From the TUC

Social mobility will only improve if inequality is reduced

18 Aug 2010, by in Politics, Society & Welfare

The last few days have seen both Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition partners emphasise their committment to improving social mobility. Of course this is a laudable aim – as Nick Clegg says, too many children’s life chances are determined at birth. However, it seems extremely unlikely that the Coalition’s policies are going to fix the problem that they are so keen to diagnose.

In a new TUC report, Richard has analysed the international evidence on social mobility. The findings are definitive: there is a very strong link between social mobility and equality. Any Government attempting to improve the opportunities of the poorest will first have to reduce the gap between rich and poor.

In their recent report Going for Growth the OECD undertook a comprehensive analysis of trends in social mobility across the developed world. They concluded that:

“narrower cross-sectional inequality (at a given point in time) is associated with lower intergenerational persistence in wages across European OECD countries”

Many other studies have reached similar conclusions. For example, a study of 20th century intergenerational mobility in the USA noted that mobility and inequality both followed similar patterns from 1940 to 2000: there was a steady increase in mobility, and decrease in inequality, from 1940 to 1980, with a sharp increase in inequality, and decline in mobility, thereafter.

Evidence therefore shows us that while education plays an important role, parental earnings are also extremely influential in determining educational outcomes. Investment in education that is not accompanied by action to reduce wider social and economic inequality will not successfully increase mobility. As the Liberal Democrats’ Independent Commission on Social Mobility concluded last year:

Whilst it is absolutely vital to promote the upward mobility of individual children and young people through education and employment opportunities, policy changes in these areas alone will not be enough…we need to develop a genuinely holistic approach to policy which takes account of all the drivers and barriers to opportunity, not just those that occur at school and work.

The ‘drivers’ the Commission identified included poverty and inequality.

So what the the likely impacts of the Coalition’s policies on social mobility? So far, we have seen a committment to implement the deepest spending reductions since WW2 and cuts made to date show us that the poorest will be disproportionately affected. In addition, despite the rhetoric on improving children’s life chances, around £13 billion of cuts have already been made to services and support directly targeted at children and young people.

Today the Deputy Prime Minister also infomed us that Labour’s investments in welfare spending have had ‘no discernible impact on the real life chances of the next generation’ – and presumably that it is therefore justifiable for benefits to be cut. But social security definitely does reduce poverty – if it doesn’t increase mobility it is because payments are not generous enough reduce inequality in the absence of a wider strategy (which could include, for example, a focus on making the tax system more progressive, increased recognition of the role that collective bargaining can play in raising wages, regulating bonuses and policy to improve job quality). The Coalition’s cuts to benefits will increase poverty, and make social mobility worse.

Despite all of its worthy rhetoric the reality of the Coalition’s actions are far removed from their aspirations. As fewer young people are able to find university places, careers services face decimation, schools are refused money for new facilities, low-income mothers have their benefits cut and families with children face homelessness Britain is becoming more unequal, and less socially mobile, than ever.

2 Responses to Social mobility will only improve if inequality is reduced

  1. Tweets that mention Social mobility will only improve if inequality is reduced | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC — Topsy.com
    Aug 18th 2010, 7:01 pm

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  2. Ivor
    Oct 15th 2010, 10:58 am

    Re: ‘My Story’: The Impact of My Social Mobility

    (‘My Story’ – not attached. Summary is supplied below)

    To me, ‘upward’ Social Mobility is the improvement of a cycle aimed at encouraging and inspiring peoples ideas to be put into practise. This, in turn, will motivate family members and communities to engage and follow this positive impact and thus minimise the dependency on Welfare Benefit and reducing numbers into the Criminal Justice system. In addition, for those who come from vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds, this sense of belonging and interacting with this ‘upward mobility’ is what requires underpinning by the state.

    I have produced a story ‘My Story’ that reflects the vast challenges I have experienced over a few years. As someone who has experienced a vulnerable and disadvantaged background, I am particularly as concerned about policy-making in this area to encourage social-mobility, as I am eager to play a significant part in mobilising a positive impact on people that will, ultimately, trigger an aspirational movement in communities.

    ‘My Story’ highlights me ‘getting their against all odds… only to be failed’. It informs the reader of my hard work, determination to succeed and the fact that I had no choice but to place all my trust and reliance into a government scheme that was meant to support the aspirations of individuals like myself who were disadvantaged. Yes, I am talking about the governments ‘Loan Guarantee Scheme’ for start-up businesses. Originally, this scheme was called the (SFLGS) Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme. Little did I know that many issues existed on this scheme that was to affect me and my viable business opportunity. As a result of the third-party interest by banks, a Government Review of this scheme would highlight:

    1. Bank managers – lacking an understanding of the scheme and how to process applications
    2. Banking/government procedures taking, sometimes, 8-months to complete (proving detrimental to start-ups)
    3. Graham Review – highlighting many more issues responsible for failing many viable businesses and thus failing ‘people’
    4. The scheme was responsible for failings hundreds (if not thousands) of disadvantaged people who otherwise would not even of got that far (source: IBAS Independent Banking Advisory Service).

    As a result of all my hard work by ‘getting their against all odds’, as a direct result of the scheme its policy remit, I lost not only my viable business, but also my home (after suffering mental depression).

    What made matters worse, proving more stressful for me, is when I contacted my MP. Basically, he did very little to highlight these failings in Parliament or even Westminster Hall. This is even when I submitted documented evidence highlighting the National Impact it has had on Social Mobility – those similar to me. Soon after, I found out that my MP was the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Small Business Group and he did not even botehr to highlight this issues. During my homelessness, I sought another MP (same Party) who, again, did not want to address the serious issues. Instead, after I stormed out of her surgery, she wrote me a letter telling me “I should get on with my life and leave the past behind.” Very easy for this MP to say that.

    Yes, MPs do NOT have a Statutory Legal Obligation to Represent. This means they can ‘pick and chose’ how they handle a particular issue. It is wrong!

    ‘My Story’ has a depth highlighting the consequences and overall impact these failings have had on my life – without Political support, Community support or, even, legal support. I am still struggling to get back on my feet. However, I am with knowledge of what I want to do – Support the Aspirations of the Community.

    I do hope that you will be interested in ‘My Story’ – given the many challenges I had to deal with over the previous years. As ‘My Story’ highlights the fundamental basis of why Politics and policy-makers require scrutiny of the highest standard so that its service-users, ‘the tax-payer’, is protected and thus Social Mobility is enabled. I do hope that I can gain some support with the issues, the impact of such issues and my will to ‘get back on my feet’ and work towards an aims, I strongly believe in, once again.

    Like Jury Service, whereby we, the Public, have a duty to play an active part in the Justice System, I strongly believe that Policy-makers should be under the same prescription whereby the tax-payer has a final say on how policy is developed and the impact on peoples lives.