Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Unemployment figures static for last 30 years in the north of Ireland

Jarlath Kearney:

Catholic women are three and a half times more likely to be unemployed than Protestant women in the North.

We can also reveal, in general, Catholics remain precisely twice as likely to be on the dole queue as Protestants.

The shocking figures are drawn from official British government Labour Force Survey statistics which have been obtained by our sister paper Daily Ireland. The survey was conducted on a quarterly basis for the 12 months between Winter 03/04 and Autumn 2004.

Margins of sampling error – which are consistently greater for the Catholic aggregate – mean that the real disparity could be even worse.

For over 30 years the unemployment differential between Catholics and Protestants has been regarded as a crucial indicator of inequality across the North.

In April 2003 the British government pledged in the Joint Declaration with the Irish government to take effective action which would tackle the unemployment differential "by targeting objective need".

This assurance followed successive fair employment laws introduced in 1976, 1989, 1991 and 1998. Throughout that entire period, the unemployment differential has remained virtually static, with Catholics consistently at least twice as likely to be unemployed.

However when the positive political, social and economic developments of the last decade are taken into account alongside the overall fall in unemployment, the lack of any significant change in the ratio is arguably even more serious. The figures demonstrate that, for Catholic women in particular, the prospects are not improving.

In recent years, British government sponsored researchers have claimed that social factors other than discrimination are responsible for the disparity in the unemployment differential.

However, the startling precision with which such inequality has been maintained remains a source of considerable concern for anti-discrimination campaigners.

The latest figures come just days after the official 2005 deprivation statistics for the North were published.

According to the deprivation statistics, the predominantly nationalist parliamentary constituencies of West Belfast, Foyle and West Tyrone are among the four areas of the North where the highest proportion of deprived people live.

Strongly unionist constituencies of North Down, Strangford, Lagan Valley and South Antrim have the least number of people living in deprived conditions.

A major conference on equality which is taking place tomorrow in Belfast will be addressed by one of North America's most powerful elected politicians, Alan Hevesi.

Mr Hevesi is the financial comptroller for New York state and his office administers the second largest pension fund in America.

In spite of bitter opposition from the British government, Mr Hevesi has remained a determined campaigner for fair employment initiatives in the North, such as the MacBride Principles, throughout his political career.

At a press conference tomorrow morning, Mr Hevesi is expected to make a major investment announcement.

Last Friday Daily Ireland revealed that the British government ban which prevents Irish citizens gaining employment in the North's senior Civil Service will remain in place for at least another 12 months.

An analysis by the Andersonstown News last year concluded that, based on recruitment trends over 30 years, the senior Civil Service could not achieve fair representativeness until at least 2057. At present just one out of every four senior civil servants is Catholic.

In March, Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern caused considerable disquiet in Northern nationalist political circles when he alleged in a newspaper interview that "the type of discrimination that took place (in the North) in previous decades, all of that has disappeared."

So much for equality in the north of Ireland.

North’s Catholics twice as likely to be jobless as Protestants


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