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‘Social and religious inequality still a reality’ – SF

29 March, 2009 - by Maeve McLaughlin

Huge inequalities based on religion and social status still exist in the North of Ireland according to the latest labour market statistics, Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights spokesperson Martina Anderson has said.

“The latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) which was published on Friday confirms that significant inequalities still exist within this society both between Catholics and Protestants but also increasingly between those of different social classes,” Ms. Anderson commented.

“Although the report confirms that there have been significant improvements with regards to employment equality over the past 15 years, it is clear that much more needs to be done.

"For example, over the period 1992 – 2007 there has been an increase of approx 115,000 Catholics in employment compared to an increase of around 18,000 Protestants.

“But it's important to go beyond the simple definition ‘unemployed’ as an indicator. Unemployment figures alone do not paint the full picture as they ignore a whole range of people such as those on certain benefits or training programmes who are defined as ‘economically inactive’. It is only by taking these two categories together that we will get a true reflection of who we are failing as a society.

“And when you look at the statistics in greater detail, they show that there are still twice as many Catholics (31000) who are economically inactive and who want work, as there are Protestants (15000).

“However, there are also significant shifts taking place within the two communities. For instance, while the Catholic middle class continues to grow because of more Catholics obtaining third level education and getting better jobs, working class Protestants are becoming more vulnerable to unemployment because of the demise of the industries they were traditionally employed in.

“So while the inequalities between the two communities are narrowing, we are also witnessing a high proportion of both Catholics and Protestants who are being left behind. This is borne out by the large number of unemployed and economically inactive people of both communities within the areas of highest deprivation.

“The ‘peace dividend’ has still not reached these people and that reaffirms the need for direct government intervention in these communities. This should be done through a range of measures such as ensuring maximum community benefit from regeneration schemes and the use of public procurement to create jobs and training etc.

“I welcome the latest LFS report and I welcome the confirmation that the employment gap between our communities is narrowing but these statistics also demonstrate that decisive action is required to ensure that peace delivers for all of our people.”

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