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Modern Boom Family (1:38) Excerpt from film "Mixed Blessings", July 2006
Economic prosperity and secularization in Ireland have affected family structure and beliefs.

Country: Ireland

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Guiding Questions
  1. How have family structure and family values changed since the economic boom?

  2. Why can the economic changes in Ireland be considered a "mixed blessing" with regard to social structure?

  3. Is there a healthy balance between work and family in the new economic boom? Explain.
Background Essay
The economic and religious changes in Ireland in the last few decades have dramatically changed family life within the country. The average number of children per family has decreased, while many more women have jobs outside the home. Amidst these changes, Irish women work on balancing their work and family lives, and have new expectations for their daughters.

Modern Ireland is now one of the most prosperous nations in Europe, for several reasons: economic dependence on the UK has decreased, there is reverse immigration, and a global economy is expanding. Real estate prices are soaring, women are entering the workforce in record numbers, and droves of foreign workers, particularly from Eastern Europe, have come to Ireland hoping to find work. For once in its history, Ireland is prosperous, modern, and a country full of immigrants to the country, instead of emigrants away from it.

All this prosperity is not without its downside, however. As a result of the economic transformation, self-sufficient towns with strong community ties have been replaced by cities, with their share of urban problems. The increase of women in the workforce has also created a change in family structure - family size has decreased and there is a struggle to balance home and work responsibilities. Furthermore, the Catholic church is in jeopardy - gone are the days when the parish priest was revered and Catholic doctrine was central in both government policy and private life.

The city of Limerick, which is located on the River Shannon, is an example of the transformations happening in Ireland. Limerick was historically an agricultural area. Since the 1990s, Limerick's industries and its fortunes have turned - the city has prospered in an economic boom and many multinational companies such as Dell, Analog Devices, and Vistakon are now based in Limerick. These companies now employ thousands of people and contribute substantially to the Irish Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Some see this rapid economic development as a mixed blessing, because at the same time as Limerick becomes more prosperous, traditions and beliefs are also being threatened. People who fondly recall "the good old days" are concerned about the changes within their city and country.

This clip is taken from an episode of WIDE ANGLE called MIXED BLESSINGS. In this film, many aspects of Limerick's transformation are explored. These include economic development, increased immigration and decreased emigration, urbanization, agricultural problems, real estate bubbles, working women, and secularization.

The relationship between the Irish church and its people has changed dramatically and with it the Irish family itself has altered. Forty years ago the average number of children born per woman was four - now it's two.

After 10 or 12 hours at the office, Gillian has come home to her three children who have been cared for all day by a full-time nanny.

No hugs for me after my day? Have you a hug for me after my day?

Sean is three and he'll be four next month, so we like to think he's still three! And Deirdre and Catherine are twins and they're six. Six since January. It would really make you want to manage your business so that you could optimize your time at home.

Really my recreation would be in my kids and I would enjoy just doing stuff with them. But it's still — Time, time for oneself is very necessary as well. My mother was at home all the time and I would work in the business, but I think you can get a good balance because I think it's healthy to be — I don't think it's normal or healthy.

I don't want to raise my daughters to be housewives because, you know, who's to say they are going to meet somebody who is going to support them. I mean, that's dead and gone, isn't it? That's not the social structure any more, anyway. It's a more fulfilling life to have a balance, but that's really the crux of the matter, trying to get the balance, I suppose.

Related Links
Mixed Blessing on PBS.org

CIA Factbook: Ireland

Economic and Social Research Institute

Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Ireland

Jesuits in Ireland
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