Although it is not particularly new (it was published in March this year), the 2007 Labour Force Survey Religion Report is, as always, a fascinating compendium of information on the religious breakdown of Northern Ireland, and on the evolution of that breakdown. [For the enthusiasts, the 2006 LFS Religion Report is here]
The report is too detailed to be summarised in one blog entry, but some interesting snippets include:
2.3 Population aged 60+: Figure 2.3 shows the composition of the population aged 60+. The proportion of Protestants was 66% in 1990 and 63% in 2007. The proportion of Roman Catholics was 30% in 1990 and 31% in 2007. The proportion of the population aged 60+ from the other/non determined group was 5% in 1990 and 6% in 2007.
2.4 Population aged 16-24: The composition of the population aged between 16 and 24 is shown in Figure 2.4. The proportion of Protestants was 49% in 1990 and 42% in 2007. The proportion of Roman Catholics was 44% in 1990 and 50% in 2007. The proportion of the population aged 16 – 24 years from the other / non determined group was 7% in 1990 and 8% in 2007.
In short, although it is based on samples rather than the whole population, the LFS Religion Report shows that the deceleration of the Protestant proportion of young adults is incredibly fast: from 49% to 42% in less than a generation. These are the people who are going to get the jobs, buy the houses and have the kids in the next few years! And the older people, those who comprise most of the deaths, remain two-thirds Protestant.
If 50% of the 16-24 year-olds are Catholic, then at least 50% of new entrants to the workforce should also be Catholic. But where will they work? Well: ' … over the period 1993 to 2007 the percentage of Catholics with higher qualifications has increased from 17% to 31% and the percentage of Protestants with higher qualifications has increased from 17% to 26%' – so with a greater proportion of the greater number with higher qualifications (Catholics: 31% of 50% = 15.5%, against Protestants: 26% of 42% = 10.9%), Catholics can expect to take around 60% of the better jobs. Figure 7.2 in the report shows how this gap is actually increasing over time.
Being based on samples means that there is always some variability in the results, but taken over the period in question, 1990-2007, the patterns in the many graphs and tables in the report are clear and unequivocal – Northern Ireland's workforce, like its general population is rapidly becoming less Protestant and more Catholic. Nothing in this report argues against the general thesis of this blog, that within the next generation Northern Ireland will have a Catholic majority, and that unless a major change happens, this will be followed by a nationalist majority. Ulster, it seems, is still doomed!