Lack of social mobility costing UK economy £270bn each year

Mark Johnson's picture
by Mark Johnson

Workplace discrimination and a lack of diversity and social mobility are putting young off applying for many jobs, and it’s costing the UK economy dear. 

That’s according to a new report called ‘Working with class: The state of social immobility in graduate recruitment’, published by London-based graduate recruitment platform, Debut.

After surveying and interviewing young people in the UK (18-25-year-olds), it found over a third (35 per cent) of participants are put off joining a business if they perceive the workforce to be made up predominantly of middle and upper-class employees – extrapolated out this equates to 2.5 million young people.

Disturbing OECD data

Moreover, the OECD reveals it would take 150 years for a child from a poor UK family to earn the national average wage. 

To couple this, the Social Mobility Commission reveals those from better off backgrounds are almost 80 per cent more likely to be in a professional job than their working class peers. 

This is costing businesses and the wider economy enormously, said Debut, with the cost of poor social mobility and workplace discrimination equating to a staggering £270 billion per year.

“Disadvantaged young people are still struggling to get ahead and face worse outcomes than their more advantaged peers”, said James Turner, CEO at social mobility charity, Sutton Trust – who Debut interviewed for this report. 

“The UK is a particularly class-based society, which hasn’t changed significantly over time.” 

In addition, the research found two thirds (66 per cent) of graduates felt they had to change who they are, including their appearance in order to ‘make a good impression’ during an interview. 

And the majority (64 per cent) of candidates said they weren’t able to express themselves as individuals during the application process. 

“We need more opportunities to show who we are, and our potential,” said a 21-year-old female participant, “filling in an application form or submitting your CV is not enough.” 

Professional exclusion

James Bennett, CEO of Debut, commented on the report: “Our research reveals the majority of UK businesses are guilty of ‘professional exclusion’ and as such are missing out on a huge pool of tremendously talented young people from diverse backgrounds. 

“This is not only stunting business’ own growth but also severely affecting the wider economy. 

“It is imperative that businesses must do more than just pay lip service to diversity and inclusion and start taking real action to ensure they are in-step with modern social trends and viewpoints.”

Debut also interviewed Charlotte Leer, Emerging Talent Recruitment Manager at HSBC, for the report. 

Vast problem

“As this timely report shows – the scale of this issue is vast”, Leer told Debut. “However, all businesses should be taking steps to address this. 

“For example, we’ve taken the bold decision to focus on a strengths-behaviours-values based approach. 

“This enables all candidates to present themselves as they are, rather than how we would like them to be, while also removing the filters and biases arising from a CV-driven approach.”

Bennett added: “Today’s graduates don’t just demand equality – they expect it. 

“And as graduates become increasingly more aware – and more vocal – about such issues, the talent pool will dry up for companies that aren’t putting enough of an emphasis on this.” 

As well as HSBC, the full report also includes interviews from other major brands, such as, technology giant Cisco and global advertising and marketing powerhouse, WPP.

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