CAIN Web Service

'The Economic Situation of Catholics and Protestants' by Bob Rowthorn and Naomi Wayne, from Northern Ireland - The Political Economy of Conflict



[CAIN_Home]
[Key_Events] [KEY_ISSUES] [Conflict_Background]
EMPLOYMENT: [Menu] [Summary] [Reading] [Chronology] [Background] [Main] [Sources]

Text: Bob Rowthorn and Naomi Wayne ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

The following chapter has been contributed by the authors, Bob Rowthorn and Naomi Wayne, with the permission of Polity Press. The views expressed in this chapter do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the CAIN Project. The CAIN Project would welcome other material which meets our guidelines for contributions.
This chapter is taken from the book:

NORTHERN IRELAND
THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF CONFLICT

by Bob Rowthorn and Naomi Wayne (1988)
ISBN 0 7456 0536 2 Paperback 230pp

Orders to:

Local bookshops, or
Polity Press
Dales Brewery
Gwydir Street
Cambridge
CB1 2LJ

This chapter is copyright Bob Rowthorn and Naomi Wayne 1997 and is included on the CAIN site by permission of the author and the publishers. You may not edit, adapt, or redistribute changed versions of this for other than your personal use without the express written permission of the author or the publisher, Polity Press. Redistribution for commercial purposes is not permitted.


Northern Ireland
The Political Economy of Conflict

Bob Rowthorn and Naomi Wayne


Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
1The Words We Use
A Note on Terminology
2How Did It All Begin?
3What Kind of Place?
Fifty Years of the Northern Ireland State
4Civil Rights and Beyond
From 1968 to the Present Day
5Casualties of War
6The Northern Ireland Economy since Partition
7The Economic Situation of Catholics and Protestants
8What Future for the Economy?
9The Way Forward
Conclusions
Appendix 1: Some Key Events
Appendix 2: The Constitutional Status of Northern Ireland
Appendix 3: Election Results in Northern Ireland 1975-87
Appendix 4: Statistics on the Conflict in Northern Ireland
Appendix 5: Paramilitary Documents
Appendix 6 : The BBC's Standing Instructions and Guidance for Journalists:
……………'Coverage of Matters Affecting Northern Ireland'
Appendix 7: Religion and Population in Northern Ireland:
……………Past Trends and Future Prospects
Select Bibliography
Index





Chapter 7
The Economic Situation of Catholics and Protestants


In this chapter we examine the economic circumstances of the two communities within Northern Ireland. After a brief consideration of comparative living standards we focus on employment and unemployment patterns. Here we find the hardest statistical evidence, and also the issues with the most far-reaching political and social consequences.

The standard of living

The Continuous Household Survey for 1983-4 provides the most recent information about living standards of Catholics and Protestants. This shows the following:

Housing

  1. 16 per cent Catholic and 6 per cent Protestant households had one or more bedrooms below standard.
  2. 16 per cent Catholics and 10 per cent Protestants considered their accommodation was too small.
  3. 28 per cent Catholics and 21 per cent Protestants complained of persistent problems of damp.

In other respects the average quality of housing seemed much the same in both communities. Overall, 16 per cent Catholics and 10 per cent Protestants considered their housing to be unsatisfactory. Thus, housing is on average worse among Catholics. However, a large majority of people in each community are fairly satisfied with their accommodation, though in each there is a minority whose housing is grossly inadequate.

Expenses

Table 7.1 Reported difficulty by Catholics and Protestants in paying rent

.
Always
Sometimes or often
Never
Catholics
20%
42%
37%
Protestants
14%
32%
54%

Source: Continuous Household Survey, 1983-4

There is clearly much poverty and insecurity within the working class of each community, though it is worse amongst Catholics. The survey tells us nothing, of course, about the middle and upper classes, who normally own their own houses.


Employment

Religion and employment

We have seen how employment opportunities for Catholics in Northern Ireland were restricted by discrimination, lack of education and skills, and the location of industry. In recent years some effort has been made to remedy some of these problems.

Catholics' education has improved. Some have acquired technical skills through special training programmes, and the Fair Employment Agency has been created to combat discrimination. In certain kinds of public employment discrimination has diminished. Catholics are now well represented up to the middle ranks in the civil service, though the top is still Protestant-dominated (much of this for historical reasons; i.e. because it takes time for newer entrants to secure promotion, etc.). However, Catholics remain disadvantaged. There are still many with inadequate skills, and they continue to suffer discrimination in both manufacturing and private services, particularly in the Belfast area. Also there are some types of work which few Catholics will accept: less Catholics are in the security forces now than 15 years ago.

With regard to location of industry, there has been a gradual shift of emphasis to create jobs in Catholic areas. Initially efforts were concentrated in Derry and other western parts of the province. This started even before the introduction of Direct Rule: between 1967 and 1971 the Catholic dominated west of the Bann, which contains 27 per cent of the population, received 36 per cent of the new jobs which were created with help from the Northern Ireland government. This development was partly due to an approaching scarcity of certain types of labour in the east of the province, and partly for political reasons.

In recent years attention has also focused on west Belfast, where Catholic unemployment is enormous. However, this shift has been operating against a background of industrial decline and the reluctance of outside firms to invest in Northern Ireland. LEDU's attempts to stimulate 'home grown' industry in Catholic areas have also had only limited success.

Who do which jobs? Catholics and Protestants

Protestants hold most of the top managerial, professional, scientific and technical jobs. Catholics are massively underrepresented in those positions and also in relatively well-paid areas like the security forces, and the metal and electrical trades. On the other hand, they are over-represented in such notoriously low-paid occupations as construction and personal services (table 7.2). Thus, Catholics are both more prone to unemployment than Protestants, and where they do have jobs, they are generally lower down the occupational scale. There is, however, one important exception.

They have a strong position in 'Professional and related occupations in education, welfare and health'. This is mainly due to the large number of Catholic nurses and teachers in Northern Ireland. Their overrepresentation in nursing is itself partly a reflection of both religious and sexual discrimination elsewhere in the labour market. Nursing is, quite simply, one of the few professions readily open to educated Catholic girls. The numbers in teaching are explained by the religious segregation of the schools. Children in Northern Ireland are normally taught by people from their own community: Catholics teach Catholics and Protestants teach Protestants. As Catholics generally have much larger families, proportionately more Catholic teachers are required.

Who do which jobs? Women and men

Catholic women suffer from higher unemployment than Protestants, but those in jobs are not seriously worse off. They are underrepresented in top managerial, technical and scientific jobs, but this is roughly cancelled out by their enormous overrepresentation in the middle-range public-service jobs, nursing and teaching.

What is more striking than religious differences is the gap between the sexes. In almost every well-paid or high-status job, the order of precedence is: first, Protestant men; then Catholic men; then women. As a rule, Catholic men have more chance of obtaining a 'good' job than women of either religion. The health and education professions are partial exceptions, though even here women are on the lower rungs of the ladder - nurses and class-room teachers: not doctors, consultants or school principals. (See table 7.2.)


Table 7.2: Occupations and unemployment in Northern Ireland (% of economically active population)

Occupational order
Male
Female
.
Catholic
Non-Catholic
Catholic
Non-Catholic
Order 1 Professional and related supporting management, senior national and local government managers
1.9
3.8
0.6
1.2
Order 2 Professional and related in education, welfare and health
5.5
4.6
19.9
14.6
Order 3 Literacy, artistic and sports
0.3
0.4
0.2
0.3
Order 4 Professional and related in science, engineering, technology and similar fields
1.7
3.7
0.4
0.6
Order 5 Managerial (excluding 04: farmers etc.)
5.2
7.7
2.4
3.4
Order 6 Clerical and related
4.7
6.4
19.0
27.1
Order 7 Selling
2.5
4.0
5.2
7.8
Order 8 Security and protective services
2.3
7.2
0.3
1.1
Order 9 Catering, cleaning, hairdressing and other personal services
3.1
2.2
19.3
19.4
Order 10 Farming, fishing and related (including 04: farmers etc.)
6.6
8.0
0.3
0.6
Order 11 Materials processing, making and repairing (excluding metal and electrical)
8.2
7.7
8.7
7.7
Order 12 Processing, making, repairing and related (metal and electrical)
8.4
14.2
0.9
1.1
Order 13 Painting, repetitive assembling, product inspecting, packaging and related
1.9
2.1
1.9
2.8
Order 14 Construction, mining and related
5.6
3.6
0.0
0.0
Order 15 Transport operating, materials moving and storing and related
6.6
7.4
0.2
0.3
Orders 16, 17 Miscellaneous and not stated
5.1
4.5
3.7
2.3
TOTAL EMPLOYED
69.8
87.6
82.9
90.4
UNEMPLOYED
30.2
12.4
17.1
9.6
TOTAL ECONOMICALLY ACTIVEa
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

a Working population
Source: Census of Population, 1971


Unemployment

The gap between Catholics and Protestants today

It is widely believed that the economic crisis of the 1980s has hit Protestants more than Catholics and eliminated many of the old inequalities. As far as unemployment is concerned, this belief is false. Unemployment has certainly risen amongst Protestants, and for many of them the future is bleak. However, it has risen even faster amongst Catholics and the gap between the two communities is now greater than ever before.

This is shown by the Census of Population (see table 7.3). In 1971 the male unemployment rates were: Catholics 17.3 per cent and Protestants 6.6 per cent; by 1981 these figures had reached 30.2 per cent and 12.4 per cent respectively. Thus, over the decade, the unemployment rate for Catholics had increased by 12.9 percentage points and for Protestants by 5.8 points.

Exact figures are not available for more recent years. However, evidence provided by the Continuous Household Survey suggests that in 1983-4 the male unemployment rate was around 35 per cent for Catholics and 15 per cent for Protestants. This means Protestant unemployment has only just reached the level considered normal for Catholics at the height of the economic prosperity in the early 1970s. Catholic women have also been worse hit by the crisis and have a higher unemployment rate than Protestant women, though the gap is less than for men.

Table 7.3 Unemployment in Northern Ireland

.
1971
%
1981
%
1983-4
%
Male
Catholic
17.3
30.2
35
Non-Catholic
6.6
12.4
15
AVERAGE
10.3
19.1
24
For comparison:
GB
5.5
11.3
14
Female
Catholic
7.0
17.1
17
Non-Catholic
3.6
9.6
11
AVERAGE
4.7
12.6
13
For comparison:
GB
4.7
7.4
10

Note: Unemployment is expressed as a percentage of all economically active persons, including the self-employed

Sources: Figures for 1971-81 are derived from the relevant Census of Population. NI figures for 1983-4 are derived from the Continuous Household Survey (see PPRU Monitor, No. 2, 1985). GB figures for 1983-4 are derived from information given in the Employment Gazette


There are two main factors explaining why unemployment has risen faster among Catholics:
1 The low rate of Catholic emigration in recent years. For a long time Catholic numbers in Northern Ireland have only been kept down by high emigration. Under present conditions, however, emigration is no longer necessarily an option. The economic crisis is now international and there are fewer jobs available in Britain and elsewhere for would-be emigrants. So, many Catholics who would otherwise have left, have remained at home to swell the ranks of the unemployed.
2 The collapse of employment opportunities for Catholics within Northern Ireland itself. The spectacular loss of jobs in the mainly Protestant industries, such as engineering and artificial fibres, has been accompanied by massive losses of Catholic jobs in such industries as clothing and construction. However, there is a crucial further problem for Catholics. Many of the new, non-manufacturing jobs created in recent years have been in sectors of the economy where Catholics find it difficult to obtain employment, or where, for political reasons, they are unwilling to accept it.


Security work

Of the Protestant growth sectors, by far the most important are the local security forces, which have mushroomed over the last 13 years. The combined strength of the RUC and UDR alone now approaches 20,000. If prison officers and other security and protective workers are included, the total employed in the local security services is around 30,000. Most of these are male Protestants. Approaching one in ten of all Protestant men in paid employment now works for the security forces in some capacity. Without this kind of job to fall back on, the unemployment rate amongst Protestant males would be much higher than it is at present, though still well below the rate amongst Catholics.

Table 7.4 Number of workers in NI security forces, 1985

Sector no. of workers
RUC 12,800
UDR 6,400
Prison service 3,300
Other security and protective services 6,600a
Total 29, 100b

a This figure refers to 1981
b Approximately 23,000 full time; the remainder part time
Source: NI Annual Abstract and authors' estimates based on NI Census of Population



The geography of unemployment

It is often said that unemployment amongst Catholics is especially high because of where they live: Catholics are concentrated west of the Bann where unemployment has always been relatively high, while Protestants are concentrated to the east where unemployment has always been lower. This is certainly true, and it does help to explain why unemployment is on average higher among Catholics (see table 7.5).

Table 7.5 Unemployment and religion in Northern Ireland, 1981

.
Percentage unemployment
.
Local government district
Male
Female
Catholics as % of population (estimate)a
Strabane
32.4
18.3
60.8
Newry and Mourne
30.9
18.8
74.1
Londonderry
29.0
15.5
68.1
Cookstown
28.9
20.3
53.1
Moyle
27.4
16.3
50.7
Limavady
26.8
14.5
54.3
Magherafelt
26.1
14.6
56.5
Dungannon
25.9
18.6
53.3
Omagh
22.1
14.2
64.2
Fermanagh
21.6
14.2
54.1
Belfast
21.3
13.5
38.5
Ballymoney
21.1
10.8
29.3
Coleraine
19.7
11.5
23.5
Craigavon
19.0
13.8
41.0
Armagh
18.8
12.9
45.2
Carrickfergus
16.9
10.8
8.1
Larne
16.2
12.1
24.2
Down
15.6
10.7
59.2
Antrim
15.4
11.7
32.7
Banbridge
14.7
12.9
28.4
Ballymena
13.1
10.1
18.9
Newtownabbey
12.5
9.6
13.4
Lisburn
11.9
11.0
21.1
Ards
11.3
10.4
12.8
Castlereagh
9.1
7.1
7.7
North Down
7.7
7.7
9.0

a The original census figures for Roman Catholics have been adjusted to allow for the fact that many people refused to state their religion when completing the census return. The estimates shown here are taken from Compton and Power, 1986.

Sources: Census of Population, 1981; P. A. Compton and J. P. Power, 'Estimates of the religious composition of the population of Northern Ireland' (unpublished paper, 1986)

However, this is only part of the story. It does not explain why there is such inequality between Catholics and Protestants throughout the province. No matter where they live, Catholics have a much higher unemployment rate than Protestants (see table 7.6). In almost every local government district unemployment amongst Catholics is much higher than amongst Protestants, sometimes by a gigantic margin.

Table 7.6 Percentage unemployment, 1981

.
Male
Female
Local government district
Catholic
Non-
Catholic
Catholic
Non-
Catholic
Antrim
24.5
10.5
15.5
9.6
Ards
21.2
9.8
12.0
9.8
Armagh
28.8
10.2
15.9
9.5
Ballymena
22.1
11.1
14.0
9.0
Ballymoney
30.0
16.4
13.7
9.1
Banbridge
23.1
11.0
18.9
9.8
Belfast
31.4
15.6
18.3
10.6
Carrickfergus
20.5
16.5
8.9
10.6
Castlereagh
8.6
9.2
6.9
6.8
Coleraine
27.5
16.4
13.9
10.1
Cookstown
43.3
14.4
26.6
12.6
Craigavon
30.4
11.0
19.5
9.6
Down
19.7
8.9
11.6
9.0
Dungannon
36.7
12.7
24.1
11.6
Fermanagh
30.1
11.1
17.1
10.4
Larne
24.4
13.1
13.7
10.9
Limavady
36.7
14.3
16.2
10.5
Lisburn
22.1
8.8
15.8
9.6
Londonderry
35.8
14.4
17.6
10.1
Magherafelt
31.9
16.5
17.5
11.0
Moyle
31.1
21.0
16.2
15.1
Newry and Mourne
35.5
14.8
20.1
12.0
Newtownabbey
18.1
11.8
11.5
8.9
North Down
11.1
7.1
9.2
7.0
Omagh
27.2
10.9
15.6
9.4
Strabane
39.0
21.9
20.4
13.6
NORTHERN IRELAND
30.2
12.4
17.1
9.6

Source: Unpublished data from the Northern Ireland Census of Population, 1981

The greatest gulf is in Cookstown where the male unemployment rate for Catholics in 1981 was 43.3 per cent as against 14.4 per cent for Protestants. Similar differences exist in Armagh, Craigavon, Dungannon, Fermanagh, Limavady, Lisburn, Derry and Omagh. In each case the male unemployment rate for Catholics is 2½ to 3 times greater than for Protestants. Among women the gap is less dramatic, though still considerable, and throughout the province female unemployment is much higher for Catholics than Protestants.

Unemployment in Britain and Northern Ireland

It is also often said that Northern Ireland, along with Merseyside, has the highest unemployment rate of any region in the UK. Though correct, this statement is misleading, because it ignores the large differences that exist within Northern Ireland itself.

Table 7.7 Unemployment, 1981: NI compared to GB regions

.
Male
%
Female
%
Northern Ireland (Catholics)
30.2
17.1
Merseyside
19.5
11.0
Northern Ireland (Average)
19.1
12.6
Central Clydeside conurbation
19.1
11.6
Tyne and Wear
18.1
9.3
West Midlands Metropolitan
16.7
9.6
Wales
14.8
9.7
Remainder of north
14.4
8.8
Greater Manchester
13.9
8.8
South Yorkshire
13.4
7.8
Northern Ireland (Non-Catholics)
12.4
9.6
West Yorkshire
12.4
7.4
Remainder of Scotland
11.6
8.4
Remainder of Yorkshire and Humberside
11.4
6.7
Britain (Average)
11.3
7.4
Remainder of north-west
11.2
7.8
Remainder of West Midlands
10.4
7.2
Greater London
10.1
6.6
East Midlands
9.7
6.5
South-west
8.9
6.6
East Anglia
8.5
5.7
Outer south-east
8.1
5.8
Outer metropolitan area (London)
6.6
4.6

Note: The figures give per cent of economically active population, ranked according to the male unemployment rate
Source: Census of Population, 1981

Although it has risen a great deal in recent years, unemployment amongst Northern Ireland Protestants is not especially high by UK standards. At the time of the 1981 Census of Population, for example, male unemployment amongst NI Protestants was 12.4 per cent, while in Britain average unemployment stood at 11.3 per cent. Moreover, there were eight British regions where male unemployment was higher than for NI Protestants, sometimes by a large margin. Indeed, in Merseyside, central Clydeside and Tyne and Wear the male unemployment rate was 1½ times the rate amongst NI Protestants (see table 7.7).

For Catholics the picture is very different. Their male unemployment rate is nearly three times the UK average, and is much higher than for any region in Britain. For example, in 1981, Northern Ireland male Catholic unemployment was 30.2 per cent, while in the worst region on the mainland, Merseyside, the figure was 19.1 per cent.

Belfast

Table 7.8 compares Belfast with some other UK cities where there has been a similar decline in manufacturing. Unemployment amongst Belfast Catholics is much higher than in any of the areas shown. Amongst Protestants, however, it is considerably lower than in these areas. The contrast is greater in the case of men. In the cities shown, the male unemployment rate in 1981 ranged from 19.9 per cent to 24 per cent. In the same year, Belfast male Protestant unemployment was 15.6 per cent, while for Catholics the figure was 31.4 per cent.

Table 7.8 Unemployment, 1981: comparison of Belfast with some British cities


.
Male
%
Female
%
Cities in Britain
Hartlepool
22.1
12.0
Middlesbrough
24.0
12.1
South Tyneside
20.7
10.4
Sunderland
19.9
11.3
Liverpool
24.0
13.3
Clydebank
20.8
12.2
Glasgow
23.8
12.6
.
Belfast
Catholics
31.4
18.3
Non-Catholics
15.6
10.6
Belfast Average
21.3
13.5

Source: Census of Population, 1981


Table 7.9 Male unemployment and religion in Belfast, 1981

Warda
Male unemployment
Catholics as % of population
(estimate)b
.
number
%
.
Whiterock
1,023
56.4
99.4
Falls
357
52.6
99.5
Grosvenor
270
50.2
92.3
New Lodge
575
45.7
94.9
Central
267
42.1
86.6
Ardoyne
614
40.8
79.3
Cromac
250
39.4
61.5
Court
314
37.6
3.0
Suffolk
887
35.3
99.3
Milltown
687
25.1
99.3
Clonard
507
34.7
97.5
Crumlin
278
34.3
60.2
St. James
651
33.4
95.5
Ballymacarrett
391
33.1
44.0
Shankill
447
27.6
0.0
Duncairn
309
27.3
27.0
University
328
26.9
61.2
Island
306
26.3
0.1
The Mount
317
25.3
1.2
Total of above Other
8,778
36.3
67.5
Wards
8,066
14.7
23.1
Belfast
16,844
21.3
36.9

a Named Wards are those with above 25 per cent male unemployment. These Wards contain 57 per cent of the city's Catholic population and 16 per cent of its Protestants. The Wards listed are arranged in order of decreasing male unemployment rate.
b See note to table 6.12. The estimates used in the present table refer to the enumerated population only; non-enumerated persons are ignored. The method of estimation used is described in Appendix 7.
Source: Census of Population, 1981

Unemployment amongst Belfast men is analysed on a ward-by-ward basis in table 7.9. Detailed information is given for wards in which the male unemployment rate was more than 25 per cent in 1981. Out of the 19 wards in this category, ten were overwhelmingly Catholic, four were mixed, and only five were predominantly Protestant.

The most interesting case is the Shankill ward, whose population is entirely Protestant. The Shankill is often cited as an area of extreme Protestant deprivation, and in 1981 its male unemployment rate was 27.6 per cent. This is an appalling figure. However, it is only half the level recorded in Catholic wards such as Whiterock, Falls and Grosvenor. It is also less than the average rate of unemployment amongst Catholic males in Northern Ireland as a whole. Thus, as far as male unemployment is concerned, the average Catholic rate is even worse than that for the most deprived Protestants of the Shankill.

Ethnic minority unemployment in Britain

Table 7.10 compares Northern Ireland Catholics with disadvantaged ethnic minorities in Britain. In 1983-4 unemployment amongst Northern Ireland male Catholics was 35 per cent, compared to 28 per cent for West Indian men and 22 per cent for men from the Indian subcontinent. The Northern Ireland male Protestant unemployment rate of 15 per cent was less than for any ethnic minority group in Britain. For women the picture is more complex, though even here it is clear that Northern Ireland Catholics are as badly off as most ethnic minorities in Britain.

Table 7.10 Unemployment in 1983/4: comparison with ethnic minorities

.
Males
%
Females
%
Northern Ireland: by religion, 1983/4
Catholic
35
17
Non-Catholic
15
11
Average NI
24
13
.
Britain: by ethnic origin, 1983
White
11.6
10.1
West Indian or Guyanese
27.6
18.0
Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi
21.5
21.6
Other
16.4
14.6
Average GB
12.1
10.4

Note: Figures give per cent of economically active population
Sources: NI: Continuous Household Survey (see PPRU Monitor, No. 2, 1985); GB: Social Trends, 1985 edition


Summary

Our survey of living standards and of employment and unemployment patterns in Northern Ireland can be summarized as follows:

1 While poverty and insecurity is widespread among the working class of each community, the situation of Catholics is considerably worse.
2 Unemployment amongst Catholics in Northern Ireland has risen faster and is several times greater than amongst Protestants. This inequality can be clearly seen right across the province - it is not confined to any particular district.
3 Unemployment amongst Northern Ireland Catholics is several times greater than the average in Britain. It is well above the level observed in the worst-hit regions in mainland Britain.
4 Male unemployment amongst Catholics in Northern Ireland is considerably higher than amongst any disadvantaged ethnic minority in mainland Britain.
5 Catholics who do have jobs are crowded into low-paid, insecure forms of employment. Most of the better paid jobs in the province are held by Protestants. This inequality is most striking amongst men. Amongst women the situation is more complex and there is no clear pattern of religious inferiority. Catholic women are under-represented in some well paid occupations. However, this is compensated for by their overrepresentation in middle-range public-sector jobs such as nursing and teaching.
6 Unemployment amongst Northern Ireland Protestants is only slightly greater than the average in Britain. It has risen in line with this average over the last 15 years. It is well below the levels observed in the depressed areas of Scotland, Wales and the North of England.
7 Unemployment amongst Northern Ireland Protestants, especially men, has been kept artificially low during the crisis by the provision of thousands of jobs in the RUC, UDR and other security-related occupations.


CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within the University of Ulster.


go to the top of this page go to the top of this page
Last modified :