With a population of 1.8 million people, the region is 13,600 sq km in size, accounting for six per cent of the total UK land area. Northern Ireland’s population is one of the youngest in Europe, with 55 per cent of the population under the age of 40. The people of Northern Ireland are also among the happiest in the United Kingdom, with Fermanagh recently identified as the happiest place in the UK.
Northern Ireland’s education system is among the best performing in Europe. According to a recent major survey, Northern Ireland is the best performing education system for primary maths in Europe, and the sixth best in the world. For primary reading it is the second best in Europe. Some 75 per cent of school leavers go to further and higher education. Supporting these academic achievements are two world leading universities, Queen’s University, Belfast and Ulster University.
Building on the region’s rich industrial heritage Northern Ireland’s economy continues to perform well in the current economic climate. The unemployment rate currently stands at 6.9 per cent, slightly above the UK average, but below the Republic of Ireland and EU averages. Outside of London, Northern Ireland is the leading UK region for attracting inward investment. Belfast is the world’s top destination city for financial services technologies investments. This success has led to over 800 international companies employing in excess of 75,000 people. Expenditure on research and development, and levels of entrepreneurship are on the rise.
Northern Ireland’s excellent business credentials are supported by strong and resilient infrastructure. The region has the highest availability of superfast broadband in the UK and there are almost 30 daily flights to London. Belfast is only one hour from London by air and two hours from Dublin by rail and road.