During the 20 years since the Northern Ireland Life and Times (NILT)
survey began in 1998, there has been a major period of austerity, prompted by crises in the banking and other financial systems. At the same time, the income gap between the very rich and the very poor has been widened. According to the Equality Trust
, data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the richest 10% of the population in the United Kingdom have an average original annual income that is 24 times larger than that for the poorest 10%. However, austerity politics is not an invention of the 21st century. On 4th January 1968 the Labour cabinet under Harold Wilson decided to cut spending - mainly in social services, but also in the defence budget - in order to enforce the devaluation of sterling which had been implemented in November 1967.
Since 1998, NILT has recorded the perceptions of adults in Northern Ireland in relation to their household income, by asking respondents if their household income has kept up with the prices. In the first NILT survey
in 1998, 14% of NILT respondents said that their household income had gone up
by more than the prices. By 2016, this figure had decreased to 6%. In 1998, approximately one third of NILT respondents said that their household income had gone down
in relation to prices, and this was similar in 2016. However, between 2008 and 2013, at least half of respondents said this, including 64% in 2013.
The financial pressures
felt by young people and their families are identified in the Young Life and Times (YLT) survey
of 16 year olds, and the Kids' Life and Times (KLT) survey
of 10-11 year olds. In 2009, 31% of YLT respondents said that the economic crisis had affected their family a bit or a lot, although 7% said that their family was not affected at all. Two years later, however, nearly one half (48%) thought that their family had been affected, and only 3% said that their family had not been affected at all.
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