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Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s food and drink manufacturing sector generates £2.6 billion turnover annually. 18,900 people are employed in the Northern Ireland food and drink manufacturing sector. It accounts for 20% of Northern Ireland’s total manufacturing workforce. The sector’s mean gross weekly pay is £338 per week

Between 2003 and 2008, an estimated 2,000 jobs were created, equivalent to a 9% increase in employment levels. The meat sub-sector dominates Northern Ireland’s sector employment, accounting for 41% of the nation’s food and drink processing employment.

Total employment in the Northern Irish sector is forecast to decrease by approximately 2% between 2007-2017, in contrast to the UK sector average which is expected to see a 6% decline. Projections indicate that the sector in Northern Ireland will need 6,000 new recruits between 2007-2017.

There are 500 VAT registered companies in the Northern Ireland’s food and drink manufacturing sector, accounting for 5% of UK sector workplaces. The bakery, meat, and wholesale of other food sub-sectors dominate the companies. 57% of staff work in organisations of between 1 and 9 staff, and 3% work in organisations of over 250 staff.

Workforce statistics:

  • 71% of the workforce is male.
  • Males tend to dominate in the dairy, animal feeds and bakery sub-sub-sectors and women account for a greater than average share in the fish processing, beverages and meat sub-sectors.
  • Between 2003 and 2007, the male share of the workforce increased from 12,000 to 13,300 workers (11% rise in employment levels) whereas the female share of the workforce also rose from 5,200 to 5,600 workers (8% increase in numbers).
  • 92% of employees are white, 5% are Asian/Asian British, 1% are Black/Black British and 2% are of Chinese ethnic origin.
  • 4,500 migrant workers are estimated to be working in the sector.
  • The majority employees are aged: 25-29 years age (21%); 30-34 years (14%); and 20-24 years (13%).
  • 28% of the current workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next 20 years.
  • 8% of sector workers have some form of work-limiting disability, 4% are registered as work-limiting disabled only and 4% are registered as DDA disabled and work-limiting disabled. A further 4% are registered as DDA disabled.
  • 5,900 workers (31%) in the have no qualifications, a notably larger proportion than the UK sector average (14%).
  • 2,700 workers (14%) hold qualifications below level 2, similar to the UK sector average (15%).
  • 3,400 workers (18%) in the sector hold their highest qualification at Level 4 or above.

Vacancies and skills:

  • Hard-to-fill roles are most frequently seen for operatives/non skilled workers and at supervisory or management level.
  • Employers find difficulties recruiting sales people, drivers, quality assurance, butchering and engineering/electrical/maintenance workers.
  • Skills gaps were reported by 28% of companies.

Source: Northern Ireland Labour Market Information Profile 2009/2010