07 Aug 2022

Report reveals decline in number of Protestants of working age in last 25 years


Northern Ireland labour market analysis along religious lines has revealed that the number of Protestants of working age here has dropped dramatically and is one just one per cent above their Catholic counterparts.

The new report, published by the Executive Office, examines the labour market characteristics of Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.

The newly released Labour Force Survey Religion Report, based on data accumulated in 2017, has revealed that those aged 16 and upward who identified as Protestant stood at 56 per cent in 1990. However in 2017 that figure had dropped to 42 per cent.

By comparison, the number of Catholics has risen in the same timeframe from 38 to 41 per cent.

Those who identified as ‘other’ or ‘non determined’ also rose sharply in the last 25 years. It was just six per cent in 1990 but as of 2017 stood at 17 per cent.

In terms of economic activity, over the 15 years up to 2017, there has been a higher level of working age economic activity among the Protestant community here compared with the Catholic community, although there has been a convergence over that time period.

In 1992, 76 per cent of working age Protestants were economically active, compared with 66 per cent of working age Catholics – a 10 percentage point difference.

By 2017 that had changed dramatically, with the working age economic activity rate standing at 73 per cent for Protestants and 70 per cent for Catholics. In 1992, the working age economic inactivity rate was 24 per cent for Protestants and 34 per cent for Catholics; in 2017, the gap had significantly narrowed-at 27 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. The report states that Catholics generally have experienced higher rates of unemployment than Protestants, although the difference between the two rates has also decreased over the time period.

In 1992, the unemployment rate was nine per cent for Protestants and 18 per cent for Catholics; in 2017 these rates were four per cent for both Protestants and Catholics. A consistently higher proportion of working age Protestants have been in employment compared with their Catholic counterparts between 1992 and 2017.

This difference has also decreased over time – in 1992, 69 per cent of working age Protestants and 54 per cent of working age Catholics were in employment; by 2017 these rates were 70 per cent and 67 per cent respectively.

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