NI's Lowest Earning Households Worst Affected By Cost-Of-Living Crisis

Northern Ireland's lowest earning households have been the worst affected during the cost of living crisis, according to the latest NI Household Expenditure Tracker from the Consumer Council.

The tracker which is published on a quarterly basis, tracks changes to income and expenditure for households in Northern Ireland across four income groups, referred to as 'quartiles'.

According to the report, the households in Quartile 1 have seen their discretionary income fall by over 40% since the first quarter of 2021, leaving them with only £36.65 per week on average after paying for essentials.

In Q4 2023 (October to December), these households:

• spent 52% of their total basic spending on food, rent, energy, and transport

• have 8% less income before tax than the UK average

• saw their discretionary income rise 17.1% over the last quarter from £31.31 to £36.65 per week

• saw a rise of 2.2% in income after tax
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The ability of households in Northern Ireland to absorb unexpected bills or price rises differs sharply depending on household income. NI's highest earning households have on average almost 18 times more discretionary income left to spend every week compared to the lowest earning households.

Anne-Marie Murphy, our Director of Strategy & Emerging Markets said: "The lowest earning 50% have seen the least recovery in terms of cash remaining after paying for basics.

"We know that 90% of consumers in Northern Ireland are concerned about the rising cost of basics which refers to everyday living essentials such as housing, energy, food, transport and telephone/mobile and broadband costs.

"Food also continues to form a disproportionate share of the lowest earning households' spending, compared to higher earning households. Food is 22% of their weekly essential spending. For the highest earning households, it is 15%.

"This expanded Household Expenditure Tracker considers all Northern Ireland households and also shows that half of those households have on average less than £90 per week after all essential bills are paid. Given the volatile prices of food, fuel and electricity over the last 2 years, it is worrying how little money many families have to cover unexpected bills or price rises."

To help consumers, we offers a variety of support and advice here including interactive tools to compare energy costs and advice on how to reduce your bills and make your money go further.

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