Belfast demographics

Belfast's population has been in gradual, but persistent, decline from a historic high of over 400,000 before World War One. According to mid-year estimates for 2008, Belfast has a population of 268,323, which represents 15.1% of the Northern Ireland total population of 1,775,003.

After a period of sustained population loss, Belfast's population has begun to stabilise. Between 2004 and 2008 the city lost only 0.6% of its population compared with almost 12% in the previous 20 years.

The population density of Belfast is 2,447 persons per km2. The wider Belfast Metropolitan Area has a population of 650,958.

Age profile

Over 60% of Belfast's total population are of working age. Belfast is a young city, with 19.5% of the population under 16 years old. This youthful population could be a real asset in the future.

Population density

There was a slow decline in population density (people per square kilometre) between 1991 and 2006 with a definite decrease in the number of residents in Belfast (down by 8.7% over the period).

By comparison, over the same period, the outlying area of Carrickfergus had a population density growth of 19.7% while Lisburn had density growth of 11.8%.

By 2008 however, the population of Belfast had began to steady itself and actually saw a slight increase in population and therefore also its population density. Belfast’s population density grew by 0.35% between 2006 and 2008.

Ethnicity and religion

In Belfast, 98% of the residents are of white ethnic origin. The largest minority ethnic groups within Belfast are the Chinese community (with 1,318 residents) and the mixed community (with 729 residents).

The religious breakdown in the city is roughly equally split between those people of a 'Protestant and other Christian' community background (48.6%) and those people of a 'Catholic' community background (47.2%). 4.2% of the population has either indicated they are of a non-religious persuasion or is a member of other non-Christian religions.

More information

More information on population can be found on the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency website at