High growth in the Catholic middle classes

Fascinating piece in the Economist (via the invaluable Newshound). Much of the early stuff is general, but it slices down into some interesting longer term metrics for the substantial social change that has taken place underneath the stuff and nonsense of headline politics. It has some interesting things to say about a burgeoning Catholic middle class. More later!

For members of the rapidly-growing Catholic middle class, in particular, life has never been better. Their success is evident in the universities, where Catholic students now outnumber Protestants four to three. It is clear from the broadly shrinking employment gap between the two communities (see chart). It can even be read on the city’s doors. “Twenty years ago, solicitors in Belfast had names like William, Bruce and Trevor,” says one Catholic businessman, citing some typically Protestant names. “They are still there, but now they have been joined by Seamus, Malachy and Deirdre.”

As Catholics have become more upwardly-mobile, they have spilled over into middle-class Protestant neighbourhoods. Some muttering ensued, but, in general, the new arrivals are tolerated. (Northern Irish people are expert at concealing their prejudices; as one saying goes, “whatever you say, say nothing.”) Middle-class Protestants have even begun to marry Catholics—at present, just one in ten marriages is “mixed”, but the proportion is higher in the tidy streets off Malone Road, in south Belfast. The city’s growing number of black and Asian immigrants settle nearby, if they can afford to.

It continues:

Catholics have been helped into the middle class by the state. Fully 30% of workers in Northern Ireland are employed in the public sector, compared with 24% in Scotland and 20% in England. Civil service jobs are lucrative because they are subject to the same pay scales as in England, where the cost of living is much higher. And hiring policies are equal to a fault.

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  • DK

    I wonder why the gap appears to widen between 2002 and 2004?

    Anyway, more mixed areas and mixed marriages the better. Makes targetting harder for the paramilitaries.

  • Crataegus

    The more mixing the better. Also makes targetting by political parties harder.

  • seabhac siulach

    “I wonder why the gap appears to widen between 2002 and 2004?”

    Suspension of Stormont assembly(?)

  • mook

    Well said Crataegus!

  • mark

    Mick,

    I’m confused. Where is the evidence for any change in class structure? If the percentage employed is the indicator it is currently lower for Catholics than in 1996 also having a job doesn’t mean you automatically become ‘middle-class’ though it can help.

    Do reduction in Protestant employment levels indicate a corresponding reduction in class structure or more prods in poverty?

    I don’t think the limited statistics cited support either argument.

    As the percentage for Catholics has dipped to pre-1996 levels if you want to twist figures you could just as easily say ‘Peace dividend evaporates for Catholics’ while Protestants are still better off than before 1996.

    And all those columns exceed 100%.

    The statistics don’t support the assessment. Just as the anecdotal stuff doesn’t .

    I’m not disputing there probably are more ‘middle class’ Catholics, I don’t think this article provides any evidence to support the hypothesis.

    People are going to cite this Economist piece on class and Catholics and it has nothing to say on class structure that could withstand scrutiny.

  • DK

    “The more mixing the better. Also makes targetting by political parties harder.”

    No it doesn’t, I live in a mixed area – all it means is that you get ALL political parties targetting, not just a certain sectarian group.

  • mnob

    Given the period of decline in private sector and growth in the public sector does this mean that the growth in middle class catholics has been in the public sector that everyone seems to want rid of ?

  • mick de dublin anarchist

    Since when did the working class get defined by not working?

    If just over 50% of the adult population have jobs in the wee north and it also has the lowest percentage of unemployment in the world, what are the other 50% doing? Is the north really still so backward that they’re all housewives?

    Funny place.

  • mnob

    Mick, I advise you to have a longer look at the graph and try again.

    The ILO figures are :

    28.6% inactive – students, retired people, sick
    71.4% economically active (of which 4.6 are unemployed)

    and these figures are within a single % point of the ROIs

  • I had been wondering who was clogging up the links ahead of me at Royal Portrush, and now I know. Will the Peace Process spare the Unionist golf playing people of Ulster nothing?

  • J Kelly

    karl not an inch

  • smcgiff

    Both Protestant and Catholic %’s have dropped since 02 to 04?!?

  • Yokel

    Mick tha Dublin anarchist (property is theft!)…the rest are driving their ma’s car that they got under disability and using it as a taxi….that would account for anamolies in the stats

    Karl Rove..never mind the Queens Highway what about the Queen’s Greens eh

  • Crataegus

    DK

    “No it doesn’t, I live in a mixed area – all it means is that you get ALL political parties targeting”

    Compared to Short Strand or Shankill where Republicans and Loyalists can concentrate on their own little enclaves mixed areas are harder for them. They need to be more careful what they say and do and miles of extra walking. Also meeting people that tell them to get stuffed may be what some of them need. It is much harder for them to organise, malpractice becomes more obvious and they are in competition which is healthy for politics as well as business.

  • mick de dublin anarchist

    mnob, I looked long and hard at the graph and it shows that about 56% of protestant adults have jobs and maybe 52% of catholics. Even taking your statistics (which aren’t derivable from the graph)

    “71.4% economically active (of which 4.6 are unemployed)”

    leaves us with a (minimum) missing percentage of around 12%. What happened to these people?

    “these figures are within a single % point of the ROIs”

    yep, this is an awful quare place as well – a single point less quare than the wee north is probably about right 🙂

  • mnob

    Mick, I have to apoligise, seems *I* misunderstood the graph. I thought it was proportion of prods vs micks expressed as a percentage. As some of the plots add to more than 100% I must be wrong.

    My figures are fom the DEL quarterly labour market bulletin, a bulletin which is used within government to help shape policy. I would tend to trust this more than a graph produced by a journalist (but I have been wrong before – see above !) It could be that the title of the graph is wrong and it is of the total population but I’m not sure.

    The fact that people feel the need to measure and analyse this sort of stuff (and I guess those of us who feel moved to comment too !) shows just what a quare place this really is.

  • IJP

    The fact that people feel the need to measure and analyse this sort of stuff (and I guess those of us who feel moved to comment too !) shows just what a quare place this really is.

    Rarely have I seen a more sensible comment than this!