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Belfast facts and figures

Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland (NI) with a population of 339,579 in the city and over one million people in the Belfast region. The Belfast City Council area accounts for 18.2 per cent of the population and 30 per cent of all jobs in Northern Ireland.

The city has a young population with 18.6 per cent of people under 15 years old and 41.6 per cent under 30 years old. It also has an excellent quality of living, with affordable, high quality housing, easy access to natural assets and a renowned education system.

 

Business environment

Belfast is the driver of the Northern Ireland economy with:

  • 218,478 jobs in the city
  • 10,100 VAT registered businesses
  • £35,791 GVA per head.

Competitive operating costs

  • One of the best regional UK cities to start a new business (Start-up Cities Index, 2017).
  • Salary costs are lower than the rest of the UK, and around 30 per cent lower than other European cities such as London, Dublin and Paris.
  • There is a commitment to reduce corporation tax to 12.5 per cent.

Office rental prices - cost per square foot

Source: Colliers, June 2017 
  Grade A office space  Grade B office space 
Belfast  £21.50  £12
Cardiff  £25 £18
Bristol  £28.50  £25
Edinburgh  £31 £22 
Manchester  £35  £27 
Dublin  £53.28*  £39.96* 
London  £75  £52.50

*conversion rate £1 = €1.17 (February 2017) 

Investment destination

  • There are 895 international companies located in Northern Ireland, employing over 99,000 people.
  • There has been 34 new project and 1,622 new jobs created as a result of FDI to NI in 2016-17.
  • Belfast is the second most successful city in the UK (after London) at attracting US tradeable services FDI projects.
  • 75 per cent of international companies have reinvested or plan to expand.
  • Belfast is one of Europe’s top 10 small cities for FDI strategy (Financial Times, fDi European Cities of the Future, 2018).

City development

Belfast is one of three UK cities with over 1,000 hotel rooms in the pipeline for 2018 (Belfast Cranes Survey 2018, Deloitte).

There are a number of schemes under construction (February 2018), which include:

  • one retail and leisure build
  • two education builds
  • three residential builds
  • four student accommodations
  • seven office builds
  • eight hotels.

Recent and projected hotel rooms, student accommodation and grade A office space

  Hotel rooms  Student accommodation  Grade A office space 
2017 362  563 20,850m2 
2018  1,088 (estimated) 2,007 (estimated)  32,500m2 (estimated)

Education 

Our schools, colleges and universities rival the best in the world and our youthful population provides a strong talent pool for investors across a range of sectors.  Six Belfast schools are in the UK’s top 100 (The Sunday Times Parent Power survey of secondary schools, 2017)

Schools

Northern Ireland has the highest achieving primary school pupils in Europe in major international tests in maths.

  • Maths – first in Europe at primary school level (TIMMS, 2016).
  • Literacy – fourth in Europe at primary school level (PIRLS, 2017).

Northern Ireland was the top performing region in the UK for GCSEs and A Levels in 2017.

  • 79.5 per cent of Northern Ireland pupils achieved grades A* - C at GCSE level (66.3% national average grade A* - C equivalent grade 9-4).
  • 30.4 per cent of Northern Ireland pupils achieved grades A* - A at A Level (26.3% national average). 

Further education

  • 30,000 students are enrolled at Belfast Metropolitan College (BMC), the largest college in Northern Ireland. BMC has also invested over £60 million in state-of-the-art campuses.

Universities

  • 48,490 students at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and Ulster University (UU).
  • QUB is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of research intensive universities. 
  • UU was in the top 3 per cent of new universities in the world and is currently investing £250 million on a new state-of-the-art city centre campus.
  • Approximately a third (34 per cent) of the working age population is educated to NVQ Level 4 and above.
  • More than 70 per cent of university research is world leading or internationally excellent.
  • 48.9 per cent of NI higher education students were studying a broad STEM related subject in 2016/17.
  • Belfast has the lowest monthly student rent (Student Living Index, 2017).

Employment

Sectors with high job growth expected up to 2025 Current jobs Projected new jobs by 2025  Change 
 Information and communication  21,250  +13,407  +63%
 Professional, scientific and technical  40,000  +16,470  +41%
 Manufacturing  89,250  +9,264  +10%
 Hospitality  54,000  +6,503  +12%
 Finance and insurance  20,500  +3,754  +18%
 Retail  137,000  +2,781  +2%

 

  • The three year survival rate of indigenous firms in Belfast is 55.3 per cent, higher than the UK average of 54.4 per cent (ERC, 2016).
  • 69 per cent is the Belfast employment rate in 2017.
  • NI has the highest proportion of start-ups reaching one million pounds in revenues within three years (Enterprise Research Council, 2016). 

Key growth sectors

 We have world class capabilities in a number of key sectors:

 Sector  Companies  Employees
Digital and IT  1,200  28,000 
Advanced manufacturing materials engineering  2,000  40,000
Life and health sciences  130  7,500

Software Engineering

  • Strengths in mobile telecoms, financial software, information management, cyber security and connected health.

Cyber Security

  • 1,200 new cyber jobs in the last five years. This is projected to grow to 5,000 by 2022.

Aerospace

  • Northern Ireland is Europe’s 8th largest aerospace region in revenue terms.

Tourism

  • NI was voted number one region in the world to visit in 2018 (Lonely Planet, 2017).
  • There are over 1.5 million overnight trips per year contributing £334 million to the economy (2016).
  • 93 cruise ships carrying 110,000 passengers stopped in Belfast in 2017.
  • Titanic Belfast is the world’s leading tourist attraction (World Travel Awards 2016).
  • 215,100 business visitors made overnight business trips to Belfast between 2014 and 2016.
  • Belfast Waterfront was named Best Event Space in UK in 2017.
  • 77 conferences are held per year representing an economic benefit of £42 million to the city region.
  • One of the top places to travel for food in the world (National Geographic, 2016).

Connectivity

Air

  • 8.4 million passengers travelled through Belfast International Airport and George Best Belfast City Airport on 77 routes in 2017.
  • Almost 200 flights to London airports weekly.

Sea

  • 23.7 million tonnes of goods and 1.5 million passengers were handled by Belfast Harbour in 2017 (70 per cent of Northern Ireland’s total).
  • 514,000 freight vehicles passed through the port in 2017.

Road and rail

  • Dublin is 90 minutes by car via strong road and motorway links and there are regular bus and train services between the two cities.

Digital

  • 100-gigabit per second telecoms link between Northern Ireland, Europe and North America.
  • 83 per cent access to superfast broadband - the highest in the UK.
  • 99.3 per cent 4G broadband coverage in Belfast, with ultra-fast broadband (5G) already available in 25 per cent of Northern Ireland premises.
  • Belfast has a world-class digital infrastructure (Lambert, Smith and Hampton, 2017)

Quality of life

  • Happiest region in the UK (ONS 2017)
  • £25,999 was the average median wage in 2017
  • £123,409 is the average home price
  • The city’s retail sector is made up of 54 per cent independents
  • There are 47 parks in the city with 17 Green Flag Awards
  • Over 100 festivals held every year.
  • Belfast is among the cities with the lowest cost of living in the world (Mercer, 2017).