Social mobility: a reality check

November 11, 2008 at 2:10 pm | Posted in British Politics, Social Policy | 1 Comment

David Byrne, Professor of Sociology at Durham University, pours cold water on the government’s claim to have improved social mobility in recent years by insisting that the true test of mobility is occupation, not education:

The most important shift over the last 40 years has been the massive decline in the proportion of the population engaged in skilled manual work. At the same time, the relative earnings of many occupations which require higher levels of education have declined, to the extent that occupations which could be accessed with five O-levels in the 1960s now require a degree.

The net effect is that it is increasingly difficult for children from middle-income households to achieve the relative, and even absolute, living standard of their parents. The harsh reality is that in the bad old days of the 11-plus there was more social mobility than there is now. The UK is, by western European standards, an unequal society and all the signs are that it is likely to remain so.

I’m sure there are thousands of recent graduates out there who could identify with that.


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  1. […] the scene demonstrated was a profound lack of faith in the prospect for social mobility, and it’s something which is quite a recurrent theme in television. In soap operas, […]

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