HL Deb 15 December 2004 vol 667 cc83-4WA
Lord Laird

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 18 November (WA 186) on unemployment ratios, which public bodies in Northern Ireland have researched the unemployment ratio for Roman Catholics and Protestants; what views, if any, were reached; by which body; and whether they will publish the results of any such research. [HL95]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos)

There has been a significant number of studies on this subject over the years and it would not be practicable to list every piece of research or every commissioning body. However, there have been two recent, comprehensive and authoritative analyses of these issues which have been published by public bodies in Northern Ireland.

The report, Community Differentials and New TSN was funded by the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister and published in 2003. This study considered differentials between Protestants and Roman Catholics over a range of social policy areas including health, education, housing and the labour market. The author concluded that socio-economic differentials between the two main religious communities in Northern Ireland have decreased; however, labour market gaps still remain, with unemployment among Catholics higher than that for Protestants. The author's conclusion is that the ratio of unemployment rates will continue on a downward trend, albeit at a slow pace.

The book Fair Employment in Northern Ireland: a generation on was funded by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and published in 2004. In concluding, the editors argue that the future use of the unemployment differential as a labour market indicator can be challenged in two ways. Firstly, the absolute falls in unemployment to the current low position have directed attention to other indicators. Secondly, that increasing questions about the meaning of headline unemployment data cast doubt on the present and future use of the unemployment differential.

Copies of both reports are available in the Library.

There is ongoing research in this area commissioned by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister which is due to report in early 2005 with publication to follow.

Lord Laird

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 18 November (WA 184) on unemployment ratios, what are the other measures which are included in the range of labour market indicators; and how significant is the unemployment ratio in the range of labour market indicators. [HL96]

Baroness Amos

Within the labour market, there are three crucial measurement areas relating to: employment, unemployment, and economic inactivity.

Each of these three labour market measures can be expressed in terms of rates for individual groups and comparisons made across groups. Taking the labour market as a whole, it is not possible to say that one measure is more significant than another as they reflect separate yet interrelated components of the labour market.