Services and statistics – North and South

Growing up in Northern Ireland I readily absorbed the deeply ingrained belief that public services in the north were superior to those in the south. It was an article of faith for me, until I moved south, that health, education and social security were all better in the north. Reality dawned slowly.

We’ve discussed the differences in social security many times on Slugger – my southern parents-in-law get a state pension worth around twice that which my northern parents receive. Unemployment benefit is in the region of three times higher in the south. In 2008, NISRA produced a statistical analysis comparing Northern Ireland and the Republic – Ireland North and South: A Statistical Profile. It details reams of data across multiple sectors sectors – including housing, population, the economy, the labour force, health and education. Although discussed on Slugger before – Andy Pollak blogged about the similarities it showed last year – I think the areas in which real differences emerge are often more significant when analysing the impact of different policy decisions. As Andy has highlighted, there are large similarities north and south, yet pursuing different policies does produce different outcomes.

I’ve highlighted some of the most salient differences below, hopefully it will help spark some debate or thought about the provision of services in the north, as the system works very differently in the south – often with surprising outcomes.

Population
Useful for comparing absolute numbers in 2006 (the last year covered by the study) the Republic had a population of 4.2 million compared with 1.75 million in the north. Both have young populations with 27% under 20 in the south and 28% under 20 in the north. Life expectancy at birth is fairly similar in both jurisdictions (men, women – 75.1, 80.3 in the south compared with 75.2,80.1 in the north).

http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/uploads/publications/North_South_2008/Chapter1.pdf

Below the fold – Health, Education, Households, Transport, Crime and Justice
Health

I’ve long assumed that health outcomes in the UK were slightly better than those in Ireland, however I’d never been able to track down specific data on Northen Ireland. The NISRA section on health is interesting because it gives a break down on various contributing factors such as alcohol consumption or smoking and on various outcomes (e.g. rate of death from cancer). Alcohol consumption is slightly higher in the south by the way, the consumption of hard drugs is also (very) slightly higher, but the consumption of soft drugs is much higher in Northern Ireland. The death rate from cancer in both duristictions is now 182 per 100,000 – but was higher in the south 30 or 40 years ago. Southerners are also heavier (well, fatter) than Northerners. There are substantially less hospital beds available per head in the south than in the north. Some of the difference is likely to be accounted for by demand – the Irish public / private health mix may result in less demand for beds, but on the whole I imagine Northern patients benefit from this situation.
Surprisingly the benchmark infant mortality rate is 27.45% lower in the south than in the north. Would some of the money being spent maintaining NI’s relative large number of beds (348 per 100,000 compared with 309 for the UK as a whole, which has an older average population) be better spent on maternity services?

http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/uploads/publications/North_South_2008/Chapter3.pdf

Education

Andy touched on differences at second level, where more students complete second level in the south than in the north. For me, the most salient stat about education is on page 13 – it almost leaps off the page. There are almost four times as many undergraduates in the Republic of Ireland as in Northern Ireland, while NI’s population is just under half of that of the south’s. A much higher proportion of undergraduates undertake further study in the south than in the north, with all that that means in terms of innovation and attracting investment.

http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/uploads/publications/North_South_2008/Chapter4.pdf

The economy section is worth a read if you want to understand what some of the implications of this may be.

http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/uploads/publications/North_South_2008/Chapter6.pdf

Households

There are remarkable similarities between households north and south, similar numbers own their own homes, although more rent from the state in the north than in the south. The housing bubble didn’t quite get as bubblicious in the north as the south (something to be thankful for) and although house buidling did increase it seems to have peaked at around 18,000 units rather than something closer to the 93,000 units built in the south. All else being equal, (it’s not of course), this suggests that the housing bust should not be as long or deep in the north as in the south.

Despite many complaints about the privatisation of Eircom and a lack of broadband infrastructure in the south (something that doesn’t quite square with the presence of internet and software bemehoths running data centres and development centres in the south) 57% of southerners had broadband internet in 2006 compared with 49% of northerners.

http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/uploads/publications/North_South_2008/Chapter2.pdf

Transport

Despite having over twice the population there were 173,000 private cars registered in the Republic in 2006 compared with 102,000 in the north. This is surely due to the high levels of Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) imposed in the south. As second hand cars are substantially cheaper (cars depreciate quite rapidly), and as cars are imported into Ireland – does this suggest that VRT benefits the Irish economy? It could benefit the economy by reducing the amount spent on foreign imports by purchasing lower cost alternatives (second hand cars) locally, leaving more cash to be spent on locally produced products. Completely in contravention of the spirit of the EU of course. The total car stock is roughly in line per head of population in each state, suggesting southerners have a tendendency to drive older second hand cars (to the benefit of the local economy).

The driving test seems to have gotten harder in both the north and the south, with proportionally more passes awarded in the south in 2006. There were about 3 times as many road fatalities in the south as in the north, despite recent road building. Though road fatalities were 30% lower than 1997, with much increased traffic.

http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/uploads/publications/North_South_2008/Chapter8.pdf

Crime and Justice

Perhaps a legacy of the breakdown of law and order due to the troubles in the north, but less people in the north feel safe or very safe walking the streets at night and in their own homes north of the border than south.

http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/uploads/publications/North_South_2008/Chapter10.pdf

  • Hm, I’d take the undergraduate figures with a pinch of salt. It has long been “traditional” for the educated youth of NI to go elsewhere for higher ed. I’d like to see figures for the relative proportions of secondary school leavers going on to higher education, which seems to be missing from the linked report.

  • Mack

    Good point Andrew, that does raise some questions.

    Total numbers going to college definitely is significantly lower in the north than in the south.

    I’ll dig out some stats on that, I’ve posted them up before in the comments section.

    —-

    But why do so many leave NI to go to college? And at least, why isn’t that balanced by people from elsewhere coming in? There is a net loss to the economy either way.

  • villager

    [quote]It could benefit the economy by reducing the amount spent on foreign imports by purchasing lower cost alternatives (second hand cars) locally, leaving more cash to be spent on locally produced products[/quote]Artificially high VRT distorts the economy by forcing Irish citizens to drive older cars than they would otherwise choose. This is only ‘good’ for the economy if you make a personal value judgement that driving a newer car is a waste of money. The quality of the nations cars is just as legitimate a part of the economy as the amount of Waterford crystal.

  • Mack

    Andrew –

    Ireland (Republic) 2005

    55% of school leavers went on to higher education in 2005

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_the_Republic_of_Ireland#Higher_education

    Northern Ireland 2008

    39.9% of school leavers went on to higher education in 2008.

    http://www.deni.gov.uk/school_leavers_0708r-2.pdf

  • Mack

    Villager –

    I largely agree, and I’m not a fan of VRT or any import tariffs.

    However I would take the view that it doesn’t make any difference whether or not your car is brand new out of the show room or 6 months old, per se. The latter tends to be around half the price of the former. If the purchaser doesn’t have to pay the difference (or more) in repairs then they’ll have made a profit in the transaction. I think with modern cars such a decision is profitable on average. If some of the extra money is spent on local services and goods, then it’s a net benefit to the local economy.

    It’s an interesting contrast to Japan where government regulations make it very expensive to keep a car beyond 2 or 3 years (to support the indigenous car industry), which is why so many people here drive cheap imported second hand Japanese cars (they drive on the left too).

  • fin

    Villager, Jeremy Clarkson pointed out that the £2k scrappage scheme was good for Koreas economy, whereas old bangers that need servicing were good for local garages and the local economy.

    “We’ve discussed the differences in social security many times on Slugger” hardly Mack, the retort is generally very vague, New Blue and me had a dingdong about this before and he posted links to NISRA, to prove his points, however they provided a better arguement for the South than the UK, you forgot to mention unemployment benefit, the differences are shocking

  • Mack

    Fin –

    No mentioned it alright :-

    Unemployment benefit is in the region of three times higher in the south

    There were border villages with more claimants than residents recently…

  • villager

    Mack, get a Parker’s guide, a car has to be almost 3 years old before it depreciates by half. The figures are beside the point however. You and I might think a new car is a waste of money but it’s not our call as to whether it’s a benefit or not to the economy. We could say the same about all kinds of seemingly luxurious or wasteful spending.

  • slug

    “Unemployment benefit is in the region of three times higher in the south”

    Unemployment is also a more popular choice there, funnily enough.

  • DC

    Yes Mack but how much did / do we pay for them!

  • Thanks for the figures, Mack.

    The “brain drain” has been blamed on various factors, but most of my peers who went elsewhere gave variations on “Northern Ireland sucks” as their rationale. Quite what percentage of that was due to universal student restlessness and how much due to specifically NI-related issues is debatable.

  • Bemused

    “But why do so many leave NI to go to college?”

    Because the place is a complete fucking kip.

  • DC

    Andrew and in so doing it serves as a self-sustaining dynamic of socio-political conservatism as those that remain take public sector jobs leaving a gap in creativity that could otherwise spur on our economy. In the end it has economic consequences.

    An ideas gap.

    Small c community conservatism is at play and in some areas with paramilitaries at work we are left with overall big C Conservatism of the brutally suppressing right wing conformist type.

    The more smarter dynamic people have left through choice and force re lack of uni places etc.

    It is not by fluke that people from NI come across as wooden.

  • Jimmy Riddler

    But why do so many leave NI to go to college? And at least, why isn’t that balanced by people from elsewhere coming in? There is a net loss to the economy either way.

    Posted by Mack on Jul 21, 2009 @ 05:17 PM

    Mack,

    I couldn’t wait to get away when I turned 18. Some reasons: A chance to be independent without having to go running home to mammy every weekend (and the pressure to go to church); the fact that the course I wanted to do wasn’t then available in Norn Iron; the allure of the mainland and living in a less insular society; a perception/urban myth (you decide) that Queen’s was a cold house for people from my kind of background; and wanting to get away from all the sectarin crap (I know it slightly contradicts the last point but I was 18 at the time).

  • slug

    In future, if the Conservatives increase the fees at English universities (as I expect) then some people might hesitate before taking on the extra debt.

  • Paddy Matthews

    There were border villages with more claimants than residents recently…

    That would be the famous Ballyconnell example.

    Which fails to take into account that the census figures cover only the village/town built-up area while the unemployment figures cover a much larger chunk of territory in west Cavan and possibly adjoining areas of Leitrim.

  • Paddy Matthews

    “Unemployment benefit is in the region of three times higher in the south”

    Unemployment is also a more popular choice there, funnily enough.

    Not according to the figures in http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/uploads/publications/North_South_2008/Chapter5.pdf

    Year %NI %ROI
    2002 5.5 4.2
    2003 5.4 4.5
    2004 4.8 4.5
    2005 4.7 4.2
    2006 4.4 4.5

    The increase in unemployment in the Republic over the last year and a half is not due to workshy Mexicans suddenly deciding that life on the dole is more convenient than working.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I hate have to drag “the troubles” into everything but NI has just come out of over 30 years of conflict, cant blame it for everything but the effects are still there, lack if infastructure investment etc. and as is obivious on here still alot to sort out.
    Also are we not greatly under catered for when it comes to University education, I for one did not want to leave but due to lack of spaces and hence extremely high entrace requirements I opted not to take up the offer from a mainland Uni and went down the vocational route instead, many other just opted out, is it not rediculous to have universities in Scotland with over 50% NI enrollments?
    The Republic has made a phenominal change over the past couple of decades and sustained it much longer than anyone though, and its major strenght was it retained a strong social cohesion throughout that period, not a minor factor in alot of issues.
    It is facing alot of challenges now, the generous social security surely cant be sustainable in the current climate? and this recession is far from over…

  • eranu

    i would agree that 30 years of terrorism need to be taken into account when considering any stats on NI. the question might then be, why after 30 years of terrorism in NI and 15 years of boom in the republic, are the stats fairly similar? shouldnt the republic be miles ahead of NI?

    health care in the south is regarded as a shambles by any southerners i know. and many people go north for dental work because its much cheaper.

    as regards students going to other unis on the mainland. i think its only people with a nationalist ‘we live on a little island’ outlook that might limit their sights in that way. in reality people move around the UK for education, work and whatever. Theres nothing unusual in that really.

  • Mack

    Eranu –

    the question might then be, why after 30 years of terrorism in NI and 15 years of boom in the republic, are the stats fairly similar? shouldnt the republic be miles ahead of NI?

    I didn’t cover the section on the economy. Take a look, it is miles ahead of NI.

    http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/uploads/publications/North_South_2008/Chapter6.pdf

    Israel also suffered years of terrorism but didn’t decline the way in NI did, and Northern Ireland’s decline had started long before then. I’m sure it has had an impact, but I don’t think it’s something that should be used to duck hard thinking..

    health care in the south is regarded as a shambles by any southerners i know. and many people go north for dental work because its much cheaper.

    That’s certainly the perception (although I am beginning to question it’s accuracy having experienced the health system in both juristictions), particularly with regard public health – the private hospitals are generally held in very high regard. A minimum wage (southern minimum wage, which is also higher) worker pays on average €3,000 less tax in the south than an earner on the same salary in the north. Health Insurance can be purchased from around €450-€500.

    Our experience is that maternity services are far further ahead in the south than in the north. This is born out by the stats where infant mortality is almost 30% lower. Despite greater southern obesity and slightly higher smoking and alcohol consumption life expectancy is slightly higher in the south on average.

    I go to a northern Dentist also, but I wouldn’t agree that just because it’s cheaper in the north that the “health service” in the south is a shambles. Work by a northern dentist is still tax deductable etc. You are free to get your treatments where-ever you think you’ll get the best service for the best price. Here is another Irish health startup that helps Irish patients source quality and affordable medical treatment across Europe.

    http://www.revahealth.com/

    There are by and large a lot more private companies innovatively serving the (southern) Irish health market, than in the north.

  • fin

    “i think its only people with a nationalist ‘we live on a little island’ outlook that might limit their sights in that way. in reality people move around the UK for education, work and whatever. Theres nothing unusual in that really. ”

    Eranu, I don’t think an awful lot of people moce from GB to work in NI outside of the civil service and army. Do people move around GB, yes morethan they use to, however as GB is also an island (slightly larger, granted) than that dispells your island theory

  • Davros

    Are there any stats on grads moving back to NIreland after graduation or a few years?

  • Mack

    Davros –

    Yes. Here :-

    http://www.equalityni.org/archive/pdf/RKM06073EducMigratResearchUpdateFINAL010508.pdf

    About 30% return, no noticeable differences by community. In absolute terms similar numbers leave.

  • fin, eranu:

    “i think its only people with a nationalist ‘we live on a little island’ outlook that might limit their sights in that way”

    and

    “however as GB is also an island”

    are not necessarily contradictions. How many people from GB go to work in continental Europe?