Contemporary Wales
Contemporary Wales

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Contemporary Wales

5.1.3 White settlers

You have already come across the idea that much of the wealth and power in Wales is possessed by people who live elsewhere. The key financial institutions in Britain are in London. New York and Tokyo are the other major financial centres in the world. Many of the companies which employ people in Wales are multinational and have their headquarters outside Wales. But what about English people who live in Wales? Do they form an elite? Do they take most of the top jobs? Is there a cultural division of labour [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ? Might being English provide an advantage of some kind? At one time, in some political discussions in Wales these people were referred to as ‘white settlers’ – that is, they were compared with the European elites in African countries who ruled over native populations. This is, of course, an inflammatory way of expressing the idea.

About one in five of the population of Wales was born in England. They cannot all hold elite positions – there are simply too many of them – but do they take a disproportionate number of the best paid and most powerful positions? The short answer is that we don’t really know. An English (Geordie) sociologist explains one reason for this: ‘Social science has been, rightly, accused of adopting a posture of palms up to the rich for the receipt of funding and eyes down to the poor as part of the surveillance necessary for their control’ (Byrne, 2005, p. 5).

As you will see, there is a good deal of research in Wales on the poor. Studies of the rich and powerful are much harder to come by and are not very conclusive on this issue. What evidence there is suggests there is some advantage for those who are not Welsh by birth. From data in the 1991 census it can be shown that 6.2 per cent of those born outside Wales are employed in professions, compared with 2.2 per cent of non-Welsh-speaking people born in Wales and 3.5 per cent of Welsh speakers. That is, they are almost three times more likely to be in the top jobs than Welsh people who do not speak Welsh, and almost twice as likely to be so than Welsh speakers (Aitchison and Carter, 2000, pp. 123–7). However, the 2011 census shows that Welsh speakers and those who do not speak Welsh are represented in identical proportions (7.6%) in ‘higher managerial, administrative and professional occupations’; and that 23% of Welsh speakers and only 18.7% of those who cannot speak Welsh are found in the next category down, ‘lower managerial administrative and professional occupations’. At the other end of the socio-economic table the converse is found, with those who cannot speak Welsh are better represented among the ‘semi routine occupations’, ‘routine occupations’ and among the‘never worked and long-term unemployed’ (Statistics for Wales 2012, Table 4). So there is some truth in the view that there is an incoming elite. But this data also reveals significant differences between Welsh people according to whether or not they speak Welsh, with census data suggesting a higher representation of those who cannot speak Welsh on the lower socio-economic job categories.

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