More than two-thirds of families in Belfast are struggling to make financial ends meet, leading to the unwanted title of JAM capital of the UK.
JAM, or ‘just about managing’, was a term used by Theresa May in her opening speech as prime minister for parents who have to dip into overdrafts and use credit cards to make ends meet.
According to a new survey Belfast is the JAM capital of the UK with 67.6% of people claiming to be just about managing – well above the UK average of 60.1%. A further 4.5% of people in Belfast say that they are not managing at all.
The survey by money.co.uk of 1,000 working households with children, found that one in six households in the UK will be forced to use their overdraft by January 10.
Meanwhile, the latest figures from the Asda’s Income Tracker revealed that disposable income has only just topped the £100 per week mark for Northern Ireland, leaving it well behind the UK average of £202 per week to spend on items other than household necessities and bills.
Dr Esmond Birnie, senior economist at Ulster University, said it didn’t surprise him that residents of Northern Ireland struggled to make ends meet.
He said: “What we’re seeing now is the recovery from the recession of 2007/08/09.
“When you allow for inflation, whilst wages and household incomes have fallen throughout the UK, they’ve fallen by even more in Northern Ireland.
“Our economy has not performed as well as in other parts of the UK. We have not created as many well-paid jobs during the period of recovery.
“The level of productivity growth in Northern Ireland has been much lower than the average UK growth. As a consequence businesses can’t afford to pay higher wages.”
Dr Birnie added: “The Belfast economy is like a tale of two cities.
“Employment is growing and there’s been a lot of investment and development of office space for IT, science and software. Tourism is also experiencing growth. Wealth is being created for some people.
“But at the same time quite a lot of people have been left out, these families who are just about managing, and further down the scale those who are in serious debt.
“With the best will and budgeting in the world it’s always going to be hard to make ends meet when there’s a fundamental economic problem. In basic terms there is a lack of jobs and a lack of well-paid jobs.”
South Belfast Foodbank manager Bruce Gardiner-Crehan revealed that some people who are ‘just about managing’ would use the foodbank for support.
“There are many clients referred to us who are in this JAM bracket,” he said.
“I would say from time to time some people who are in this bracket have most definitely donated as well. That totally blows us away when someone we have helped have themselves given back.”