I’d like to extend my best wishes to all who read this blog for the new year. I trust everyone had a great Christmas and thanks for bearing with me during my recent quiet spell.

Back to business. Rather than going over the events of 2014 I’m going to take a look at the recently issued OFMDFM 2013 Labour Force Survey Report. This gives us an opportunity to take a look at the demographic changes that have occurred since 1990 and also includes information that is more up to date than the 2011 Census. The report in it’s entirety is available here.

2014 was a relatively quiet year demographically.The Euro and Local elections threw up few surprises on a low turnout. 2015 may, perhaps, be more interesting with the May Westminster election and the 2016 Assembly election 12 months hence.

Regarding my analysis of the report below, there are two important notes to be aware of:

  • The definition of “Working age” changed in 2010 to include females between 59 and 64. (everyone else is defined as 16 to 64)
  • Those respondents defining themselves as neither Catholic nor Protestant are excluded from the figures. It is my belief that the majority of those defining themselves as “Other” are, in fact from a Catholic background due to the fact that they are predominantly a younger demographic and therefore more likely to come from a Catholic upbringing which is less likely to define itself as such. It should be noted that Catholics were in a majority at every age below 42 in 2013 according to the 2011 Census.

As regular readers here may be aware, the demographic and electoral trend seems to have stalled somewhat in recent years with the Catholic/ Nationalist vote settling at around the 44% mark while the Unionist percentage continues to decline steadily and is currently around the 50% mark. I am firmly of the view that the potential nationalist electorate is under-represented across the North. I believe that this is due to a number of factors:

  • Political apathy by the electorate
  • Under registration of voters
  • Poor candidate selection and lack of application in what are viewed as “Unionist” areas by Nationalist parties
  • Lack of strategic vision. eg: Economic, Social, Political.
  • Fragmentation of the vote due to a refusal on the part of the electorate to be defined as “one” or”t’other”. (A good thing in my view)

Here are some figure from the report:

NI 2013 Labour Rpt1


I think the figures are pretty stark here. Between 1992 and 2013:

  • Protestant working age economic participation declined by 4% while Catholic participation rose by 5%. A 9% swing. That is pretty dramatic in a 21 year period. Is it down to fair employment legislation or, perhaps, an ageing protestant workforce?
  • Protestant unemployment rates declined from 9% to 6%. Great news. Catholic Unemployment rates declined from 18% to 9%. Halved. Of course the real story is that the gap was so large in the first place and is narrowing so quickly.

From the Report “Between 1990 and 2013, the proportion of the population aged 16 and over who reported
as Protestant decreased by eight percentage points from 56% to 48%, while the proportion
who reported as Catholic increased by three percentage points from 38% to 41%. Over
this period, the proportion of the population reported as ‘other/non-determined’ has almost
doubled (from 6% to 11%)”

NI Labour Report 2013 2From the report, between 1990 and 2013 the number of Protestants increased by 37,000, or 6%, to 680,000, while the number of Catholics increased by 148,000, or 34%, to 588,000 over the same period. The number of people aged 16 and over classified as ‘other/non-determined’ has more than doubled from 63,000 to 161,000 over this period.
By way of providing context to the figures obtained in the LFS sample, according to the
2011 Census there were 618,000 Protestants aged 16 and over in Northern Ireland,
compared to 567,000 Catholics, and 247,000 who would be considered ‘other/non determined’.
Thus, in 2011, 43% of those aged 16 and over were Protestant, 40% were
Catholic and 17% were ‘other/non-determined’.

Interesting? Perhaps we should look at the age profiles next?

Ni Labour Report 2013 3


Again, from the report: There were 166,000 Protestants aged 60 and over in 1990 and this had increased to 213,000 by 2013. The number of Catholics in this age group increased from 76,000 to 117,000 over the same period. The 11,000 aged 60 and over classified as ‘other/nondetermined’ in 1990 had more than doubled to 28,000 by 2013.

To provide context to the figures obtained in the LFS sample, Census figures from 2011
show that among those aged 60 and over, 55% (198,000) were Protestant, 33% (118,000) were Catholic, and 12% (42,000) would be considered ‘other/non-determined’.

And so what of the future?

Lets take a look at the 16 to 24 age cohort:

NI Labour report 2013 4In Summary: Between 1990 and 2013, the number of Protestants in this age group has decreased by 25,000 (22%) to 91,000. The number of Catholics has also decreased over this period, albeit to a lesser extent, from 105,000 to 99,000 (6%). These decreases have been somewhat offset by an increase among those classified as ‘other/non-determined’; from16,000 in 1990 to 28,000 in 2013.
According to the 2011 Census, 36% of those aged 16 to 24 were Protestant (82,000), 44%were Catholic (100,000) and 20% were ‘other/non-determined’ (45,000)

I hope my fellow number crunchers have something to get their teeth into there. I certainly found it fascinating.

In the release of state papers over the last few days it was noted that in 1986, Maggie Thatcher was informed that nationalists in Ireland had a strategy of waiting, that time was on their side. There is undoubtedly a truth in that.

Athbhliain faoi mhaise dhuit!