Employment in Northern Ireland - Unionist Hegemony Gone Forever

FIGURES just released by the British Government show that since the abolition of Stormont in 1972 and the imposition of direct rule in the North the number of people working for the state has jumped by nearly 40%. In 1972 just under a quarter of the workkforce held jobs in the public sector but by the end of 1977 one in every three workers, 165,000 in all, were dependent either directly or indirectly on Westminster for their weekly wage packet. As either civil servants, teachers, doctors, or utility workers it's the governnment that feeds their families.
The statistics, a mine of economic data, were produced by the Department of Mannpower Services in Belfast and they analyse changes in the employment structure of the Northern economy between 1959 and 1977. Although the government has for many years published similar monthly figgures for Great Britain this is the first time that comprehensive employment details have been made public in the North Information of this sort, invaluable able to researchers and econnomic pundits, was subject to the ironclad traditions of Storrmont secrecy. But demands for more openness and information about jobs, such as that coming from the Fair Employment Agency, have led to this about turn in official policy.

The growth in government controlled employment is mostly accounted for by Westtminster's policy of gradually reemoving sensitive areas of econoomic and social life from the local political arena. The moddernisation of the province's antiquated social services and the expansion of locally recruited security forces have also increased the government payyroll.

Housing, for instance, the foundation stone of the early civil rights movement, is now controlled by the Housing Executive. It is a vast bureauccracy employing 4,500 people and, much to the annoyance of loyalists, is directly responsible to Minister Ray Carter at the Department of the Environnment. Similarly, the removal of health and education services from the control of local counncils has necessitated the construction of other equally large bureaucracies. One in every five people now work in Education or Health. And the fact that once launched, these types of state institutions tend to grow and develop a life of their own makes it difficult to imagine how they could be returned to the sort of local government control envisaged by Unionist leader Jim Molyneux.

Another growth area is in the security field where the R.U.C. and the prison service have more than doubled in the last ten years. The U.D.R., howwever is officially classified as a regiment in the British Army and its 8,000 members are, interestingly, considered as foreign workers.

Other significant changes in the Northern economy are revealed by the D.M.S. figures.

The number of workers in the non-productive sector of the economy, that is, the service inndustries such as' banking, innsurance, government, etc., has increased from 46% of the workforce in 1959 to 61% in 1977. Although not a very different situation than in other E.E.C. countries, it means that for every ten people in work only four are producing goods.

The locally-owned traditional industries that made the North the factory place of Ireland and were the base upon which Unionism was built have declined almost into insignifiil cance. The textile trade, which in 1959 gave 13% of the populaation its livelihood, now only employs 6% and shipbuilding, once synonomous with Belfast, accounts for barely 2%. What is not said in the D.M.S. figures, of course, is that with the decline in these old indutries and the growth of Westminnister's economic muscle, the hegemony of Unionism has gone forever.e