Class privilege entrenched as social mobility stagnates

The government needs to take urgent action to help close the privilege gap as the Social Mobility Commission warns that ‘inequality is now entrenched in Britain from birth to work’.

It’s sixth State of the Nation report analyses early childhood, schools, universities, further education and work, revealing that social mobility has been stagnant for the last four years. This is complemented by new ONS data which shows the wide gap in school attainment and income between the rich and the poor has barely shifted.

The commission stresses that the better off are nearly 80 per cent more likely to end up in professional jobs than those from a working-class background. Even when people from disadvantaged backgrounds land a professional job, they earn 17 per cent less than their privileged colleagues.

To address this issue, the government should extend eligibility and uptake of the 30 hour childcare offer to those only working eight hours a week, as a first step to make it available to more low-income families. Additionally, the government should raise per pupil funding by a significant amount for those aged 16 to 19, and introduce a new pupil premium for disadvantaged students in that age group.

Dame Martina Milburn, chair of the commission, said: “Our research suggests that being able to move regions is a key factor in being able to access professional jobs. Clearly moving out is too often necessary to move up. At a time when our country needs to be highly productive and able to carve out a new role in a shifting political and economic landscape, we must find a way to maximise the talent of all our citizens, especially those that start the furthest behind.

“It is vital that young people have more choice to shape their own lives. This means not only ensuring that they get better qualifications, but making sure they have an informed choice to take up an apprenticeship rather than taking a degree, to find a job which is fulfilling and the choice to stay where they grew up rather than moving away.”

Nick Forbes, Local Government Association senior vice chair, said: “We want every resident to have a good quality of life and to be able to improve their circumstances regardless of their background or where they live. To tackle poverty and promote social mobility, policies cutting across a wide range of areas – such as early years, family support, education, employment support, welfare, public health and housing - need to be considered together and follow people through their lifetime.

“Councils want to work with government to see that children, young people and families get the best start in life and in order to better serve the needs of disadvantaged communities, we are calling on government to give councils oversight of all school improvement, sufficient funding for local welfare support and schools, and ensure that all families have access to the free childcare that they need.”

The Social Mobility Commission's State of the Nation 2018 to 2019 report highlights inequality in Britain and sets out key findings and recommendations.