Belfast Telegraph

Number of Catholics out of work down by over 50% in 25 years

By Mark Edwards

The unemployment rate for Catholics has more than halved over the past 25 years, according to a new study.

Figures published in the Labour Force Religion Report by Stormont's Executive Office showed a remarkable transformation from a quarter of a century ago, when the unemployment rate in the Catholic community was more than twice as high.

In 1992 the unemployment rate was 9% for Protestants and 18% for Catholics.

According to the figures for 2016, these rates have dropped to 5% and 7% respectively.

In 1992 69% of working-age Protestants and 54% of working-age Catholics were employed. This has since changed to 71% and 68%.

Economist Dr Esmond Birnie of the Northern Ireland Economic Policy Centre said little divided the two communities.

"One point to draw from this analysis is that most of the labour market differences between the two largest religious communities are now small," he explained. "The Protestant and Catholic inactivity rates are almost the same - 25% and 26% respectively.

"The Protestant unemployment rate is 2 percentage points lower than the Catholic one at 5% and 7%.

"The Catholic employment rate is 3 percentage points lower at 68% and 71%.

"Catholics are more likely to be students and Protestants are more likely to own their home outright - this may partly reflect an older age of population. It is worth emphasising that differences between the two communities could reflect a wide range of explanations.

"Also, it is important to note that whereas in 1990 the two communities represented 94% of those surveyed, by 2016 'other' and 'not determined' had grown to 14%, so there is a growing third group outside of this type of analysis."

Historically, the Catholic community has experienced higher levels of economic inactivity and unemployment than the Protestant community.

The latest report also revealed that between 1990 and 2016 the proportion of the population aged 16 and over who reported as being Protestant decreased by 12 percentage points from 56% to 44%. The proportion of the population who reported as being Catholic, meanwhile, increased from 28% to 42%.

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