N. Ireland Politics

Equality report: Catholic workforce continues to rise

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The Catholic workforce in Northern Ireland has continued to increase according to the latest Equality Commission report.

However the annual monitoring report found a decline in the total workforce of 12,585 since 2008.

The report tracks employment in Roman Catholics, Protestants, women and men.

There have been steeper falls in employment levels for Protestants than Roman Catholic's and steeper falls for men than for women.

The commission's Bob Collins said the decline in employment levels highlighted a "changing environment" in Northern Ireland.

"This period (2009) reflects the initial impact of the recession and also some significant demographic shifts," he said.

"We must balance and judge all of the available evidence to ensure that we can properly measure any questions of unfairness in employment."

The report looked at 517,272 employees and covered the 12 months of 2009.

The report also found that the proportion of applicants for jobs across Northern Ireland from the Roman Catholic community had continued to rise.


In 2007 the number of Roman Catholic applicants exceeded the number of Protestant for the first time.

This trend has continued and in 2009 the Catholic share (51%) exceeded that of their Protestant counterparts by (49%) by 10,465.

Mr Collins said information from the 20012 indicated that all age groups in the under-25 categories Roman Catholic's represented over 50%.

"That pattern will have worked its way up the age scale in the years since and it is a reasonable estimate that those currently in the 16-34 age range, Roman Catholic now represent some 52% ."

Mr Collins also said the three-yearly reviews employers undertake were an important source of information.

"They shed light not only on the composition of workforces and those joining or leaving them, but also on the extent to which employment in those workforces actually represents fair participation.

"The commission is actively considering how this material can be made more widely available to help obtain a greater understanding of these changing patterns."

The monitoring data also show the changing nature of our economy, and these changes will also have impacts on the community composition of the workforce.

In 1990 almost half of the monitored workforce (47.6%) in the private sector was employed in manufacturing.

Industries based on heavy engineering and textiles were among the largest employers in Northern Ireland.

In 2009 manufacturing accounted for just 22.7% of the private sector.

In 1990, the percentage of Roman Catholics in the then monitored workforce (firms of more than 25 employees) was 34.9%.

At the time it was estimated that 40% of those available for work were Catholics.

The 2009 report shows Roman Catholics made up 45.4% of the monitored workforce (firms of more than 10 employees), which matches the estimated percentage of Catholics available for work.

Mr Collins said the "steady and consistent convergence of the workforce" with the composition of those available for work can be tracked through the annual monitoring reports.

"Monitoring and the three yearly reviews have provided a focus for business and the public sector which has helped drive change in the Northern Ireland workforce over the past two decades," he said.

"It has helped us understand what is happening and why, and contributed to what is now a well-established awareness of the importance of equality of opportunity and fair participation.

"While economic developments and demographic changes clearly affect the realities of our economy and our society, they also affect our perceptions. It is important that they should also inform our expectations.

"The Equality Commission believes that workforce monitoring should be extended to the grounds of nationality and ethnic origin, so as to capture more accurately the facts about the changing workforce in Northern Ireland."