Only radical reform can fix Britain’s broken ladder of social mobility | Lee Elliott Major and Stephen Machin
Coronavirus has exposed the unfairness of British society. Politicians ignore this at their peril
Coronavirus has worsened Britain’s unlevel playing field. Despite a bumper year of student A grades, many teacher predictions placed poorest pupils even further behind their more privileged peers. National data has confirmed the gaping divide that exists between private and state schools in online class provision. As middle-class salaried workers have accumulated more wealth by saving on holidays and trips to restaurants, poor, young and insecure workers are more likely to have been furloughed, lost their jobs, or placed on zero-hour contracts.
The twin drivers of low social mobility – economic and educational inequality – are on the rise. This is bad news for future social mobility. But real wages and living standards were already stagnating and fuelling a growing sense of unfairness before the pandemic hit. A survey carried out before the European referendum in 2016 confirmed widespread pessimism about the prospects of climbing the social ladder. Nearly three out of four people believed it was difficult to move between socioeconomic classes, up from two-thirds of people only a decade previously.