Right, this is certain to throw the cat in amongst the pigeons. Before you read it, can I just remind people of the site’s commenting rules. Dr Feldmann, a lecturer in Bath University’s Department of Economics and International Development explains why he thinks his research shows a gap between employment rates in Protestant and Catholic countries.
…the impact of religion may be indirect, for example, in helping shape the national culture of a given society.” He continued: “In its early days, Protestantism promoted the virtue of hard and diligent work amongst its adherents, who judged one another by conformity to this standard. Originally, an intense devotion to one’s work was meant to assure oneself that one was predestined for salvation. Although the belief in predestination did not last more than a generation or two after the Reformation, the effect on work ethics continued. “This was particularly conducive to the rise of modern capitalism. It stimulated entrepreneurial spirits and helped to assimilate workers into the factory system. Most protestants today are likely to work not in order to attain certainty of salvation but because their parents taught them the virtue of work. The Protestant virtue of hard and diligent work has become part of a national culture of the relevant countries.”
Of course this is just one possible conditioning factor. Traditional extended family structures, including higher marriage rates and low cohabitation rates also persist in Catholic southern Europe, whilst the largely Protestant Nordic countries have migrated far from traditional family norms.