World of Work in Northern Ireland

The Big Picture

Political stability, rise of IT and the retail giants


(1990’s into 2009)

During this period there has been a restoration, slowly at first, of a more normal economy with less disruption linked to instability in political activity and a higher degree of business confidence.

Key features have included a reversal of the usual pattern of net emigration. 

Northern Ireland, for the first time in a century, attracted an annual immigration flow of new residents, many from other EU countries,  partly attracted by unfilled employment opportunities.

In the years to 2007, employment has risen to record levels and by 2008,  Northern Ireland, had a lower unemployment rate than most of the other UK regions.

The market structure for ‘high street’ retailing has been transformed by the arrival of the larger UK retail chains investing in Northern Ireland. 

Retailing investment was initiated by the arrival of Tesco and Sainsburys and they were quickly followed by ASDA, Lild, Iceland, Musgrave and expansion by Dunnes Stores.

The expansion of the IT sector, and a number of Call Centres, has brought 21st century investments. 

(BBC Newsline, June 2004 - A report on BT plans to expand its call centre operation in Enniskillen with the creation of up to 200 jobs)

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The global nature of the IT businesses is evidenced in the successful development of a number of American owned projects.  These include investments by AllState insurance, Liberty, R&R Donnelly (trading as Stream International), CitiGroup and Seagate Technology now offering ICT employment in tradable services where geography is not critical to location.

(BBC Newsline, 2008: A report on plans by software company Singularity to invest £3.5 million and create 62 jobs in Belfast and Londonderry.)

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A major feature of the 1990’s and  early in the next decade has been, first, a big recovery in the market and prices for domestic housing. 

A large gap compared to GB, which had emerged in the previous 20 years, was eliminated and, for a short period (of about 3 years) was reversed. 

House prices by 2007 had risen to be higher, on average, than the GB average.


  • Interactive Timeline

    economy evolves

    The Northern Ireland economy went through many changes since the end of WWII, with the impact of 'The Troubles' being keenly felt.

  • Employment Sectors

    The Key SectorsUnderstanding Northern Ireland's key business sectors can help you gain an important insight into the strength of our local economy.

  • BBC Resources

    BBC ResourcesLearn more about by accessing some of the many resources available on the BBC and external sites.

  • Interactive Quiz

    Interactive QuizHow much have you learned about the local economy, the key business sectors and the impact of globalisation?

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