Belfast Telegraph

Manufacturing workforce 'halves'

The size of the workforce in Northern Ireland's once pre-eminent manufacturing industry has more than halved in the last two decades.

Textile weaving, heavy engineering and other production line factories employed just under 50% of the region's private sector workers in 1990.

The sector now accounts for only 22.7% of the sector, according to figures from the Equality Commission.

Proof of the recent downturn's impact on Northern Ireland's overall workforce was also outlined in the commission's 20th annual monitoring report, with the number of employees down for the first time in a decade.

The 12,585 drop (2.4%) left the pool of employed workers at 517,272. The figures cover the situation in 2009 and so only reflect the initial effect of the recession.

In terms of the traditional religious breakdown of the workforce, Protestants outnumber Catholics 55% to 45% - matching the percentages of those available for work.

But the region's shifting demographics, with more Catholics than Protestants in the under 35 age bracket, have resulted in more Catholics applying for jobs for the third year in succession (51% to 49% - a difference of 10,465).

"This report highlights a changing employment environment in Northern Ireland," said Bob Collins, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

"It provides a snapshot in time, but also, when taken alongside monitoring information from the last two decades can help us to draw some conclusions on trends and patterns.

"It is vital, however, that this information is taken in the round. This period (2009) reflects the initial impact of the recession and also some significant demographic shifts. We must balance and judge all of the available evidence to ensure that we can properly measure any questions of unfairness in employment."

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