The Social Mobility Commission’s new report. Inequality is “now entrenched from birth to work,” said the Commission.
The Commission say social mobility has remained ‘virtually stagnant’ since 2014.
The Commission says entry into professional jobs is largely dependent on parents’ careers. The report shows failures in education and employment policies have caused class privilege to become more entrenched.
Martina Milburn, who took over as chair after mass resignations by Commissioners in protest at government policies said:
“Being born privileged means you are likely to remain privileged. But being born disadvantaged means you may have to overcome a series of barriers to ensure you and your children are not stuck in the same trap.”
“Our first state of the nation report since our new 12 commissioners were appointed last year shows that social mobility has stagnated over the last four years at virtually all life stages.”
What the report says.
The report addresses how entry into professional occupations is largely dependent on parents’ careers. Children from professional backgrounds are 80% more likely to go into a professional occupation, such as law or medicine, than their less privileged peers. Thanks to their connections and their stronger educational qualifications.
“Even when those from working-class backgrounds are successful in entering professional occupations, they earn on average 17% less than their more privileged colleagues.”
The commission said the report showed the “double disadvantages” of class, disability, ethnicity and gender. Women from working-class backgrounds paid 35% less than their affluent male peers within professional occupations. Only one in five people with disabilities from working-class backgrounds were entering the highest occupations.
Tech advances could make it even harder to climb the social ladder.
The report warns: Technological change also threatens to further entrench those disparities. “As automation changes the world of work, these divides could worsen. Workers in low pay and with low qualifications are most at risk of their work being automated. While at the same time are the least likely to access training to re-skill.”
Adult education provision could help redress the qualifications imbalance, said the commission. However, they complained that “almost all forms of adult education have been in decline since 2010”.
Over the next 15 years, 10 million jobs could go.
With the advance of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning no one really knows what happens next. Jobs will be lost as technology marches on. New jobs will be created. People will need to learn and develop new skills to compete. Education will play a vital role for the new generations to come.
Damian Hinds, the education secretary, said:
“We must all work together to create change in the lives of the most disadvantaged. I welcome Dame Martina’s leadership in this area, shining a light on where we can continue raising the bar.”
David Cameron set up the Social Mobility Commission with the former Labour minister Alan Milburn as chair. After issuing five annual state of the nation reports, the Commissioners quit last year, criticising the government for its lack of action.
The 2019 report calls for an expansion of free childcare in England by extending it further for disadvantaged families. Its research highlighted the closure of hundreds of children’s centres. “It is shocking too that 45% of childcare workers are on benefit or tax credits,” the report noted.
More funding for poorest pupils is needed.
The Commission also urged the government to expand the existing additional funding for poor pupils in schools to include those aged 16-19 continuing into further and higher education.
A new “student premium” would follow the current pupil premium in England’s schools. Targeting funding and focus on raising attainment for disadvantaged students.
Education funding for the 16-19 age group had fallen by 12% since 2012. It was now 8% lower than for secondary schools. Subsequently, this had led to cuts in teaching and student support that were harming disadvantaged students.
The Commission called on the government to pay the voluntary living wage to its employees and contracted workers. Including cleaners and catering staff.
Campbell Robb, the chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the report “reinforces what we have been seeing for some time. More people trapped on low incomes and unable to build a better life.”
“The government should urgently prioritise investing in skills and better-paid jobs in places where people are locked out of opportunity. This is crucial if we are to strike at the heart of this issue and build an inclusive economy.”
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