OVER the last 20 years Protestant job applicants have become less likely to be successful, “disturbing” new figures reveal.
The Equality Commission report into employment trends since 1990 found that Protestant applicants for jobs with both government bodies and private companies were less likely than Roman Catholics to be appointed.
The analysis also found that privately-owned businesses are better at achieving fair employment rates than government bodies, some of which enforce fair employment legislation.
Last night, the Equality Commission denied allegations that it had “buried” the report — Trends in Community Proportions of Applications and Appointments to the Public and Private Sectors — which was placed on its website two months ago without the Press being informed.
But TUV leader Jim Allister said that he was “disturbed” by the figures, which he said “debunked” the claim that Catholics were being discriminated against by Protestant employers, an argument used to bring in additional employment legislation and bodies such as the Equality Commission.
The Equality Commission report stresses that the data does not in itself show that discrimination is responsible for the lower success of Protestant applicants, as it does not take into account the abilities of those applying for jobs.
The commission suggested that analysis of individual recruitment processes at selected employers could help to clarify whether jobs were being allocated fairly.
The Equality Commission itself has been embarrassed in recent years by the revelation that its own workforce had massively more Catholics and women than Protestants and men, something which it said it is working to re-balance.
Figures in the report show that during the 1990s the level of Protestants getting jobs in private companies in Northern Ireland was less than 0.1 per cent lower than it should have been if Protestant and Catholic candidates for jobs were entirely equal and treated equally by employers.
However, during the first decade of this century the number of Protestants getting jobs fell to 0.5 per cent lower.
In the public sector, Protestants fared significantly worse. During the 1990s, the proportion of appointments going to Protestants was 0.8 per cent lower.
That discrepancy doubled to 1.6 per cent in the decade between 2000 and 2010.
The report noted that with the exception of the years 2008 and 2009, the proportion of Protestants getting jobs in the public sector was 2-3 per cent lower than the Protestant proportion of applications in every year since 1997.
The report found that Protestant applicants were more likely to get a job in health, education or district councils but that they were less likely to get security posts (where the Patten reforms and 50:50 PSNI recruitment was partly responsible), civil service jobs or places on ‘other’ public bodies.
Every major employer in Northern Ireland has to submit annual figures to the Equality Commission showing the Protestant/Catholic and male/female breakdown of their workforce.
Mr Allister said that he believed that the report had been “buried” and added: “At a time when the popular perception that has taken root across the world is of Catholics, not Protestants, struggling to find jobs, this report debunks all that propaganda.
“It plainly shows that in both the public and private sectors for the last 20 years that when a Protestant applies for a job they have a lower success rate than Catholic applicants.”
The North Antrim MLA, who has written to new Equality Commission chief commissioner Michael Wardlow about the issue, added: “These are disturbing figures, not just in regard to the disadvantage being suffered by Protestants in applying for jobs, but they demonstrate that for years false propaganda has been peddled as gospel.
“Interestingly, in the 1990s in the run-up to the clamour for more equality legislation, culminating in Section 75 of the 1998 Act, the truth is that Protestants were finding it harder than Catholics to successfully apply for jobs.”
In a statement, the commission said that the report had been “published on the commission’s website with a link drawing attention to it on the front page of the site. It is not true to state that the Equality Commission has ‘buried’ this report”.
It added: “In our last monitoring report published in December 2011, and in previous reports, we have highlighted these developing trends through press reports, seminars and briefings to interested stakeholders including political representatives. We have argued the need for continuing vigilance and deeper analysis around these changes.
“The working paper is part of the Equality Commission’s ongoing commitment to identify and better understand fair employment trends in Northern Ireland and help ensure that everyone in this community has an opportunity to participate to the full in our economy and our society.”