Catholics outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland workforce for the first time – study – The Irish Times



Catholics are outnumbering Protestants in the Northern Ireland workforce for the first time, a new report has revealed.

Published by the North’s Equality Commission, the study shows that 50.1 per cent of the workforce was Catholic while 49.9 per cent was Protestant in 2022.

The 33rd fair employment monitoring report used data provided to the commission by private and public sector employers.

It is the first time since monitoring began that the trend has emerged and marks “an end to the long-established trend of members of the Protestant community accounting for a greater share of the total monitored workforce” while continuing the trend of an increasing share from members of the Catholic community “albeit at a slower rate than observed as a whole over the period 2001-2022”, according to the report.

In the same period, the female share of the workforce increased by 0.1 per cent from the previous year (52.5 per cent).

Fair employment legislation laid down in 1991 was cited for driving the change.

Geraldine McGahey, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission, said the development “shows the progress that has been made in relation to fair employment”.

“The latest monitoring report provides a valuable snapshot of the Northern Ireland workforce. We thank the employers who compile details of their workforce annually,” she said.

“The Equality Commission is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and we have seen notable change in Northern Ireland over this time. The fair employment protections have been instrumental in driving this change. Although fair participation has not been achieved in all workplaces, we continue to encourage and support employers across Northern Ireland to continue their efforts to make this a reality.”

The report analysed more than 3,800 valid monitoring returns received from 105 public authorities and 3,702 private sector concerns.

The total monitored workforce in 2022 was 578,403 – with an estimated under-reporting of 1,144 employees.

Ms McGahey noted that “many people from other countries have come to work and make a new life in Northern Ireland”.

“The extension of monitoring requirements to include nationality and ethnic origin would allow employers to refine their assessments of fair participation by community background in their organisations,” she added.

“It is a chance to strengthen and enhance the laws that have worked so well to make our workplaces less divided, more inclusive, and more accepting of difference.”



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