Tuesday 15 July 2008

Fair Employment Monitoring Report No. 17

Northern Ireland is one of the most weighed and measured regions in the world. Numerous agencies collect and publish statistics on all sorts of things. In addition to the 'normal' state data collection, the 'community' (read 'religious') division in Northern Ireland requires additional data to be collected concerning the religion (or not) of every employee, and the tough equal opportunities legislation in place calls for detailed data concerning almost all areas of society.

The benefit of this, of course, is that we have a great deal of information on the composition of Northern Irish society, and how that composition is evolving. The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is responsible for publishing huge amounts of this information, amongst which are annual analyses of the composition of the labour force – the Fair Employment Monitoring Reports, of which no 17 is the latest (Summary here). This includes information on the religious evolution of the labour force from 1990 to 2006, and it makes very interesting reading. It is worth repeating that the period covered is only 16 years, which is barely a blink of the eye of history. And yet, even during this blink of the eye, the evolution is remarkable. The report deals separately with various parts of the workforce; public, private, male, female, part-time, full-time, and so on, but the overall evolution is captured well in one image:

[image removed temporarily]

The period from 1990 to 2006 is one in which the economy of Northern Ireland recovered somewhat, the war/troubles came to an end, and equality laws were strengthened. So the starting point in 1990 may not truly represent the actual breakdown of the workforce at that time. It could be that, as Catholic rates of unemployment have fallen, the proportion of Catholics in the workforce has risen. However, unemployment had fallen to quite a low level somewhere by the middle of the series, and yet the Catholic proportion still kept rising. The graph above shows just Catholics and Protestants – the 'not stated' and others are temporarily ignored – but it is nonetheless striking.

It seems that what the Equality Commission is recording is the extremely rapid (in historical terms) increase in the Catholic proportion of the workforce, and by extension in the general population. A rise of 8.2% in the Catholic proportion of the workforce over 16 years, bringing it to only 6.9% short of a majority, implies that parity may be only a decade away. And after parity, there is no reason to think that the evolution will stop. We know, for example, that more school kids are Catholic than Protestant, and that more Protestant students go to university in Britain and do not come back. As older workers (majority Protestant) retire, they will be replaced by younger (majority Catholic) entrants to the workforce.

The timing of the tipping of the balance in the workforce is remarkably close to that of the electorate (see here). It seems that the 20-teens are going to be a traumatic decade for unionism. In addition to the realisation that its days of majority in its self-carved statelet are over, unionism will have to face a plethora of centenaries, all of which will remind us of the unfinished business of national reunification and independence; 2014 (Home Rule Act), 2016 (Easter Rising), 2018 (General Election), 2019 (First Dáil), and so on.


Democratic-Centre said...

Of course, when Catholics become the large bulk of the workforce, it will still not necessarily equate to majoritarian green rule.

There will be Protestants over 65, more disproportionate to Catholics; however, you need also to consider that with the current work sitting inside the public sector realm, are those in employment going to give it up for something amounting to nothing? And it is likely that will hold down very rewarding jobs, financially; if qualifications dictate speed of progression inside the public sector and Catholics who remain in NI do hold proportionately higher HE qualfications than Protestants then they should be in those 'good' jobs.

The key is private investment, private sector proportion of overall employment sector.

Your blog is interesting and have enjoyed reading it in as much as Ulster is doomed if the political basis remains as is.

Another thing worthy of consideration too working off the EC Workforce report is that, in terms of economic downturn, Protestant counts may deplete quicker than Catholics as it they who on average hold better qualifications so this may help employability in a reduced market.

Anonymous said...

Unionism is growing within the Catholic Community. Already, 1 in 4 Catholics are Unionists. How many Protestants are Seperatist (traitors!)? Barely 1 in 20 if that. National reunification is an unfinished business I agree. But that reunification will occur with the 26 republican occupied counties rejoining the United Kingdom. It is only a matter of time! Then, both Ireland and the United Kingdom will be united. The British nation consists of 4 nations: England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. And there is simply no good reason of most of the Irish nation to remain outside of the Union any longer. Northern Ireland has never been a part of the Republic, so it could hardly reunify with it by leaving the UK, not that it would ever want to! And that would leave the people of the British Isles even more divided than before. Southern Ireland should never have been allowed to have separate from the rest of our country, the fact it was allowed to is why Ireland, and the British Isles are no longer united today. And only the South rejoining the rest of the British Isles in political unity can end the division of both the Irish and British nation. The sooner they wake up to themselves and realise this the better for us all!