Is deprivation in the North fueling racism?

Some depressing news for those who want to see a more diverse and integrated society.

A study commissioned by the RoI’s Shared Island Initiative and carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute, (ESRI) was published on 6th March. The conclusion is that Northern Ireland is less welcoming to migrants than the South even though there are fewer of them. Why? Well there is a direct correlation between a positive view of the future, and attitudes to immigration, and surprise, surprise, people in the North are less positive than the South.

In the study, questions were asked around 7 matrices – positive and negative, such as filling work vacancies, cultural enrichment and welfare “burden” and worsening crime. Respondents in the South were twice as likely to display positive attitudes to migrants compared to respondents from the North, even though 20% of the RoI working population was born abroad compared to only 10% in NI.

In both jurisdictions, the percentage of migrants working is proportionally higher than the native population. This is because migrants tend to be better educated and skilled. The resentment comes out of frustration over the future prospects of the native population and whether they feel any political alienation.

In the RoI, the percentage of people who think their lives will get better is 46%. In the North it is 24%. Again nearly twice as many in the North think their lives will get worse (13% v 8%). 21% of people in the South, think their voice is heard (by politicians etc). Only 10% think that in the North.

Some further explanation about the gap in attitudes comes from a separate ESRI study quoted by David McWilliams in the Irish Times at the weekend. The startling fact is that healthy life expectancy in NI is only the same as Sierra Leone and is worse than average healthy life term in India. It is 17 years lower than in the South (NI 53 years, India 60 years, RoI, 70 years).

Northern Ireland is one of the few places in Europe where the health and education matrices are going backwards not forwards. In NI 20% of 25 to 34 year olds have low educational attainment. In RoI it’s 7.4% for the same cohort. 93% of 15 to 19 year olds in the South are in full time education compared to 74% in the North.

It’s unfortunate that the relative deprivation of the North is fueling racism and lack of tolerance even though NI is 95% white. It’s also clear that politics is failing the people in North.

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