Northern Ireland Life and Culture

Northern Ireland Tourism

Living in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Culture

Social Security

As from 1947 we have had a Welfare State..

Education is free from primary school right through to university with school being compulsory up to age 16. At age 11 you can currently go into either a Grammar school, if you pass the '11 plus' test, or a Secondary school if you don't. Most people consider the Grammar school to be a preparation for university. Depending on the parents income students will get a grant towards their expenses at university though they can also apply for a subsidised student loan too. Local schools come in four varieties... state schools which are mainly attended by non-Catholics (actually mainly protestants but other ethnic groups would go to these too), catholic schools which are mainly Catholics, integrated schools which are a mixture and public schools (these are actually private schools ie the parents pay fees and, no, I don't know why we call them public). The public schools are effectively private sector versions of integrated schools: they don't care what race/colour/religion you are so long as your credit rating is good! We also have single-sex and mixed (co-educational) versions of most of these types though by and large the schools are mixed these days: the boys only public schools seem to have specialised in producing gay men which has put people off them a little! I just went to a mixed Grammar school so I hope I'm safe enough that way!!

Health care is free for us in all respects except for prescription medication which we've to make a contribution towards. Naturally there's also private health care but it's really only for routine operations and is on nothing like the scale in the US. If you're unemployed you get paid something (about 50??) per week for the first six months but as I've not been unemployed since just after I left university I'm kind of hazy on this.

Retirement... When you hit 65 you get the state pension which is based on your National Insurance contributions and is currently about UKP 70 per week but it's gradually being phased out and by the time I reach 65 I'll probably only be able to buy myself a packet of crisps with it! Actually it's currently age 60 for women but it's being increased to 65 over the next lot of years.
Employment... For all but the very smallest companies it is obligatory to advertise vacancies as a result of several lots of anti-discrimination legislation (banning discrimination on the grounds on religion and sex/marital status and soon for race too). As far as I know everybody gets at least four weeks holidays but it's usually five. If you're working and get pregnant then you get three months off per pregnancy at full pay, not counting any time you might be off sick prior to the birth. You usually work about 40 hours each week for a full-time job or up to 20 for part-time (different legislation applies to part-timers). All of the larger companies have a company sponsored pension scheme but you usually need to pay 5% towards this. Lastly, the important bit... yes, salary! Just considering full-time jobs gross (pre-tax) salaries range from about UKP 8,000 ($12,000) to around UKP 30,000 ($45,000) for the bulk of people and you end up with about 2/3rds of that 'in your hand'.


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