Hours and Earnings in the Northern Ireland Labour Market

In the aftermath of a prolonged recession, there are tentative signs of economic recovery in Northern Ireland. The recovery in economic output has been more modest in Northern Ireland than the UK as a whole, but trends in the labour market have been more similar. Long-term and youth unemployment remain serious policy concerns, but employment growth has returned and the labour market is beginning to normalize. While the level of employment in Northern Ireland remains among the lowest of any UK region, it is significantly above that of the Republic of Ireland despite similar experiences in both economies especially with regard to the collapse of the construction sector.

However, the evolution of employment growth in Northern Ireland has been different to that of the UK in a number of important ways. This paper examines trends in the Northern Ireland labour market since 2007 to assess what kind of employment is being created. The rise of self-employment seen across the UK has not been evident in Northern Ireland. Instead there has been an increase in part-time and female employment and a shift toward service sector industries. The paper will then assess what implications these trends have for compensation of employees in their earnings both through wages and hours worked. If this recovery of the labour market also signals a shift toward lower-paid, less secure employment, this will have serious implications for the health of the Northern Ireland economy.
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