A guest post by Faha

(This is a follow on from Faha’s previous post Here– BD)

I did a post in March on the effect of immigration on the 2011 census figures for Northern Ireland. At that time I estimated that 50% to 55% of the foreign nationals Immigration 2that had immigrated to Northern Ireland were Catholic. Based on that estimate it appeared that the Catholic immigrants would have contributed little to the PERCENTAGE increase of the Catholic population but would have contributed approximately HALF ( 40,000 ) to the 80,000 increase in the Catholic population.  In May the census office released the file, DC2242NI-Country of Birth by Religion or Religion Brought in, which provides full detail of the religion background of the 80,760 people who were born outside of the UK or Ireland.

What were the results?

Total         Catholic    Protestant&OtherChristian    Other        None

80,760         42,874                 18,201                          6,641         13,044

53.1%                   22.5%                            8.2%          16.2%

The Catholic percentage is in the 50% to 55% range that I expected but the Protestant percentage is much higher than I expected. The Other group is much lower than expected and the None higher than expected.

Europeans account for 8,271 of the Protestant immigrants (almost half all Protestant immigrants ) and other religion files indicate that 1/3 are Eastern Orthodox. Half ( 2,782 ) of all African immigrants are Protestant and there are 2,963 are from Asia. The remaining 4,000+ are from Latin America, North America and Australia-New Zealand. There were some other unexpected findings. The number of Catholics and Protestants from South America are equal and the numbers are equal for the USA, Canada and Australia. Of those born in India 1/3 are Catholic. 70% of Chinese have no religion.

These numbers do not include the children of immigrants born in Northern Ireland. Birth statistics and school information for children who speak a foreign language indicate there are approximately 18,000 children of immigrants. Since the Eastern European immigrants did not begin arriving until 2004, those immigrant children born prior to 2005 (much lower numbers than currently) were predominantly of Chinese, Indian, Muslim and African origin. The Catholic percentage among all the children of immigrants would be less than 50% but those born in the 2 years since the census would definitely be above 50%. In the 2011 census Catholic immigrants (including their children) are probably 50% of the immigrant population. The 42,874 foreign born Catholic immigrants plus their Northern Ireland born children would be approximately 50,000. Approximately 5,000 were already present in the 2001 census so 45,000 would be new to the 2011 census .

While most have concentrated on the Catholic numbers the Protestant numbers are also interesting. There are 18,200 Protestants among the foreign born. There would also be approximately 4,000 children of those immigrants for a total of 22,000. Now perhaps 2,000 of those were present in the 2001 census so 20,000 would be new to the 2011 census.

With these figures on the ethnic population it is possible to give a breakdown of the entire 1,811,000 people in Northern Ireland. In my September 21st post on the 2011 school census, the school census indicated a minimum undercount of the entire Catholic population of over 20,000 and I will use those estimates. While the census definition religion of Catholic is straightforward the census definition of Protestant is more complicated. The definition is actually “Protestant and Other Christian and Christian related”. Included in this category are 435 who gave their religion as “mixed Catholic-Protestant”, over 2,000 Eastern Orthodox, over 2,000 Non-denominational or Independent, and 14,630 as “Christian”. The mixed Catholic-Protestant and Eastern Orthodox are clearly not Protestant and I include them with “Other”. I assume the Non-denominational and Independent are of Protestant background. The 14,630 “Christian” increased from only 8,000 in the 2001 census so it may be that this group is including more children of mixed marriages and Protestants and Catholics who do not belong to any church but still consider themselves Christian. The estimated numbers are:

Native Protestant                     848,000                          46.8%

Ethnic Protestant                        22,000                             1.2%

Native Catholic                         787,000                           43.5%

Ethnic Catholic                            50,000                             2.8%

Native Other/None                    77,000                             4.3%

Ethnic Other/None                    27,000                              1.5%

There was a significant emigration of the native Catholic and Protestant between 2001 and 2011, though less than between 1991 and 2001. The total Protestant population in the 2001 census was 895,000. There was a slight undercount of the Catholic population in the 2001 census, as indicated in the 2001 school census, but this was much less than 2011, approximately 5,000 with a corresponding over count of the Protestant population by 3,000 and the None group by 2,000. After subtracting that 3,000 from the Protestant total and removing the Protestant ethnic nationals and others that are not actually Protestant (Eastern Orthodox, etc.) the native Protestant population in 2001 was approximately 888,000. The native Protestant population declined by 40,000 between 2001 and 2011.  The census office estimated that the number of deaths exceeded the number of births by 5,000 so the remaining 35,000 decrease would be due to emigration. However, the number of British soldiers and dependents stationed in Northern Ireland decreased from 17,000 in 2001 to only 4,000 in 2011 and since they are included in the census this influences the emigration numbers. Approximately 10,000 of those soldiers who left would have been Protestant, 1,000 Catholic and 2,000 None.  The actual emigration of the native Protestant population would have been only 25,000.

The actual Catholic population in the 2001 census would have been 742,000 but excluding the estimated 5,000 ethnic nationals the native Catholic population would have been 737,000. The census office   estimated that the Catholic population had an excess of births over deaths of 72,000. Adjusting for the Catholic children of ethnic nationals who were born during that 10 year interval (and the 1,000 Catholic British soldiers who left) would indicate that the native Catholic population should have increased by 65,000. Since it only increased by 50,000 there was a net emigration of 15,000 from the native Catholic population. This is 10,000 less than the 25,000 Protestant numbers. This is probably due to the excess number of Protestant university students who attend school outside Northern Ireland and who do not return. This has been well documented. The University religion figures for Northern Ireland show more Catholics and fewer Protestants than would be expected from the religion numbers for those in secondary school.

The arrival of ethnic Catholic immigrants influences the overall figures since the Catholic population is increasing faster than it would otherwise. The arrival of Protestant ethnic immigrants is masking the overall decline of the native Protestant population. It is also clear that native Catholics and Protestants together are 90% of the population. The other 10% are ethnic immigrants and native people with no religion or Other religious background. Since native Catholics and Protestants are both in a minority the political balance of power will be determined by this 10% of the population in future elections.

Is it possible to predict the results of a future census?

Future predictions are always fraught with uncertainties. Among these would be changes in the birth rate and death rate, immigration and emigration. The death rate has not changed significantly for many years at 14,500 per year. The parents of almost all the children who will be born in the next 20 years are already present in the 2011 census so I would not go out any further than the 2031 census. If the birth rate remains at approximately 25,500 per year there would be 510,000 children born in the next 20 years. The religious breakdown would be approximately:

Catholic                      260,000

Protestant                  170,000

Other                             10,000

None                             70,000

If the death rate remains constant for the next 20 years the figures would be:

Catholic                    100,000

Protestant                180,000

Other/None                10,000

If current birth and death rates continue the natural increase (or decrease) would be:

Total Population

Catholic                    160,000                     1,000,000

Protestant                 -10,000                        860,000

Other/None               60,000                        165,000

If native emigration continues at the same extent as the time period between 2001 and 2011 (15,000 Catholic and 25,000 Protestant per decade ) the figures would be:

Catholic                                                          970,000               50.0%

Protestant                                                      810,000               41.8%

Other/None                                                   160,000                  8.2%

The Catholic population will be half the population. The Protestant population will have plummeted from over 53% in 2001 to only 41.8%. The Other/None group would hold the balance of power in any elections although these people are very diverse and it would be difficult to predict their voting patterns at this time.

The final unknown factor, and the least predictable, is the extent of immigration in the next 20 years. Since 2009, the number of ethnic nationals coming to Northern Ireland has decreased dramatically compared to earlier years and the net immigration is only 5,000 per year. The source of immigrants has also changed with few from Africa or Asia and 85% are of European origin (mainly Eastern European). I estimate that 70% of all recent immigrants are Catholic. Immigration is very dependent on the state of the economy and it is not possible to predict future economic growth in Northern Ireland. If net immigration of ethnic nationals remains at the current low levels over the next 20 years I would estimate the following (including future children born to these immigrants).

Catholic             90,000

Protestant         10,000

Other/None      25,000

If the current low levels of ethnic national immigration continues for another 20 years the final numbers in 2031 would be:

Catholic              1,060,000                                     51.3%

Protestant             820,000                                     39.7%

Other/None          185,000                                       9.0%

Total                    2,065,000

The Catholic population would have a narrow majority. However, the native Catholic population would only be 43.5%. The Protestant population would be just under 40% but the native Protestant population would only be 38%. The Other/None group (both native and ethnic immigrants) and ethnic Catholics and Protestants will be 17.5%.