Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: New figures on religious breakdown in Northern Ireland - Working age Protestants drop by 14%

Between 1990 and 2017, the proportion of the working age population reporting as Protestant has fallen.
Between 1990 and 2017, the proportion of the working age population reporting as Protestant has fallen.

There has been a sharp drop in the number of working age people in Northern Ireland designating themselves as Protestants, according to the latest figures.

According to the latest Labour Force Survey Religion Report, between 1990 and 2017 the proportion of the population aged 16 and over reporting as Protestant has fallen from 56% to 42%, while the proportion reporting as Catholic increased from 38% to 41%.

The number of people reporting as "other/non-determined" has more than doubled over this period - from 6% to 17%.

The Labour Force Survey Religion Report examines the labour market differences of the two religions in Northern Ireland, including unemployment rates and levels of economic activity.

Fair employment legislation requires public bodies in Northern Ireland to promote "equality of opportunity" between people on a number of grounds, including religion.

The Equality Commission also monitors all private sector firms with more than 10 employees.

Historically the Catholic community in the province has experienced a higher unemployment rate than the Protestant community, however over the years this gap has gradually narrowed. In 2017 the rate was equal for both groups at 4%.

These rates first levelled off in 2015, with the latest report showing this has remained the case into 2017.

The difference in the level of economic inactivity between the two communities has also changed over the years. Economic inactivity refers to those who are not in education, employment, training, or actively seeking work.

In 1992, the rate of economic inactivity rate was 24% for Protestants and 34% for Catholics, in 2017 the rates were 27% and 30%, respectively.

"Some similar patterns emerge when examining the changes in the reasons for working age economic inactivity among Catholics between 1992 and 2017 – those looking after family/home has decreased, and the proportion who are sick or disabled has increased over this time period," the report notes.

"However, the proportion of working age economically inactive Catholics who are students has increased, whilst the Protestant figure has decreased."

In terms of how the two communities were split across different job sectors, the greatest difference is in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector, which employed 65% Protestants and 35% Catholics in 2017.

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