Update of Equality (Section 75) Indicators for Farmers

Date published: 30 October 2018

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has released the report, ‘Equality Indicators for Northern Ireland Farmers’. The report holds reference data on key characteristics of farmers, enabling DAERA to fulfil the requirements of Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, in monitoring the social and equality impact of policy relating to this key group.


The main farmer in each business was profiled for Section 75 characteristics including age, sex, marital status, dependants, disability and religion. Data was also obtained for national identity, which may be a useful proxy for political opinion.  

Some of the report’s key findings:

  • The average age of farmers was 59 years. Only 8% of farmers identified as head of the business were under 40 years old and more than a third (36%) were aged 65 or over.
  • Almost three quarters (73%) of farmers were married.
  • Only 9% of principal farming partners were female.
  • Two fifths (40%) of farm households contained under 18s, elderly dependants or both.
  • Almost a third (30%) of farmers had a long-term limiting condition compared to around a fifth of the general population. The higher incidence of disability among farmers was related to their older age profile.
  • The proportion of farmers stating an ethnicity other than white, was very small (less than 1%).
  • Half (51%) of farmers stated their religion as Protestant, just over two-fifths (42%) as Catholic and 6% as other or no religion. This compares to 42% of the wider population who stated their religion as Protestant, 41% as Catholic and 18% who stated another or no religion.
  • Information on political opinion was not collected in the Northern Ireland Census of Population. However, as a question on national identity was included, responses to this question were analysed as a proxy measure for political opinion. Overall, 44% of farmers reported their identity as British only, 26% as Irish only and 23% as Northern Irish only. A further 8% of farmers stated another or combination national identity compared to 14% of the general population.
  • Farm characteristics differed according to the Section 75 profile of principal farming partners.
  • Female farmers were more likely than their male counterparts to farm on very small farms (87% of women compared to 75% of men). 
  • Farmers of very small farms had a slightly older age profile than those of larger farms, and were much more likely than farmers of large farms to report a disability – 32% of farmers of very small farms said they had a limiting long-term condition compared to 20% of farmers of large farms. 
  • The proportion of farmers who were married increased with farm size, rising from 71% of farmers of very small farms to 84% of farmers of large farms. 
  • Catholic farmers were much more likely than Protestant farmers to farm on very small farms (85% of Catholic farmers compared to 68% of Protestant farmers) and more than three-quarters of Catholic farmers were engaged in cattle and sheep farming in Less Favoured Areas (77%) compared to under half (45%) of Protestant farmers engaged in this type of farming. 
  • In contrast, Protestant farmers were much more likely than Catholic farmers to farm on large farms (10% of compared to 2%), dairy farms (16% compared to 5%) and lowland farms (41% compared to 15%).

Download the Report on ‘Equality Indicators for Northern Ireland Farmers’


Notes to editors: 

  1. This report presents findings from a large scale data linkage project carried out under the auspices of the Administrative Data Research Network, Northern Ireland. The Administrative Data Research Network takes privacy protection very seriously. All information that directly identifies individuals will be removed from the datasets by trusted third parties, before researchers get to see it. All researchers using the Network are trained and accredited to use sensitive date safely and ethically, they will only access the data via a secure environment, and all of their findings will be vetted to ensure they adhere to the strictest confidentiality standards.
  2. The help provided by the staff of the Administrative Data Research Network Northern Ireland (ADRC-NI) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) Research Support Unit is acknowledged. The ADRC-NI is funded by the Economic and Research Council (ESRC). The authors alone are responsible for the interpretation of the data and any views or opinions presented are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ADRC-NI.  Northern Ireland Census of Population and EU Farm Structure Survey, Northern Ireland data has been supplied for the sole purpose of this project. The results were prepared by Statistics and Analytical Services Branch, Policy, Economics and Statistics Division of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Dundonald House, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast, BT4 3SB.
  3. The data sources used were the EU Farm Structure Survey (2010) and the NI Census of Population (2011) and data was successfully matched for 60% of all farm businesses.
  4. The project linked data on farm characteristics such as size, type and land designation, with demographic information for principal farming partners. 
  5. View all recent DAERA statistics
  6. The department may take photographs and videos at announcements and events to publicise its work. Photographs, interviews, videos or other recordings may be issued to media organisations for publicity purposes or used in promotional material, including in publications, newspapers, magazines, other print media, on television, radio and electronic media (including social media and the internet). Photographs and videos will also be stored on the department’s internal records management system. The department will keep the photographs and recordings for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which they have been obtained. The department’s Privacy Policy is available on our website.
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  8. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or via email. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.


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