Jardine, Edgar F. 'Demographic structure in Northern Ireland and its implications for constitutional preference'. - Dublin: Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland,Vol. XXVII, Pt.1, 1993/1994, pp193-220
Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland Vol. XXVII, Pt. 1, 1993/1994
An awareness of the dynamics of demographic change is fundamental to the
provision of public services and an indispensable weapon in the armoury of the
policy-maker. Demographic structure as reflected in the shape of a population
pyramid can be a sensitive indicator of socio-economic circumstances and is thus a
telling sign of need for service provision and public expenditure priorities. The point
is well illustrated at the extremes if, for example, the population pyramid for the
Philippines is compared with that for the United Kingdom (Figure 1). The former
has a high proportion of young people with consequential need for education and
child care services and a burgeoning workforce while the UK and many other
Western countries anticipate a rapidly increasing number of elderly people in the
population being sustained by a contracting workforce. Northern Ireland (NI) and
the Republic of Ireland (Rol) share broadly similar demographic structures with a
high proportion of young people (particularly in the Rol) and fewer elderly (Figure
2) and thus contrast with those of other countries in the European Union where an
ageing population tends to be the norm.
However, within Northern Ireland the changing demographic structures within the
two main religious traditions are of additional interest because of the constitutional
preferences assumed to be associated with each. The paper will therefore take an
historical view of the changing balance between the two communities, assess their
relative size as measured in the 1991 Census of Population, which estimated the
population of Northern Ireland as a whole at just under 1,580,000, and attempt to
project how the balance might change in the future. Finally, the paper will draw on
data from a range of sources to explore the links between religious affiliation and
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