Pre-Existing Pay Gap Continues from 2014
According to an Annual Report from the Social Mobility Commission, released today, progress on social mobility has “stalled” as Pay Gap continues. This is despite the government’s efforts to improve the situation.
The report says that while there have been some improvements in social mobility since 2010, these have been “disproportionately felt by those from the most advantaged backgrounds”. It also notes that recent years have seen a “backtracking” on previous progress.
The Commission calls on the government to do more to improve social mobility, including by increasing investment in early years education and childcare and providing more support for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who are not in employment, education or training. It also urges the government to do more to address regional disparities in social mobility.
In response to the report, a spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Social mobility has never been higher than it is now, and there is more to do. We are committed to giving every child the best start in life regardless of their background.”
Their claim that social mobility has “never been higher” is disingenuous at best and entirely contradicted by the evidence in the report. It is clear that the government is not doing enough to improve social mobility and that more needs to be done. If the government is serious about improving social mobility, it needs to start listening to the experts and taking action on their recommendations.
The development of professional jobs has been a major contributor to social mobility over the past few decades. However, this process has reached a plateau, with any recent decline being blamed on previous success. This is not good enough. The government needs to do more to ensure that there are opportunities for everyone to improve their lot in life.
The report also notes that income mobility is on a different trajectory, with those born since the late 1970s facing decreased chances of changing their circumstances. This is particularly true for women from professional and working-class backgrounds, whose earnings have diverged since 2014. The impact of austerity on social mobility has been well documented, and it is clear that the government’s policies are making the situation worse, not better.
As precedent shows, the commission has not been successful in the past decade. According to the research, this is due to several reasons: Alan Milburn in 2017, followed by Dame Martina Milburn in 2020. MPs have also been critical, but ministers rejected a suggestion from the select education committee that it should become a social justice commission with a dedicated minister.
The government needs to do more to improve social mobility by providing more support for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who are not in employment, education or training. It also needs to address regional disparities in social mobility. If it fails, the commission’s warnings will continue going unheeded – and future generations will pay the price.
John Goldthorpe, an academic expert, believes “younger generations of men and women now face less favourable mobility prospects than did their parents”. Wealth and asset mobility (particularly housing) are where attention needs to turn. But there is little chance of this under the present government. Austerity and the pandemic have made the task of making Britain less unfair even harder. It isn’t easy to see the Social Mobility Commission making any difference.
The government’s track record on social mobility is not good enough. The Social Mobility Commission’s report makes for grim reading, and more must be done to improve the situation. The commission has warned about this for years, but the government has failed to act on its recommendations.
It is time for the government to take the Social Mobility Commission’s report seriously and take action to improve social mobility in Britain. Anything less would be a betrayal of those who are struggling to get on in life.
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