Northern Ireland

Catholics outnumber Protestants in employment for the first time, report says

The latest figures from the Equality Commission show there are more Catholics in the workforce than Protestants

Business people analyses charts.
For the first time, there are more Catholics in Northern Ireland's monitored workforce than Protestants. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

There are more Catholics in the north’s workforce than Protestants for the first time - new figures show.

The latest edition of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland’s Fair Employment Monitoring Report revealed that workers from the Catholic community made up the majority of the workforce at 50.1%, compared to 49.1% from the Protestant community.

It is the first time since monitoring began in 1991.

These figures mark an end to the long-standing Protestant majority in the north’s workforce.

In 2001, Catholics made up just 40.3% of those in work while Protestants represented 59.7%; 20 years later in 2021, these figures were balanced at 50-50 exactly.

Following a pattern of growth in the Catholic proportion of the workforce, averaging 0.5% each year between 2001 and 2021, the most recent increase of 0.1% puts Catholics ahead for the first time.

Geraldine McGahey, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission said: “The latest monitoring report provides a valuable snapshot of the Northern Ireland workforce and shows the progress that has been made in relation to fair employment here.

“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 news is the latest in a series of indicators showing Catholic population growth in the north.

Residents who arrived in the country earliest are more likely to have English as their main language, according to the 2021 census (Danny Lawson/PA)
Results of the 2021 census showed that Catholics outnumbered Protestants in the north for the first time. (Danny Lawson/PA)

The results of the 2021 census revealed that the Catholic population outnumbered Protestants in Northern Ireland for the first time.

The report also revealed that more Catholics applied for monitored jobs and were appointed than their Protestant counterparts.

In 2022, 52.3% of applicants and 52.5% of appointees were Catholic, compared to 47.7% and 47.5% of Protestants, respectively – this is in line with figures recorded over the past few years.

In addition, Catholics were confirmed to makeup the majority of the workforce (50.8%) in the public sector, with the largest proportions in the health (55%) and education sectors (51%).

However, Protestants still represent the majority of Civil Service employees (51%) and still hold the most jobs in the private sector (50.2%).

Elsewhere, females continued to constitute the majority of the monitored workforce at 52.5%, consistently sitting around this level since 2010.

The report covers an estimated 62 - 65% of those in employment and includes all public and private sector employers with 11 or more employees.