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Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has approximately 15,000 employees in the sector. The chemicals, pharmaceuticals and polymers industries form a vital part of the overall Northern Ireland economy. 49% of employment in the Cogent sector in Northern Ireland is within the Polymers industry and 31% is based in retail sale of automotive fuel. Chemical and Pharmaceutical industries each account for 10% of the sector workforce.

The distribution of employers in Northern Ireland is predominately in the Belfast area, as there is a good transport and freight infrastructure. There are over 250 oil distribution companies based in Northern Ireland, most of which are small independent companies. There are also 225 polymer companies, 53% of which are located in County Armagh and County Antrim, with a further 23% in County Down. 87% of employers in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries are located in County Down, County Antrim and County Armagh.

Key statistics:

  • 36% of workers are female, which is a larger proportion than the Cogent sector in the UK
  • there is a lower proportion of part-time workers than for the Cogent sector in the UK
  • there is a larger proportion of Associate Professional and Technical, Skilled Trades and Process Operators occupations than the UK Cogent sector
  • 32% of the Cogent workforce is employed in Process Operator roles
  • the mean weekly pay for the sector is £459.00


The sector in Northern Ireland faces issues of ageing workforces coupled with difficulties in recruiting young people, as well as highly skilled managers, engineers and technicians. Currently, there is a deficit of people with qualifications at Level 2 (23%) and Level 3 (19%).

17% of employers in the sector reported vacancies; 10% of employers with vacancies reported them to be hard-to-fill vacancies and 3% of employers found these to be skills related. 10% of employers reported internal skills gap.

Sources: Cogent website 2009 and Cogent regional factsheet 2008