As some readers will be aware NISRA produced a report last week regarding 2017 data on the composition of the workforce here.

The Labour force survey religion report (2017) contains a wealth of data including some very interesting post Census 2011 demographic data as well as historical comparisons.

The report runs to 83 pages and goes into considerable detail. It can be accessed in full Here.

For the purpose of this blog I will look at the demographic changes revealed and how they are driving the changes that are now becoming apparent in society and how those changes are, in fact, accelerating.equality-2col

Looking firstly at the relevant Community characteristics, it is clear that the direction of travel is only one way.

From the Report:

“There were 643,000 Protestants aged 16 and over in 1990; in 2017 this figure has
decreased, to 612,000. Over this period, the number of Catholics increased by 165,000, or
38%, from 440,000 to 605,000. The number of people aged 16 and over classified as
‘other/non-determined’ has more than trebled from 63,000 to 245,000 between 1990 and

That is a 7000 person gap between the two primary blocs or 0.6%.

Over this period Protestants (42%) have declined by 14% while Catholics (41%) have increased by 3%. The “Other” cohort has increased from 6% to 17%.

Remember that the figures are from two years ago and clearly the “Other” classification has grown substantially over the period, the question regarding this cohort is which way they would be likely to vote in the coming Border Poll.

It is clear from the above that those from a Catholic background have a net gain of at least 196,000 over the period up to 2017.

If we look at those of Working Age only, (16-59), again from the report:

“Over this period (1990 – 2017), the number of Protestants of working age decreased by 10% (from
495,000 to 446,000), the number of working age Catholics increased by 36% (from
375,000 to 509,000), and the number of those classified as ‘other/non-determined’ more
than quadrupled (from 53,000 to 216,000)”

If we break down the age cohorts further we can see the following:

Age (2017) Catholic Protestant
16+ 41% 42%
16 – 24 45% 33%
16 – 59 43% 38%
60+ 35% 54%

In other words we can see that protestants are now a minority amongst those of working age. this is an accelerating trend as the proportion of elderly/ retired protestants is obviously higher than for catholics. (The elderly and retired don’t tend to be prominent in the childbearing cohorts).

Another area of note is the analysis of Household type across the different cohorts.

Household Type 2017

The above chart from the NISRA report, demonstrates that the only cohorts where protestants are in the majority are single pensioners and pensioner couples with no children.

The implications of this for the future trends should require no further explaination.

For brevity and given the focus of our site here, I haven’t gone into great detail on all aspects of the report but I would urge everyone to have a read in depth using the link provided above.

I’m aware the report is a religion rather than a political analysis. I’m sure the DUP “outreach to Catholics” project is progressing well as always.

It’s, as always, important not to conflate Catholics with Nationalists or Protestants with Unionists in an absolute way but it should be clear that the “Other” cohort is key to where we will be going next. This is a subject Faha has covered on this site previously. I have my own thoughts on the subject but as always things will come down to the votes cast in the next election cycles.

I’m also sure that intelligent unionists know what’s coming down the line and are trying to warn their representatives. As Peter Robinson discovered, that can provoke unfortunate responses from the Sammy Wilson’s of this world.

As always, further research, comment and analysis, from whatever source, is very welcome.

PS: Just one small detail I haven’t mentioned…………… Brexit