raising an old issue like employment

At the moment, as Pete flagged a couple of days ago, Bill Clinton is doing some heavy lifting in the US for job creation on behalf of the Republic of Ireland’s government. Over at the Belfast media group, Jude Collins provides an interesting contrast, highlighting the uneven results of Invest NI’s work:

During  2010/2011, Invest NI  managed to secure NOT A SINGLE JOB in West Belfast. Yet  year after year, south and east Belfast attract shed loads more money via Invest NI than does north or west Belfast.

Collins also references back to the OFMDFM Labour Force Survey Religion Report from 2009 (published 2010: see page 21 onwards) which showed that, while the differential in unemployment between Catholics and Protestants had dropped considerably from 1992 to 2007-08, it was begining to widen again from 2008 onwards.

He goes on to be scathing about the current lack of attention (including in the locating of public sector jobs) towards this issue:

My suspicion is that in our desire to bury old animosities, we’ve reached the point where raising an old issue like employment inequality might be considered backward-looking, smelling of yesteryear. And yet I was talking to a senior trade union official a while back who insisted that lots of firms here operate with very uneven Catholic:Protestant figures for the workforce. Cases aren’t brought against them because people, including those involved, fear the repercussions of kicking up stink.

So it appears, the more some things have changed, the more some others appear to stay the same

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  • FuturePhysicist

    Sadly it does happen when a person of one group tries to take a job in an area where another group is in majority.

  • Mick Fealty

    Is there any data on the whys of it John?

  • Pete Baker

    “At the moment, Bill Clinton is doing some heavy lifting in the US for job creation on behalf of the Republic of Ireland’s government.”

    That would be the “Invest in Ireland” event I flagged up a couple of days ago…

  • Dec

    ‘That would be the “Invest in Ireland” event I flagged up a couple of days ago…’

    John presumably favoured linking to a source that didn’t feature quite so much ‘internal dialogue’.

  • Mick Fealty

    Data here suggests stability in Protestant employment, and on the Catholic side growth from 2000-2007 then decline again:


    Which suggests that the kinds of employment that began to fill the gap were more vulnerable to the recession, whereas Protestant employment rates have stayed the same.

  • John Ó Néill

    The whys? Don’t know what meaningful data you might find for that – I’d guess, subjectively you’d have to look at push/pull factors.

    Jude cites two projects: Belfast Metropolitan College and the Public Records Office which both went to the Titanic Quarter when it was believed the first would go to West Belfast and the send to Crumlin Road Gaol. Given that people can actually travel around the city a little bit to go to work, I’m not sure that they are reasonable examples (and presumably PRONI staff are going to remain the PRONI staff, etc). And neither, outside of construction or refits, would really amount to new jobs.

    But in terms of Invest NI, or other job creation – I don’t how much is being distributed due to attempts to push projects into areas, as opposed to pulling them to keep them out of others. Although, I am not sure that Jude’s suggested case studies necessarily work in that regard.

    At a wider level, I think third level participation may be of interest. Based on HESA and HEA stats, at the minute full-time and part-time enrolments are about 2.9 per 100 people in the north and about 4.8 per 100 in the south, which may relate to the innovation issue (if you take that to reflect up-skilling as well as general education). Part-time figures for the north are slightly better (maybe 0.8 per 100, compared to 0.6 per 100) but, as people tend to travel less distance for a part-time programme, the numbers may be skewed by the distribution of institutions offering third level courses of study on a part-time basis (i.e. so maybe the impact of BMCs e3 building will be one to watch in the future).

  • John Ó Néill

    @Pete – I added a link.

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick – if you check chart 2 on that, the age profile rates differ, so that the greater parity in unemployment rates at 50-59 may equally mean that as the classification of older people changed due to reaching retirement age, the more a differential in the unemployment levels for younger people becomes visible.

  • The Raven

    I had written acres more, but I looked at it and realised that it sounded as churlish as the original post did. I genuinely mean this, John – no offence on this next bit: I find myself generally in agreement with many of your articles, but this…this just smacks of whinging.

    Empirical data aside, those of us living in the sticks where there’s been no FDI for anything from 15 to 27 years – not to mention Magherafelt, which has never had one major FDI investment ever – this sort of post doesn’t read well. Sorry but there it is. Bless the Belfasties for having to take a couple of buses across town, when some us had to commute 116 miles a day to hold down a job.


  • John Ó Néill

    Raven – no offence taken. Since I no longer live in Belfast (I’m in Wexford now), and have lived in various rural communities as well as in places like Dublin, I’ve seen both sides of the urban/rural divide in terms of inwards investment as well as FDI. There is a mix to be achieved in terms of providing capacity for job creation – and I suspect that the more techy industries come in, the harder it is going to be to push locations outside of major urban centres.
    In the linked post from Jude Collins he is largely making a lightly veiled critique of some of those who represent predominantly Catholic areas. I’m echoing that a bit, but I think that there is a wider issue here (which doesn’t contradict the problems Magherafelt or anywhere else might have) in that some of the peace processing is displacing other issues that need to be kept under control. Hence, Dublin can say there is an economic problem and goes canvassing for investment to the US. But, with no real fiscal power of any kind, I’m not sure if the body politic in the north knows how to tackle economic issues.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sorry to come back with another question, but Is there really any kind of discriminatory case against Invest NI John? Or are you just speculating?

    I think it’s a tad early to blame local polticians for what look like long term patterns too, since they’ve only just got a hold of the reigns of power.

    I think we have to investigate a basket of why’s before deciding who’s fault it is.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I think we need to deal with the problem Mick.

  • John Ó Néill

    I didn’t use the word discrimination anywhere, neither does Jude Collins. I’ve described it as uneven results, which was intended to be read as blame neutral. There is no harm in reviewing the underlying practices, either at the Invest NI end, or at the local end, in terms of capacity building to attract investment, etc. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that, in northern politics, if you just don’t discuss these things, someone will eventually try and make hay out of them.

  • Drumlins Rock

    There probably is a bit of chicken and egg here, also if you look at the maps the big employment but small electorate areas (city centre, docks & Queens island, stormont, universities etc) are lumped onto South East & North, but not West, I’m not sure how much they would change the figures though.

  • The Raven

    One small point, just to come back on. I wouldn’t say Magherafelt’s lack of FDI was a problem. Look at their claimant count. 3.8% for December. Belfast’s is 6.8%. And barely a public sector job to be seen.

    I just wonder if there’s not something we could learn from them…

  • Alias

    “So how is the Good Friday Agreement working generally, in its promise that equality of employment opportunity would prevail here? Well, if you’re a Catholic, this might be a good time to put aside the paper and go for a walk…You’re gone? OK. “Labour Force Survey Religion Report 2010” from the OFMDFM says that 61 per cent of long-term unemployed people are Catholic; the 2008 Annual Average of Long-Term Unemployed, from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, showed that 29 of the 38 electoral wards most affected by unemployment across Northern Ireland have at least an 85 per cent Catholic population.”

    So why are Catholics disporportionately represented among the long-term unemployed? The problem either lies with them or with employers, so which is it?

  • wild turkey

    “I think we have to investigate a basket of why’s before deciding who’s fault it is.”

    Mick, there was a report published back in the late 90s by West Belfast Economic Forum on IDB relatedJob Creation in West Belfast. As I recall, it was fairly scathing of the IDB.

    On the evidence issue, one could through some tedious data mining, with associated FoI requests, identify companies in receipt of InvestNI funds in a given time period and map that against the firms employment broken down by religion as published in annual Equality Commission, formerly FEC, monitoring returns. That said, the process is fraught with all kinds of methodological issues.

    further goodies in the evidence basket should include some research and/or data on chill factors which may impede individuals from area X to seek employment in area Y. Is such research out there? probably, but i do not know.

  • Alias

    I think its a mistake to argue that Invest NI should a political role in employment distibution among socio-economic, political or religious divisions – it’s role is to help support job creation in NI, not to distribute them. That part will always be up to the employers.

    It’s also a mistake to allow the political class a role in employment distibution, since they will abuse the power to promote the interests of their own tribes. The only way to manage sectarian discrimination in employment is through regulation – particularly by making it more difficult for the employers to disciminate, and making it easier for those who have been discriminated against to seek redress.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m not sure there’s any certainty that they would Alias. But business works to certain post conflict rules that it seems the political parties are having some difficulty working out.

    However, if there is a residual problem with distribution of employment then that is a ‘political’ issue.

  • Reader

    Alias: The only way to manage sectarian discrimination in employment is through regulation – particularly by making it more difficult for the employers to disciminate, and making it easier for those who have been discriminated against to seek redress.
    30 years ago my parents set up a small business. They live in Bangor and they set up their business in Bangor. The business employs a dozen people now. Mostly in Bangor. Sorry if that doesn’t solve any problems in West Belfast. If people in West Belfast are reluctant to set up businesses in West Belfast your witch hunt is pointless. If you don’t identify the right problem, you can’t fix it.

  • Red Lion

    Surely the important thing should be that people, for example, in west belfast have the skills to get jobs – location as to where the jobs are created is secondary. So long as Belfast or NI in general is creating jobs is more important. People in West Belfast can get a bus into the city centre, travel to titanic quarter, the docks, mallusk, lisburn, craigavon to get to their place of work just like everybody else has to.

    Is there that much physical room to squeeze jobs into west belfast anyway?? local politicians their seem more keen on using the space for housing.

  • aquifer

    I would not set up a business in inner East and risk extortion, nor West and risk having my employees’ cars stolen. Happy to employ anyone without criminal connections from anywhere though, especially those who will travel the extra mile.

    The Sinners took the kids out of school to throw rocks at the soldiers and closed lots of local west Belfast employers. Let them get some jobs in.

    NB Writing fan letters for SF is a tic, not a job.

  • Little James

    Jude Collins and the platform he has here, Belfast Media group, looks suspiciously as if he is going to bat for Sinn Fein. Its all the Brits fault, the fault of Invest NI, as long as the gaze doesn’t stay on the incumbent politicians of the area for too long. I currently work 60 miles from my home area. It can be done. The problem with Sinn Fein is the only industry or “jobs” they seem interested in bringing to West Belfast are “community relations”, “conflict resolution” etc and we know who snaps those “jobs” up. The people of West Belfast have plenty of excellent schools, so gaining good education is not a stretch and going a few miles into the city centre is even less of a stretch.

  • Old Mortality

    One of the problems with areas like West Belfast is that dpendency culture has become so entrenched as to nurture the belief that employment is something to be supplied, not sought.
    I recall listening to a radio documentary some years ago in which some youths from West Belfast expressed indignation at the suggestion that they could travel outside the area to find employment. Maybe they weren’t typical but it’s disturbing that anybody should think that way.
    Coincidentally, the man who won a case against Bombardier during the week was a longstanding employee who lived in West Belfast so clearly not everybody there finds mobility so difficult.

  • streetlegal

    The old underlying patterns of employment in NI are much more resistant to change than people imagined. Traditionally businesses owned and run by members of the Protestant middle class community did not tend to employ working class Catholics, for a whole variety of cultural reasons. Since the 1970s the public service has made up some of this shortfall in Catholic employment, through open competition to government jobs. But now that public employment is beginning to wane, so we see that Catholic unemployment is once again on the rise.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Does anyone have any views on the growing problem of youth unemployment, and what these people have to do to be considered for interview … you know apart from working for nothing at Tesco?

    I think we face 50% unemployment amongst young people 18-30 in the next 10 years.

  • FuturePhysicist

    We also face a rise in undiagnosed ASD, dyslexia, ADHD and cases of other conditions dues to the removal of SEN statementing as a way to save money instead of children.