weekly income for pensioner couples in Northern Ireland was £383. In real terms this represents a 6 per cent increase over the past decade. For single pensioners the median net weekly income in Northern Ireland was £203. This is a similar level in real terms to 2003/04. Income is calculated after housing costs.

Older pensioners had lower weekly incomes than younger pensioners. Pensioners who are 75 years old or over had a median net income of £224 in 2013/14. This was £74 (approximately one quarter) lower than that received by pensioners where the individual is under 75 years old (£298).

Pensioner couples in Northern Ireland had the highest benefit income of all regions in the UK while single pensioners’ benefit income was comparable with the rest of the UK. Between 2011 and 2014, pensioner couples in Northern Ireland had a weekly benefit income of £246, £10 per week higher than the UK average of £236. Single pensioners’ benefit income of £187 was equal to the United Kingdom average.

98 per cent of all Northern Ireland pensioners between 2011 and 2014 were in receipt of state pension, this figure was 3 per cent higher than between 2003 and 2006. The UK average was 97 per cent.

Almost a third (32 per cent) of pensioners received more than half of their gross income from private sources. This is below the 40 per cent UK average and is 6 per cent higher than between 2003 and 2006. 15 per cent of pensioners received some income from earnings. 51 per cent received income from private pensions.

The highest growth rate for incomes between 2003/06 and 2011/14 was for pensioner couples in the bottom fifth (i.e. quintile) of the income distribution. These pensioner couples had incomes approximately four times lower than couples in the top fifth in 2011/14.

Older pensioner couples were more likely to have net incomes within the bottom two quintiles of the pensioners’ income distribution. 46 per cent of pensioner couples where the individual is aged 75 or over are in the bottom two quintiles, compared to 38 per cent of pensioners where the individual is aged under 75.

In 2011/14, single males were more likely to be in the highest level of the pensioners’ income distribution than single females. 26 per cent of males had incomes in the top fifth while only 18 per cent of females had incomes in the top fifth of the income distribution. The same pattern is true for the UK as a whole; 22 per cent of single male pensioners are in the top fifth of the UK income distribution compared to 19 per cent of single female pensioners.

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