Language and Occupational Status: Linguistic Elitism in the Irish Labour Market
This paper, using data from the 2006 Irish Census, provides evidence of the structural advantage of Irish speaking, relative to non-speaking workers in Ireland’s labour market with advantage and disadvantage being defined in terms of occupational outcomes. To the best of our knowledge there has been no systematic investigation of any advantage enjoyed by Irish speakers in Ireland and allegations of the comfortable middle class ambience of the Gaelscoileanna have remained at the level of anecdote. Since linguistic elitism is a feature of many societies and since Irish enjoys the constitutional status of the national and first official language of Ireland, such an investigation was, arguably, overdue. This is then compared to the structural advantage of Irish speaking workers in Northern Ireland and of Welsh speaking workers in Wales. Our conclusion is that after controlling for as many relevant factors as the data permitted, a considerable part of the difference between Irish speakers and non-speakers in Ireland, in their proportionate presence in the upper reaches of occupational class, was due to structural advantage. The major contribution of this paper is to lift the debate about the economic position of Irish speakers in Ireland above the level of hearsay: dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi.
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