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Belfast facts and figures

Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland (NI) with a population of 338,907 and 670,000 in the wider metropolitan area. The Belfast City Council area accounts for 18.3 per cent of the population and 31 per cent of all jobs in Northern Ireland.

The city has a young population with 18.5 per cent of people under 15 years old and 41.5 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:

  • 220,190 jobs in the city
  • 10,100 VAT registered businesses
  • £34,583 GVA per head.

Competitive operating costs

  • Northern Ireland is a more competitive location than the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland (ROI).
  • 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 2016
  Grade A office space  Grade B office space 
Belfast  £20  £16 
Cardiff  £22  £16.50
Bristol  £28.50  £28.50
Edinburgh  £30 £20 
Manchester  £35  £24.50 
Dublin  £51*  £38* 
London  £75  £57.50 

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

Investment destination

  • There are over 800 international companies located in Northern Ireland, employing over 75,000 people.
  • There has been 20,000 inward investment jobs secured in the last decade.
  • Software and IT services is the top sector for inward investment accounting for over 40% of projects.
  • 80 per cent of international companies have reinvested or plan to expand.

City development

There are a number of schemes under construction (February 2017):

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

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

  Hotel rooms  Student accommodation  Grade A office space 
2016  98  413 19,400m2 
2017 362  563 20,850m2 
2018  629  2,008  13,000m2 

Education - city of talent

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 has the highest achieving primary school pupils in Europe in major international tests in maths.
Source: TIMMS and PIRLS, 2015

  • Maths – first in Europe at primary school level
  • Literacy – second in Europe at primary school level (based on latest figures available, 2011).

Northern Ireland was the top performing region in the UK for GCSEs and A Levels in 2016.

  • 79.1 per cent of Northern Ireland pupils achieved grades A* - C at GCSE level
  • 66.9 per cent was the national average for grades A* - C at GCSE level
  • 29.5 per cent of Northern Ireland pupils achieved grades A* - A at A Level 
  • 25.8 per cent was the national average for grades A* - A at A Level.

Further education

  • 37,000 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

  • 45,000 students at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and Ulster University (UU).
  • QUB was ranked in the top one per cent of universities worldwide and is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of research intensive universities. It currently has plans to invest £223 million in its capital programme.
  • UU was in the top 150 new universities in the world and is currently investing £250 million on a new state-of-the-art city centre campus.
  • Approximately a third (34.9 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.

Employment

Sectors with high job growth expected up to 2025 Current jobs Projected new jobs by 2025  Change 
 Information and communication  18,000  +15,430  +86%
 Professional, scientific and technical  37,500  +15,398  +41%
 Manufacturing  84,250  +13,769  +16%
 Hospitality  49,500  +7,731  +16%
 Retail  146,250  +7,429  +5%

 

  • 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).
  • 70.8 per cent is the Belfast employment rate in 2017.

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.

Financial technology investment 

  • Belfast is the world’s number one destination for financial technology investment.

Tourism

  • There are over 1.4 million overnight trips per year contributing £278 million to the economy (2015).
  • 82 cruise ships carrying 145,000 passengers stopped in Belfast in 2016.
  • Titanic Belfast is the world’s leading tourist attraction (World Travel Awards 2016).
  • 209,091 business visitors made overnight business trips to Belfast between 2013 and 2015.
  • Belfast Waterfront received a £30 million expansion with 7,000m2 event space resulting in 50,000 delegates projected per year- double the previous year.
  • 70 conferences are held per year representing an economic benefit of £45 million to the city region.
  • One of the top places to travel for food in the world (National Geographic, 2016).

Connectivity

Air

  • 7.8 million passengers travelled through Belfast International Airport and George Best Belfast City Airport in 2016.
  • 230 flights to London airports weekly.
  • Dublin Airport is 90 minutes by road.

Sea

  • 23 million tonnes of goods and 1.5 million passengers were handled by Belfast Harbour in 2016 (70 per cent of Northern Ireland’s total).
  • 503,000 freight vehicles passed through the port in 2016.

Road

  • 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.

Quality of life

  • Happiest city in the UK (ONS 2015)
  • £28,200 was the average median wage in 2015
  • £117, 128 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, and
  • Over 85 festivals held every year.