Tuesday 23 January 2018

Older and more likely to be divorced – north south divide

Divorce is more common in the North than the South
Divorce is more common in the North than the South
Aideen Sheehan

Aideen Sheehan

PEOPLE in Northern Ireland are older and more likely to be atheist and divorced than their southern neighbours.

A new census report systematically compares life in the two jurisdictions for the first time, highlighting key differences and similarities in religion, lifestyle and work.

It shows that Northern Ireland is much more densely populated than the Republic with 134 people per square km compared with 78 down south.

However, the population of the Republic is growing much faster and reached 4.6 million in 2011 compared with 1.8 million in the North.

The average age in the Republic is 34 which is the youngest of any EU state while in Northern Ireland the median age is 37 which is also comparatively young.

Marriage and living together are both slightly more common in the Republic while splitting up and lone parenthood are more common in Northern Ireland.

Nearly one in 10 adults in Northern Ireland is divorced or separated which is nearly twice as many as in the Republic, and 37pc of Northerners are single compared with 42pc of Southerners.

Not surprisingly, when it comes to religion there are striking differences.

Protestants and other Christians comprise 42pc of the population of the North while Catholics account for 41pc and one in 10 people has no religion.


Around two-thirds of the North's population were Protestant in the first half of the 20th century but this has changed hugely since the 1960s as the number of Catholics increased and Protestant numbers fell.

In the Republic, however, 84pc of the population is still Roman Catholic and just 5.9pc has no religion while the proportion of Protestants has fallen by a third to 6.3pc over the last century.

The report is published by the Central Statistics Office and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency bringing together census data carried out just weeks apart in 2011.

"This report offers a rare opportunity to present a detailed picture of the populations of both jurisdictions at a single point in time," CSO senior statistician Deirdre Cullen said.

People in the Republic were much more likely to consider themselves in good health with only 1.6pc reporting bad or very bad health compared with 5.6pc in the North.

Unemployment was twice as high as high in the Republic at 16pc compared with 7.5pc in Northern Ireland in 2011.

Retail, health/social work and manufacturing employed the most people in both jurisdictions.

The censuses also showed that 8,300 people commute regularly from the Republic to Northern Ireland for work or study, while 6,500 go the other way.

Irish Independent

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