Despite ongoing economic hardship, a new study indicates that social cohesion in Ireland remains stronger than in Britain, Germany or France.
The survey by Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation ranked Ireland 11th on a list of 35 countries that was topped by Nordic countries, Australia and New Zealand.
While economic hardship can drive a society apart, the study noted smaller states such as Ireland, Switzerland and Austria demonstrate a more resilient sense of cohesion than larger neighbours. Using data collated over 25 years, the study attempts to quantify the levels of social cohesion, defined as the level of solidarity exhibited by people living and working in a geographical community.
The researchers studied data from 34 countries including 27 members of the EU – before Croatia’s accession – and seven other members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. They found the strongest social cohesion in Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden. After Australia and New Zealand, Ireland belonged to the next-best group.
The Irish showed top ratings in the sub-categories of solidarity, helpfulness and strength of social networks but only average ratings regarding overall fairness and civic participation.
Researchers noted one negative trend: declining trust in Irish institutions. Looking at the data going back 25 years, researchers suggest the idea of solidarity remains strong in Ireland while respect for social rules, having dipped in about 2008, is again on the rise.