Does affirmative action work? Evidence from the operation of fair employment legislation in Northern Ireland

Raya Muttarak, Heather Hamill, Anthony Heath, Christopher McCrudden

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9 Citations (Scopus)


An affirmative action programme, established by the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989, has been an important attempt to ensure 'fair participation' in employment for both Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland since 1990. The programme includes detailed monitoring of the community background of employees and requires employers to undertake remedial action where fair participation is not evident. Agreements were concluded between the regulatory agency and many employers specifying what affirmative action measures were required. Based on the annual monitoring returns submitted between 1990 and 2005, this article evaluates the effectiveness of the affirmative action programme in promoting fair employment participation using fixed effects models. The analysis shows that there has been a general shift towards workforce integration in Northern Ireland but the increase of under-represented groups in agreement concerns is greater than in concerns with no agreement. The success of agreements, however, is limited to certain industrial sectors and medium-sized enterprises.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)560-579
Number of pages20
Issue number3
Early online date2 Oct 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2013


  • affirmative action
  • fair employment
  • fixed effects model
  • minorities
  • Northern Ireland
  • regulation
  • under-representation

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