By Zafar Iqbal
Defining Social Mobility
Social or intergenerational mobility is the process of changes in peoples’ social status between generations. Research indicates that intergenerational mobility is strongly interlinked with a level of inequality in the society . Thus, the determinants of social mobility include social structure, family background and policy or institutional framework. The discourse of social mobility is dominant by official version which divides the process into three categories. Intergovernmental social mobility is about breaking the transmission of disadvantage from one generation to the next by providing people opportunities to progress during their working lives. Relative social mobility places the fundamental responsibility of the government to provide equal opportunity to everyone for accessing job to reach higher income. And absolute mobility refers to the changes of ‘social positions’ of the people. For instance, in 1970s post war structural changes and growth of professional and technical jobs in the 1980s generated upward mobility in the UK.
Social mobility in the UK
The research on UK social mobility landscape shows a fall in the degree of social mobility for past decades. The widening gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged groups of the society ranked the UK among OECD nations with the worst records for social mobility and highest in income inequality. The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission after analysing 4000 prominent public and private sector leaders found that 71 per cent of senior judges, 62 per cent of senior armed forces officers, 55 per cent of top civil servants, 36 per cent of the cabinet, 43 per cent of journalists were educated at private schools. The report validates the previous findings on educational inequality in the society.
Social mobility and Education
Education is a driver for a social mobility that prepares people for essential skills and knowledge required for future success as citizens and workers. Education and social inequalities are correlated as low attainment is linked with poverty. In the UK, the relationship between low socioeconomic background and poor educational attainment is greater than in almost any other developed country (The Teaching Trust, 2015). The performance of both affluent and underprivileged classes in the grades remains inequitable. The Department of Education figures shows that 35 per cent of children from schools that provide free meals obtained five A*-C grades including English and maths, whereas other schools known as non-Free Schools Meals (FSM) gained 62 per cent . At GCSE level nearly 50 per cent of students from FSM category achieved no passes above D grade (Ibid). Higher Education Sector shows a similar inequality in admissions, retention and outcomes of students from the privileged and the most deprived communities. A study shows that the most advantaged 20 per cent of young people are still seven times more likely to attend the most selective universities than the 40 per cent most disadvantaged. Four private schools and one college get more of their students into Oxbridge than the combined efforts of 2,000 state schools and colleges .
Policies and actions
Policies aimed at improving social mobility include policy framework and legislation such as minimum wage legislation, Education Maintenance Allowance for students from low income social ladder, the Social Mobility Strategy, improved accountability system and financial incentives such as ‘pupil premium’ and , up-Skilling young people and adults from deprived backgrounds and others.