Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy agenda

Research shows the UK is a lot less socially mobile than other countries and this problem needs to be prioritised.

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Research shows that the UK is a lot less socially mobile than Australia and Canada and this fallback needs to be addressed.

Social-mobilityThe deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has made social mobility central to his strategy to differentiate the Lib Dems from the Tories and yesterday Alan Milburn, chair of the government’s social mobility and child poverty commission, launched his latest report.

The current social mobility lexicon bristles with terms such as ‘fairness’ and ‘enhancing life chances’ – yet as Zoe Williams pointed out in last week’s Guardian:

Even if social mobility was achieved, what is so great about a society in which the outliers of each class can move relatively freely up and down the hierarchy? What’s so great about being able to escape the gutter, when the bulk of people are still in it?

Part of the reason that class has become so ossified is that, in this time of great inequality, the consequences of dropping from any given class to the one below it are severe…

No wonder people try to lock in their privilege by paying for education. The only rational solution to that is to work towards a time when there is less difference between the classes.

The interplay between social inequality and social mobility is therefore crucial. Social mobility, defined as moving up the ladder in employment, status and income terms, has stalled in the UK. Rich parents still tend to have rich children and poor parents have poor children. More equal countries, like those in Scandinavia, have greater levels of social mobility.

As income and wealth inequalities have widened in the UK and the USA over the last thirty years, social mobility has slowed. The UK has the least socially mobile population of the G8 group of industrialised economies directly correlating to widening inequality between the wealthiest.

 


See also:

Time for Clegg to bridge the early intervention gap and act on social mobility 15 May 2012

Five reasons Clegg can’t stand on his social mobility record 12 Jan 2012

Can Clegg deliver on his social mobility pledges? 21 Sep 2011


 

The case of social housing is particularly pertinent since the tenure houses many on low incomes, new research by the Human City Institute shows. The creation of the Social Housing and Social Mobility (SMASH) Parliamentary Taskforce, led by Lord Best, former head of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, underscores the importance of studying the sector.

HCI’s research shows that over the last thirty years, economic activity in social housing has declined from about half of all tenants to about one third. And the proportion of tenants in professional and managerial employment has halved. Social housing is an increasingly residualised tenure which has adversely affected tenants’ life chances.

Links between geographical and social mobility in social housing and the costs of this reduced mobility to the economy and the welfare system have been estimated at around £1 billion annually of which about 30 per cent is linked to labour market immobility.

Key factors affecting social mobility in social housing are income levels, access to education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, control of assets, access to affordable credit, and intergenerational transmission of wealth, skills and support.

Unfortunately, social housing tenants score badly on all. Half of tenants have household incomes below £10,000. Access to primary and secondary education is increasingly determined by an ability to compete in the home ownership market.

Access to tertiary education for those on low incomes has been curbed by increased university fees and the abolition of the education maintenance allowance. Two thirds of social housing tenants have no savings at all. Of those who do, almost half have less than £1,000.

Social landlords invest £500 million annually in community initiatives to support economic activity and to tackle poverty.

Yet without the commitment by government to reduce the yawning wealth and income gap, to invest in community-based employment and training widely and deeply and to enable low income households to accumulate assets, social inequality between tenants and others and their upwards mobility in the jobs market are unlikely to improve and their life chances remain poorer than those in other tenures.

 


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22 Responses to “Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy agenda”

  1. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy agenda //t.co/nfRBa4NV

  2. Ellis Palmer

    Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy agenda, writes @KevinGulliver: //t.co/chpMCyyF

  3. Kevin Gulliver

    Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy agenda, writes @KevinGulliver: //t.co/chpMCyyF

  4. One Society

    Govt must address the interplay between social #inequality & #socialmobility (@KevinGulliver) //t.co/6mhmIh1C

  5. clarebelz

    And the solution for social housing tenants?

    Raising social housing rents to supposedly ‘affordable’ levels or by means of ‘convergence’ calculations, which increasingly puts pressure on the budgets of low waged households.

    For those claiming JSA this also means that the chance of obtaining a job that actually pays basic overheads becomes impossible. In some recent cases, job seekers were forced to take on work that could not possibly keep them going financially. That sort of thing – especially affecting single and married people without children who don’t tend to receive any tax credits that at least could go toward utilities – puts them on the road to eventual eviction and homelessness.

    For those with children, recent tax credits cuts have had an enormous affect on their ability to pay their way. One friend with 3 children who has lost most of her tax credits said that had they not paid their mortgage off a few years back, they just would not manage at all.

    And of course, households where there are children and one partner works, the other is disabled have just lost all of their ESA. Also, disabled single people, having understood the implications of the Welfare Reform Bill have lived in fear since, not knowing if they’ll be able to keep their social housing homes or whether they will have enough income to survive with any dignity at all.

    Equality and social mobility will never come about unless these basic things are addressed. People are generally realistic; yes, people dream of winning the lottery and such, but most of the time, they are just happy to have a roof over their heads, perhaps a small garden and enough to keep themselves afloat, along with a little treat now and again.

    I actually don’t want to be rich. I really am happy in my little semi detached property owned by the local housing association that I’ve worked on for 25 years, making the garden beautiful and indoors comfortable, until I became seriously ill and was forced to finish work. Now it seems that people like me aren’t even going to be allowed that. Not only this, but not even allowed enough of an income to enable some kind of independence and dignity.

    And the government have the gall to talk of ‘social mobility’, when they are doing their level best to destroy any chance that poor people have of living a stable life? People need a roof over their heads, enough to eat, and enough to pay their utilities: at the very least. If they can’t have this small thing in the 21st century, after hundreds of years of servitude, slavery and poverty, then there is something seriously wrong with this supposedly civilized country.

  6. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy agenda //t.co/SQQtfZz3

  7. Emma Seery

    On social mobility; What’s so great about being able to escape the gutter, when the bulk of people are still in it? //t.co/LYEsJYDn

  8. nick

    Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy agenda, writes @KevinGulliver: //t.co/chpMCyyF

  9. Ed's Talking Balls

    Grammar schools are evil though: we must all remember that. Those who attended private school (or, in some case, attended those terrible institutions themselves) tell us so, hence it must be true.

    Pull the ladder up Jack, I’m OK…

  10. Tumi Hawkins

    Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy … //t.co/Ll90QAMq

  11. media man

    //t.co/4Uy9HLQk Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy …: Research shows the … //t.co/veMpsqLJ

  12. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy agenda //t.co/SQQtfZz3

  13. Human City Institute

    Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy agenda, writes @KevinGulliver: //t.co/chpMCyyF

  14. JC

    How about improving the state education system so that the private schools offer a lower standard? This isn’t about paying teachers more, although it might be included. It’s not about building shiny new schools either. We need to push standards up.

    The government should be setting the standard for qualifications and, in my view, going back to the older approach for grading where the top x% (5? 6?) were awarded grade A, the next y% (about 10) were awarded a B and so on. Make the exams more challenging and let the teachers show what they can do. No detailed National Curriculum, just a standard syllabus. Look at methods for supporting discipline and engage the parents. Also ensure that no teachers discourage their pupils from applying for Oxbridge. That was disgusting.

  15. Anonymous

    Yes, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Finland shows that educational streaming is not desirable.

  16. Anonymous

    JC;

    The problem is quite simple: Testing. Test, test test – the only thing which teachers have time to do is have their kids memorize facts.

    Even Gove has now realized this, and is handing the A-levels over to University control. There WILL be less exams, starting with the AS-levels going. Kids will be expected to learn HOW to learn… (Still far too late, it’s something they should be learning in their early teens)

    Evidence-based systems of Teaching, like Finlands, don’t start testing kids (and labeling many of them as failures) until they’re into their teens. And have far better results.

  17. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy agenda //t.co/SQQtfZz3

  18. Michael J Freeman

    Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy agenda | Left Foot Forward //t.co/K6Zs8lNQ

  19. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy agenda //t.co/SQQtfZz3

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