Sociological Report on Northern Ireland
Society is made up of many types of individuals that are categorized according to what they have in common. Demographic data is the information collected on these groups. It is collected by government agencies (i.e. The Office of National Statistics, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency) in the form of the Census (this happens every 10 years) and the General Lifestyle Survey. Data is collected about the makeup of society, in other words, what social groups there are, who they are made up of, what they do in terms of how they access health services, where they live, what they do in leisure time amongst other things.
A. Current social, political and economic construction of Northern Irish Society
In modern society, there are also political and economic constructs. Examples of these are called ‘systems of stratification’ or the systems that we use to understand people’s ‘place’ in society. We categorize, or differentiate from each other and thus show who has power, using categories such as age, gender, ethnicity, social class, and disability. Members of each layer of ‘stratum’ (singular ‘strat’) will have a common identity and culture as well as similar interests, lifestyles and usually, life chances.
The Irish believe that their culture has been initiated from the egalitarianism, informality, and reciprocity of their neighbors. The pressures engendered by class relations are seen to alleviate owing to the mentioned characteristics. The society of Northern Ireland does not comprise of the rigid class structure whereas the economic and social class distinctions are seen to exist and reproduced using the religious and educational institutions. The Anglo-Irish and old British aristocracy is present in a small proportionate with less power with their replacements being made by the sports and arts world. The social classes are grouped on the basis of wealth, size of landholding and capital and are discussed in terms of middle and working classes and gentry with occupations like farmers, etc.
Most of the people have chosen to refer themselves as Northern Irish. It has been seen that the Northern Irish Identity offers a shared identification for Protestants and Catholics without threatening the ideological and political commitments of either of the groups. (Crotty, W. J., & Schmitt, D. A., 2014). This development can be significant in keeping social identity in mind.
The symbol for social stratification
Dialect and use of language are the indicators of social standing and class. Although the dress codes are seen to relax over the last generation, strategies like designer clothing, expensive cars, food are implemented as social advancements and class mobility.
The Republic of Ireland is a parliamentary democracy. The National Parliament of Ireland (Oireachtas) consists of two houses known as House of Representatives, Dáil Éireann and Senate, Seanad Éireann. Constitution derives the function and powers and was enacted on 1 July 1937. A proportional representation using a transferable vote is used for electing the Representatives to Dáil Éireann and are known as the Teachta Dála, or TDs. The Catholic Emancipation Act of the 1830s allowed the Catholics to seek elections to the British legislature. The people of Northern Ireland are descendants of the original population and are Catholics. However, the majority of people in the country have emigrated from Scotland and England and have been Protestants from the past 500 years. Eventually, the Protestant leaders of the country were seen to gerrymander the voting districts in order to make sure that the Catholics were present in a minority. (Crotty, W. J., & Schmitt, D. A., 2014).
In the last three decades, Northern Ireland has shifted from the agriculture and manufacturing industry to a more service-based economy which also includes the public sector. The economy of the country is seen to be based on manufacturing, wholesale, retail, professional and business services. However, the region of Northern Ireland is seen as one of the most disadvantaged regions of the United Kingdom. The country's lowest labor productivity rate with the lowest wages. The private sector economy of Northern Ireland is more concentrated on the low value-added sectors as compared to the other parts of the United States. In recent years, the county has experienced a widening productivity gap with the rest of the United Kingdom. The country has started focusing on the generation and attraction of new jobs but almost all the involved in low-value-added activities (Giblin, T., Kennedy, K., & McHugh, D., 2013).
B. Societal Change
The population of Northern Ireland has risen from 1992 to 2007 from 1.28 million to 1.75 million. From 1922 to early 1930s, a period of loss of population was encountered because of significant outmigration from the region of Northern Ireland. From the late 1930s, a rise in population was seen throughout the twentieth century, but a marginal decrease was seen in the 1970s. The period of the 1970s, was during the start of civil unrest which was known as ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland and was because of the high percentage of out-migration from the country. However, the population project performed in 2006 revealed a continuous increase in the population beyond 2030 and from the last five years, the population growth was seen to be driven by the net migration and natural change (Russell, R., 2013, Census 2011)
The functioning of society has changed tremendously leading to an increase in the number of employed people in the Northern Society. However, in the confliction years in 1980s, the unemployment rate was seen to be extremely high and the job opportunities were very less as compared to other UK regions. The Republic of Ireland and the Northern Irish economy was seen to have the similar rate of unemployment and job opportunities. The economy saw an upheaval in 2007 when the number of actual jobs was seen to incline from 720,000 to 842,000 with an increment of over 12%. This was seen to be the fastest growth rate in any other UK region. But the increase was not significant as compared to the Republic of Ireland and the total employment rate was seen to increase with a whopping 20 percent varying from 1,670,700 to 2,095,000 from 2000 and 2007 (Russell, R.,2013, Census 2011)
The country has understood the impact of educational institutions on the development of the economy of the country and therefore the budget for current expenditure in education was seen to increase by over 28 percent between the session of 2001 and 2006 by the Independent Strategic Review of Education and was estimated to be around £1,838 million. The Irish Medium primary schools increased from 11 to 20 during the session of 2002 to 2008 and in the same period, the integrated schools increased from 29 to 39.
The full-time earnings in 2007 were estimated out to be the lowest in any region of the United Kingdom. £424.80 per week was estimated out to be the full-time earning of half of the men compared to £498.30 of the UK-wide figure and is considered to be the lowest-paid region of the UK and North East of England. The women getting wages on a weekly basis are seen to fare better than the women working full time in Northern Ireland with around £372.60 per week. This factor was higher than the disadvantaged region of the United Kingdom. In fact, it was seen that only the South East, London, Scotland and East have considerably higher median for weekly wages amounting to over 88% of the male median for weekly wages Northern Ireland. In 2007, the median hourly earnings for women with a full-time job was £9.65 (97% of men’s earnings) and £9.93 for men.
Family and households
Family is a social construct. Its definition has been disputed over many years and by many commentators, but it is agreed that family, and emerging households, are a group of one or more people together who share a common identity. Family is not a natural feature of human life but its meaning is something that over time has been tweaked and changed due to social changes. It holds different meanings to different people. Northern Irish society is made up of different family types such as a nuclear, extended, lone parent, to name but a few.
48 percent of the people over the age of 16 were married on Census Day 2011 and around 36 percent were found to be single. By March 2011, only 0.1 percent of the people i.e. 1200 were registered in same-sex partnership. It was observed that 9.4 percent of the residents were either divorced, separated or engaged in same-sex partnership and over 6.8 were estimated to be widowed or surviving partnership. The areas like Derry and Belfast have the highest ratio of single people with 42 percent and 47 percent respectively and the North Down and Ards have the lowest ratio with 29 percent.
C. Healthcare and Social Care
Stratification is important because it allows sociologists in health and social care to analyze who has more power or status over others and this is an indication as to where there is inequality so that services can be put in place to help certain groups or services to aid those in need. The government has been trying to transform the delivery and management of health and social care services that fit into the modern context along with complying with the increased demands of the population. This context is seen to involve trends like technological advances, aging population, income, employment factor and rising expectations of the Northern Irish people. This has resulted in improvements in social and healthcare in the second half of the twentieth century and is continuing throughout the 21st century.
The social and healthcare reforms are supposed to be the key themes in Northern Ireland and have been considered as the recognition for realizing the over-reliance on the hospitality sector of the country along with an objective of shifting the service provision away from the hospitality arena and towards the care centers in the community that is closer to the patients. Primary care is considered to be the first point of contact focusing on social and health services and provides a huge gateway to secondary care (Thompson, Dr. Janice, 2016).
The country has evolved in terms of medical services and health care. Northern Ireland has adopted a new structure that is highly centralized as compared to the Wales and Scotland where there has been a strong concern over the issue of localism post the devolution. The number of social care and health care delivery trusts have declined after the restructuring in the country. The restructuring has established five Trusts that are one of the largest health-related Trusts in the whole United Kingdom.
Over 40 percent of women and 36 percent of Northern Irish men have indicated the problem of long-standing illness which is seen to increase with age. In the age bracket between the 16 to 24 age group, have 14 percent of women and 12 percent of men having issues with illness as compared to 70 percent women and 68 percent men aged 75 and over. With an increase in population, the increase in illness and diseases is seen to prevail calling for an improvement in the health care and social care system of the country. The age at which one is elderly has also changed with age determined by social contact, physical ability, independence and knowledge of medical & technological advances are increasingly more indicators of who is considered the ‘oldest’.
As mentioned in the employment and income section, the country does not enjoy a beneficial position owing to these factors, the need for health and social care has been recognized by the government providing cost-efficient measures to the population. The inequality issues in the society can be addressed using health and social care services with planned services (Ham, C., Heenan, D. A., Longley, M., & Steel, D. R., 2013).
D. Age, gender and disability are socially constructed
Age can be socially constructed in the sense that it is a way in which we differentiate from each other. Childhood, for example, is a social construct. There is an expectation of how someone should act during childhood that is different from what someone who is in teenage or adulthood should act. These assumptions are based on stereotypes or assumptions. During teenage years there are many changes that occur in life and this is often where there is a blur between youth and adulthood. For example, the age of sexual consent, tobacco smoking, and work have all changed over the years. In the early 19th Century, there was no restriction on these activities (apart from marriage); today we have the ‘age of consent’. Changes in education policies and welfare benefits have meant that a child is under 18, yet there are many adult activities allowed at this stage.
The average median for the age group between age brackets 15-64 has been found out to be 65.7percent and for children aged till 14 is 1.6 in proportion. However, the proportion for the people aged 65 and over is around 15 percent (Anon 2016).
Gender is another way we differentiate from each other and arguably the oldest. Evolutionary biologists would say that men have always been dominant due to physical dominance, however, Cameron (2007) pointed out that past analysis of these differences can be argued stating that the differences between men and women are smaller than differences within. It may not be relevant that most studies on these differences have been done by men.
The sex ratio is found to be almost equal in all the major states of the country. Additionally, with the increase in the labor market of Northern Ireland, the economic activity rate of working women has seen to be increased to 67 percent as opposed to 79 percent for men.
Northern Ireland has a higher number of people with a disability as compared to the whole United Kingdom. The statistics for disability in Northern Ireland have been mentioned in the data given below:
Health and Social Issues in Northern Ireland
Health and social care have been identified as one of the most important social policy areas in the Northern Ireland public and are among the top priority of government spending. The ongoing health and social issues have led to increase in the death rates from heart diseases, respiratory conditions, and cancers and decreased life expectancy owning to their lifestyle choices like leisure activity involving smoking, alcohol, and substance misuse). The country has been facing a growing level of obesity impacting the future health of the population. It has been estimated that about three out of five adults are obese or overweight in Northern Ireland and is seen to be highly common in middles aged people. Further, the habit of drinking and smoking among youth has led to declining health of the population. (Gray, A. M., & Horgan, G., 2009).
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Crotty, W. J., & Schmitt, D. A. (2014). Ireland and the Politics of Change. Routledge.
Giblin, T., Kennedy, K., & McHugh, D. (2013). The economic development of Ireland in the twentieth century. Routledge.
Russell, R. (2013). Census 2011: Key Statistics at Northern Ireland and LGD level. Northern Ireland Assembly: Research and Information Service Research Paper, 9.
Thompson, Dr. Janice. 2016. Transforming Health And Social Care In Northern Ireland – Services And Governance. 1st ed. Ireland. Retrieved December 2, 2016 (http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/globalassets/documents/raise/publications/2016-2021/2016/health/4016.pdf).
Ham, C., Heenan, D. A., Longley, M., & Steel, D. R. (2013). Integrated Care in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales: Lessons for England.
Anon. 2016. "Census Comparison Shows Differences Between Republic And NI". The Irish Times. Retrieved December 2, 2016 (http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/census-comparison-shows-differences-between-republic-and-ni-1.1830021).
Cameron, D. (2007). Unanswered questions and unquestioned assumptions in the study of language and gender: Female verbal superiority. Gender & Language, 1(1).
Gray, A. M., & Horgan, G. (2009). Figuring it Out: Looking behind the Social Statistics in Northern Ireland.