Northern Ireland ‘best place to live and start a business’ says PwC report

  • Northern Ireland is the best place to live in the UK and start a business, according to PwC’s latest Future of Government report, Rethinking Levelling-Up.

    The professional services firm surveyed 4,000 people across the UK and found that more people in Northern Ireland than any other part of the UK were also highly likely to recommend it as a good place to bring up a family (28%).

    Double the number of people living in this region strongly agreed with the idea that society treated them fairly (12%), compared to those in Scotland and Wales (6%).

    After a year spent closer to home, people in the region said the Covid-19 pandemic had helped bring their community closer together.

    Dr David Armstrong, Government & Health Industries lead for PwC NI said that this "is a significant statement of confidence in Northern Ireland at a time when people have greater choice about where to live and work."

    "People are now thinking more about the quality of life they want to lead which has led to an exodus from a number of big cities, particularly London," he continued.

    "With many companies now planning remote working into their future plans - there’s a major window of opportunity for Northern Ireland to attract people seeking to relocate.”

    PwC NI's David Armstrong

    Levelling-up priorities

    Housing is the stand-out priority for people in Northern Ireland, with 75% saying a focus on improving the supply and quality of homes would be most effective in levelling up and reducing inequality. Higher-paying jobs (50%) and a better safety net for those most in need (49%) were also a big focus.

    While the pandemic has accelerated the move to online shopping, it has not diminished the importance of the high street and town centres.

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    42% of people in Northern Ireland would like to see investment here as a priority to level up inequalities.

    The report also identified that helping people to develop skills for the future (39%) and support for business startups (38%) were all significant priority areas for the public.

    Concerns about regional inequalities

    The report found that regional divisions across the UK have grown during the pandemic. Although more people living in Northern Ireland say the pandemic has brought their community closer together than other parts of the UK (42% compared to 39% in England 39% and 38% in Scotland), half of people here (51%) remain concerned about inequality between the regions.

    Less than a third of those surveyed felt that the region has been fairly treated by the UK Government compared to Scotland (38%) and Wales (36%). Concerns about inequality between rural and urban areas (45%) and cities and towns (46%) were also greatest among those surveyed in Northern Ireland.

    It also found that the Northern Ireland Executive received the least positive scores across all areas when compared to the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies when people were questioned on their attitudes towards it.

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    4% of people agreed with the statement ‘They treat me like an individual’ compared to 13% in Scotland and 7% in Wales, and 5% said they felt ‘They take my needs into account when making decisions’ compared to 16% in Scotland and 10% in Wales.

    Dr Armstrong added: “It’s clear that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure ‘levelling-up’ delivers on its promises. However it’s important to note where work is being done such as the Government’s Bounce Back plans for Northern Ireland’s tech sector, which should help boost our economic recovery from the combined challenges of Covid-19, as well as Brexit.

    “Traditionally people moving here have been employed in low-skilled jobs with migrant labour supporting economic growth since 2014.

    "The emphasis could change in the future with our reputation as a world-leading cyber security hub as well as being named as one of three UK cities most likely to emerge as a leading tech city this year, could see Northern Ireland attract more highly skilled people which would greatly improve our economic development.”

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    Source: PwC NI press release

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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