• February 12, 1997

In August 1995, the Celtic League produced a report highly critical of the impact of so called Fair Employment Legislation in Ulster entitled, “Employment Discrimination in the North of Ireland” (see CARN magazine – Autumn 1995)

This report concluded that, on the basis of best analysis, the 1989 Fair Employment (N. Ireland) Act, whilst putting in place a decisive framework to tackle religious and political discrimination, had not reduced the high employment levels which we speculated meant Northern Catholics were more than twice as likely to be unemployed than Protestants.

We were also scathing of British Social Commentators who, comparing the Ulster legislation with comparable United Kingdom ‘mainland’ legislation aimed at ending racial discrimination in employment matters, concluded the N. Ireland Act was a better model.

The latest information compiled by the Northern Ireland Labour Force Survey dramatically confirms our assertions. The overall employment situation is still bad in the North, with the male unemployment rate (at 12.6%) higher than those in “other regions of the UK”. Although the overall unemployment rate has declined by approx. 7% since 1984 many of the jobs created are part-time. Whilst the female labour force increased by 22,000 in the period 1984-94, during the same period the number of economically active men declined by 3,000.

The statistics are most telling however in the area of religion. Unemployment rates for males indicate that in spring 1994 22% of Roman Catholics were unemployed as opposed to 11% of Protestants. The two to one imbalance was almost as bad when it came to women with 5% of Protestants to 8 % of Catholics. Overall the figure was 9% of Protestants and 16% of Roman Catholics unemployed.

The picture was further compounded when assessment of the relative periods for which individuals were unemployed. Again, Roman Catholics tended to have greater difficulty obtaining employment than their Protestant neighbours.

The overall position is as we had earlier concluded. Religiously based employment discrimination is still endemic. More detailed analysis of previous Northern Ireland Labour Force Surveys show that despite the earlier legislation and the revised 1989 Act discrimination against Roman Catholics over jobs persists.

A detailed report is under preparation and will be published in CARN in due course.

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