The Social Mobility Commission published its latest State of the Nation policy paper yesterday. The paper looks back at life in the pandemic and highlights the sad truth that the divide between those who are from a disadvantaged background, and those who are not, is greater than ever.
Social mobility is an issue very close to my heart and the fight against socio-economic inequalities is now more important than ever. In order to recover most effectively from the pandemic, we need to ensure that as a society we are not unnecessarily divided. In my view, that means ensuring that talented individuals are not being held back because of their socio-economic background and that those in leadership roles are understanding and reflective of the communities that they serve.
In 2020, the paper notes that 49% of UK jobs were professional, yet those from a privileged background are still 60% more likely to be in a professional job compared to those from a working-class background. Even those in professional jobs from working-class backgrounds earned an average of £6,000 less than their more privileged colleagues.
A hot topic for many employers at the moment is hybrid working, allowing employees to split their work between home and the office. Yet the paper notes that, in the pandemic, professionals had homeworking rates more than 40 percentage points higher than any working-class occupation. It also highlighted that many low-income households cannot afford the internet allowance they need due to high costs or poor local infrastructure. In this light, it will be important to consider how we approach hybrid working in a way that does not exacerbate the socio-economic divide.
In an effort to reduce barriers to social mobility, the Commission has recommended seven “pillars of recovery” which are:
- A levelling up agenda to promote equality for those living in under-invested areas;
- A more generous benefits system to reduce child poverty and increase living standards;
- Higher pay and a better career structure for those who work in early years education;
- A greater focus on access to education, including a premium for students aged 16 to 19;
- An increased share of apprenticeships and higher-level positions being offered to those from disadvantaged backgrounds;
- Greater access to affordable internet and devices and the skills needed for the 21st century; and
- A greater focus on work and career progression for those from a lower socio-economic background, ensuring that all employers measure the social diversity of their workforce.
The paper makes several key recommendations to employers, including:
- Asking key questions to gain a better understanding of the socio-economic diversity of your workforce;
- Working with schools and colleges in social mobility “coldspots” to provide greater opportunities to those from a lower socio-economic background;
- Recruiting based on skills and potential; and
- Building a better culture of progression by creating defined lists of skills required to progress and reducing the number of informal ways of being promoted.
In my view, all of these things are vital to reversing the trends that the pandemic has worsened. Wherever we are based and whatever industry we operate in, if we want to build back better, we all have a part to play.
If you would value a discussion about social mobility and the steps your business can take to promote social mobility then please do get in touch.
"As Commissioners, we believe the United Kingdom has a unique chance to use this moment as an impetus to create change."