Northern Ireland: the last soviet?

This from Conservative future on the public burden on Northern Ireland’s private economy.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    With 65% of the jobs in NI being supported directly or indirectly by HMG, it is little wonder there is a non enterprise culture in NI.

    If a well paid, risk free, early retirement, guaranteed pension job is available against a high risk job in industry where will everyone go.

    So we now have the situation in NI where those who take the risks spend 50% of their time filling in forms to keep the risk free Civil Servants in jobs.

    What a system we have!

  • mnob

    Oh yes Democrat – lets make up an unmeasurable headline grabbing statistic to throw stones at the economy. Unmeasurable obviously means you cant be proved wrong.

    Lets look at some measurable stats – ratio of public sector jobs by population :

    Northern Ireland 13%, Scotland 12%, London 9%

    Note :

    1. we may be comparing apples with oranges, NI stats count jobs (so 2 part time jobs count twice), rest of UK counts employees (so 1 part time job doesnt actually count at all)

    2. NI has a smaller customer base, and a higher number of administrative units caused in part by politics (remember the extra departments set up to accomodate the assembly). Hains 3 yr plan shows how this is going to be adressed.

  • Frustrated Democrat


    I take it you have one of those ‘nice’ jobs?

    We are so heavily over administered in NI it is unreal – ever heard of those chrismas shopping days for civil servants – if you haven’t they do exist in the NI civil service.

  • George

    “Lets look at some measurable stats – ratio of public sector jobs by population :
    Northern Ireland 13%, Scotland 12%, London 9%”

    I don’t know where you are going with that but it doesn’t change the reality that the North’s public sector accounts for over 60 per cent of its economy, some commentators say it is over 70%.

    The comparative figure for the Republic is 35 per cent.

    Northern Ireland gets an annual subvention from the UK treasury in the region of € 9 billion.

    32 per cent of employees in Northern Ireland work in public sector jobs. You may wonder how this dovetails with your 13% figure. That’s because less people work in NI. There are over 100,000 less employees than there should be per capita compared to the UK and Ireland.

    Unemployment has fallen by 70,000 since 1994, the number of so-called “incapacity claimants” has risen over the same period by around 50,000 persons.

    State subventions maintain low unemployment in Northern Ireland.

    It’s not all doom and gloom: lower labour costs and students who consistently outperform those in other areas of the UK.

  • Frustrated Democrat


    What is your definition of ‘public sector’?

  • Garibaldy

    Isn’t this like the forth time we seen this argument made, firstly in an article in the Scottish Sunday Times. Conservatives might well not have a future if this is the best they can come up with, fourth-hand regurgitation of a mildly funny hyperbolic comparison.

  • George

    Frustrated democrat,
    the opposite of the private sector, namely jobs paid for out of the public purse.

    I would include nurses, community workers as well as delivery and services for the government etc.

    Would your definition be different to mine?

  • mnob

    FD – no I work in the private sector. Ball or man ?

    George, there’s so much snow in your entry I hardly know where to start.

    The point I was making was that the 60-70% oft quoted figure is an estimate, made and quoted by people who want to make a point by making things sound overly dramatic. The figures I quote are attributable facts.

    The subvention you quote (in Euros I note to make it sound bigger), where is your source for this ?

    It is true we have a large issue with long term unemployed, but again where do you get the 100,000 figure from ? We have a larger proportion of young people in NI than the rest of the UK for example – which skews the figure. If you look at the % of *adults of working age* in employment, in NI it is 68.2% (grown by 4.7% over the last 13 years) – compared with Londons rate of 69.5 (grown by 1.7% over the last 13 years) – is Londons economy in difficulty ?

    The 32% figure you quote – what that says is that 32% of *jobs* are in the public sector including part time jobs – other regions of the UK measure full time equivalence figures (e.g. a 20 hour a week job counts as 1/2).

    I’m not denying there are some issues with the public sector spend in NI. We have a tax and spend UK government after all.

    What I do object to is the sky is falling down argument often employed here.

  • Frustrated Democrat


    I just wondered where you drew the line.

    Does it including those employed in Agencies (quangos)or the voluntary sector who are dependent on government funding?

    Does it include the contractors in the Water service who replaced their employees etc etc?

    Does it include the management consultants who derive a lot of their income from the public sector?

    Does it include all the outsourcing carried on by government?

  • seabhac siulach


    “What I do object to is the sky is falling down argument often employed here.”

    What should not interest us is whether the figures are true or not, but why at this moment more and more groups and people in Britain are making these allegations, i.e., that the 6 county economy is burdened with an unsustainable public sector.
    To me it suggests an attempt to make the six counties appear a failed entity economically (whether true or false) and so ease the integration of the statelet into the 26 county economy. I believe this end result conforms pretty closely to the present wishes of the British establishment…who would seem to want rid of the ‘burden’ of the six counties, at least economically…

  • mnob

    FD I see where you are going with this – but the same argument applies all over. How about the people who work in private companies (e.g. Garages) who do the same jobs as those here who are public sector employees (MOT centres) and are funded in the same way – i.e. joe public ?

    What about private water compaines in GB etc etc.

  • mnob

    I dont see more and more people in GB making these allegations. The Tories are obviously having a snipe at tax and spend Tony rather than NI. Hain claimed a subvention of £1Bn and then unveiled a package which raised an extra 0.5 Bn in taxes and cut public spending by 0.5 Bn – oooh look at that – handy !

    Most of the flak here seems to be coming from Nationalists.

  • Frustrated Democrat


    You are correct.

    Why should we have ultra expensive lavishly fitted MOT centres, when garages in England do the job at no cost to the government.

    Private water companies get their money from their customers, not by applying unaccountable taxes.

    We need to get the government spend down to about 35% or less not 65%.

  • George

    I’ll get out my snowplough.

    According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) last month, Northern Ireland now relies for 71.3% of its economic output on the public sector.

    According to Northern Ireland Office Minister, Lord Rooker in the House of Lords this year: “The Northern Ireland financial deficit, which is the polite way of putting the subvention from Great Britain, is £5 billion”.

    Is he good enough a source for you?

    I have read that 220,000 people are on sickness or incapacity benefit in Northern Ireland, which on its own is about 100,000 more than would be expected. Or do you have a different figure?

    The Republic has a younger population than Northern Ireland but it has a much higher percentage working than Northern Ireland. The we have a younger population argument doesn’t hold water. I can track the figures if you don’t believe me.

    The UK National Statistics Office has NI public sector employment at 30% to the end of June, 2005.
    England was at 20%.

    Do me a favour. Give me the detailed tax breakdown for Northern Ireland and we could make a start on broadening this.

    Even better, you tell me how many people are working in the private sector and what is the tax intake from this sector.

    on 9 billion euro:
    The euro is my currency and believe it or not sterling has faded so far into the memory that it has the same relevance to me as Yugoslav Dinar. I can’t explain why but since the Punt has gone I have lost my ability to value the British pound. I don’t think I’m alone because it used to be accepted currency on buses and everything down south but not anymore.

  • Dónall Garvin

    The 71.3% of Northern Ireland’s GNP coming from the public sector should be a concern to everyone.

    The number of incapacity claimants hides the underlying unemployment figures.

    A lot of the jobs that are in the private sector rely upon grants from government. Companies are given incentives to start-up here, premises built, rates paid etc…
    Examples of these include Halifax, Northbrook Technologies, and the Prudential (where several hundred jobs recently went).

    When the funds dry up after these companies move on. NO company would choose to set up in the North when Corporation tax is as high as the rest of the UK and costs (fuel, insurance etc…) are higher.

    I’m sure that there are people in NI who are earning their keep and acutally paying their taxes but overall these people seem to be lazy.

    Case in point – I know some americans who take maybe 10 days holidays a year and 4 bank holidays. They are in competitive industries and want to get ahead. Compare them to these people in the NI tourist board. This highly motivated team of 100 odd people (in what is hoped to be an industry that can create jobs in NI) took on average over 4 weeks “sick” leave last year.

    Also looking at how high house prices seem to be in NI – what sort of income multiples are we looking at now?
    Let’s see – average house price ~£150,000
    Average private sector wage – £5.15/hour = ~£10,000/year.

    That’s enough to make anyone feel a little depressed.

  • mnob

    The CEBR was a report highlighting the differences between the regional economies in the UK. It highlighted NI had a greater reliance on public money than other regions – but not by an order of magnitude – 71% NI vs 66% Wales. The figures are still estimates by an orgnaisation which was trying to prove a particular viewpoint – and even then they put 10% of the difference down to a differing reliance on pensions.

    Yes Rooker said £5B, but I have been unable to find this backed up by any statistic whatsoever – just because he said it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right.

    The number of people on sickness/incapacity benefit is too high, but in 2005 it was 101,000 not 200,000. The total economic inactivity rates as a proportion of working population are much the same north & south. (DEL statistics branch)

    Even on the webpage you quote there is a note at the bottom about the differences in the statistics between NI and GB. Quote :

    Public Sector data for Northern Ireland relate to the number of public sector jobs in the country not the number of people working in the public sector. ”

    Alas I would love to give you the tax breakdown but I can’t. I’m not sure even the IR could.

    Euros vs pounds – would you like it if I started talking about trade in the ROI in terms of GBP ?

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Dnall Garvin

    £5.15 is the minimum wage not the average private sector wage

  • mnob

    Median weekly salaries for full time employment in NI are £489 public, £340 private, but what is really interesting is that on a UK wide basis you are still better off in the public sector (tho the gap is smaller – £475 pw vs £412)

  • George

    I got the 9 billion euros from the Irish Times, nothing more sinister than that.

    I would love to crunch the statistics but as I am off on holiday for a month now, we’ll have to save it for another time.

    As I said, if we could get the tax breakdown for NI, then we could have a really good discussion on this but it appears a state secret.

  • Donall Garvin

    “£5.15 is the minimum wage not the average private sector wage”

    I thought that all private sector jobs paid the MW in NI. Unless you are doing the double

  • mnob

    George, would love to. Some of the figures and statistics quoted by reputable sources seem to contradict and confuse. I would actually welcome a proper discussion. Have a good holiday and dotn worry about whether NI is going bankrupt while you are away 😛

  • endgame

    NI is an economic basket case. The UK is weary of providing economic life support. NI is a complete failure economically and politically.