Northern Ireland’s Civil Service (NICS) has only 1.6% of its high quality jobs based in the Derry City Council area, investigations have shown.
Out of 1703 ‘Grade 7’ jobs and above, or equivalent positions, 28 are in the area, and 30 are in the North West as a whole.
Colum Eastwood, SDLP Foyle MLA, sees this as a significant failing of the Executive, and a key factor in efforts to build up quality employment in both the public and private sectors.
“There has been no real policy in the main on this issue,” he states.
“We raised the fact at First Minister’s Questions in March that less than 5% of NICS jobs are based in Derry, but the Executive has failed to show any commitment.”
After 1200 applications were made for only 60 jobs at Derry’s new Premier Inn hotel, the need for an economic boost has been laid bare.
“We need more money in the city,” says Mr Eastwood, “which means more high quality jobs in both the private sector and the public sector.
“University expansion and improvements to the infrastructure are needed, and in other areas Derry has done a lot for itself in recent times. City of Culture is coming up, for example.
“But increasing the number of high quality Civil Service jobs is something that the Executive could do, instead of hand-wringing on the issue. We need the support of the public sector.”
For a senior member of the NICS, the figure of 1.6% in Derry, and only 1.8% in the entire North West area, actually seems higher than expected.
“That figure surprises me, the vast majority must be in specialist jobs.”
“In my memory all the civil service jobs created in the Derry City Council area have been low grade administration work,” the source said.
Repercussions for the city can also go further than simply an economic skew compared to the capital.
“My personal opinion is that this is a deeper issue than pay imbalance,” he says.
“I would argue very strongly that it has a significant impact on individuals’ progression and aspirations.
“The reality is that to progress in a Civil Service career, they must go to Belfast.”
For those who have made a life in Northern Ireland’s second city, or who plan to, the decision to either commute or relocate can be a very difficult one, and many choose to remain at the ‘glass ceiling’ of progression in Derry.
Further down the conveyor belt of Civil Service positions, therefore, entrance level opportunities can be stifled as the progression of others slows.
“People need to be given opportunities,” says Colum Eastwood, “and young people need to have options in Derry.
“Decentralisation may not be a silver bullet, but it would have a big impact.”