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Belfast facts and figures

Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland (NI) with a population of 340,220 in the city and over one million people in the Belfast region. The Belfast City Council area accounts for 18 per cent of the population and 30 per cent of all jobs in Northern Ireland.

The city has a young population with 43 per cent of people 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.

There has been significant investment in the city with 26 completed projects and 19 under construction in the last year.

There are three airports within 90 minutes of the city centre with direct flights to over 180 destinations in 40 countries on four continents.

Belfast is number one for ‘Business Friendliness’ in mid-sized and small global cities. (FDi intelligence, Global cities of the future, 2018/19)

Business environment

Belfast is the driver of the Northern Ireland economy with:

  • 224,149 jobs in the city
Employment area  Total jobs
Services 206,809
Manufacturing 9,809
Construction 5,348
Other 2,183
  • 10,560 VAT registered businesses
  • the highest productivity growth in the UK (2013-2017)
  • the second fastest growing region in the UK in terms of Knowledge Economy activity (source: Northern Ireland Economy Report, 2018)

Competitive operating costs

  • Ranked in the top 10 most cost effective small and mid-sized global cities (FDi intelligence, Global Cities of the Future, 2018/2019)
  • Office take-up increased 105 per cent from 2017/2018
  • 3rd fastest growing office market in the world (with annual percent change of 14.3 per cent).
  • Operating costs in NI are: 12 per cent lower than other UK regions, 33 per cent lower than the USA, 30 per cent lower than France and Germany.
Office rental prices - cost per square foot
Sources: 
*CBRE, 2018
** Colliers, 2018
  Grade A office space 
Belfast * £21
Liverpool * £21
Manchester * £34
Bristol * £32.50
Edinburgh * £34
Glasgow * £32.50
Leeds * £30
Dublin ** £56.17
London ** £67.50

Conversion rate £1 = €1.15724 (5 March 2019) 

Investment destination

  • Belfast is number 2 overall in mid-sized and small global cities (FDi Global Cities for the Future, 2018/19).
  • It is in the 'top 10 small European city for the future 2018/19'
  • There were 23 major new company investments in 2018 in Belfast. These are expected to create up to 1,300 new jobs.
  • Almost 75 per cent of of new investors reinvest in the region.
  • There are 1,025 international companies located in NI, they employ 99,955 people.

City development

Belfast Region City Deal partners secured £850m co-investment. Find out more

Build type  Completed 2018 Under construction 2018
Office 468,187 ft2 752,957 ft
Student accommodation  2,015 beds 1,611 beds
Hotels 1,200 rooms 160 rooms 
Residential 13 units 203 units


There are a number of schemes under construction (February 2019), which include:

Construction type  Number of schemes under construction (2018)
Offices 8
Residential 4
Hotels 3
Student accommodation  2
Education 2

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. 

Schools

  • Northern Ireland was the best performing region in the UK for GCSE results in 2018.
  • 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.

  • 71.8 per cent of Northern Ireland pupils achieved grades A* - C at GCSE level.
  • 84.5 per cent of Northern Ireland pupils achieved C or better at A Level. 

Further education

  • Almost 80 per cent of NI pupils continue into further and higher education. (Education and Training Inspectorate, 2016-2018)
  • 30,000 students are enrolled at Belfast Metropolitan College (BMC), the largest college in Northern Ireland.

Universities

  • 44,625 full time students study in the Belfast region.
  • QUB is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of research intensive universities. 
  • UU is in the top 150 young universities in the world.
  • Over a third a third (35.2 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.
  • 49 per cent of NI higher education students were studying a broad STEM related subject in 2017.
  • Lowest monthly student rent cost compared to other UK cities (Student Living Index, 2018).
There are over 73,000 individuals involved in early stage entrepreneurial activity in NI in 2018 (one in every 16 NI adults).

Employment

Sectors with high job growth expected up to 2026 Current jobs
2016
Projected new jobs by 2026  Change 
 Information and communication  21,250  +13,407  +63%
 Professional, scientific and technical  40,000  +16,470  +41%
 Finance and insurance  20,500  +3,754  +18% 
 Construction    50,750  +6,594   +13% 
 Hospitality  54,000  +6,503  +12%
 Manufacturing  89,250  +9,264 +10%
 Retail  137,000  +2,781  +2%

 

  • The three year survival rate of indigenous firms in Belfast is 56.1 per cent.
  • 70.3 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, 2017). 

Key growth sectors

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

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

Software Engineering

  • Number 1 destination for new software development projects in Europe (Financial Times)

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, and the NI aerospace is a £1.24 billion industry. 

Tourism

  • The Titanic Hotel Belfast was nominated for the World Travel Awards - World’s leading heritage (World Travel Awards, 2018).
  • There were 1.48m overnight trips to Belfast in 2017 (30 per cent of Northern Ireland) contributing £328 million.
  • 52% per cent of NI’s total overnight businesses trips were to Belfast (2017 figures).
  • A total of 118 cruise ships brought 133,588 visitors to Belfast, as well as 58, 177 crew. This is a 23,177 increase from 2017.
  • 1.24m hotel room nights in 2018: increase of 15.4 per cent from the previous year.
  • ICC Belfast won the Conference and Incentive Travel Best Venue Award in 2018. 
  • We are the number 1 for the World’s best food destination 2018 (International Travel and Tourism Awards).

Connectivity

Belfast is 4th globally for connectivity amongst small and mid-sized cities. (fDi global cities for the future awards 2018/19)

Air

  • 8.7 million passengers travelled through Belfast International Airport and George Best Belfast City Airport in 2018. A 300,000 increase from 2017 figures.

Sea

  • 24.6 million tonnes of goods and 1.51 million passengers were handled by Belfast Harbour in 2018.
  • 532,000 freight vehicles passed through the port in 2018.

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.
  • 85 per cent of households in Belfast have greater than or equal to 300MBit/s, ultrafast broadband coverage.

Quality of life

  • Happiest region in the UK (ONS 2018).
  • £25,175 was the median gross annual earnings in 2018.
  • £129,203 is the average house price in Belfast.
  • 87 per cent of residents have engaged with arts and cultural activities in 2018.
  • The city’s retail sector is made up of 51 per cent independents.
  • There are 47 public parks in the city with 17 Green Flag Awards.
  • Over 80 cultural festivals held every year.
  • Belfast is ranked 3rd globally for human capital and lifestyle amongst small and mid-sized cities (FDi Intelligence, 2018).

Delivering The Belfast Agenda

Our four key priorities are
  • Creating Jobs and investment – Growing the Economy
  • Connecting people to opportunities – Working and Learning
  • Creating a competitive and sustainable city – city development
  • Making life better for all our residents - Living here
  • 2017-2021 Inclusive growth leaving no one behind

For more information go to www.belfastcity.gov.uk/belfastagenda