Class diversity at work worse now than decades ago 

Disadvantaged young people have a tougher time progressing in the workplace today than they did two generations ago.

Our research also shows that Britain is losing ground on other nations in terms of class-diversity at work; and that young people from poorer backgrounds often face insurmountable barriers in securing new jobs and promotions. 

Our study will 2,000 people shows that the majority of UK workers believe progressing through the ‘class-ceiling’ is harder for young people now than it was decades ago.  

Sixty per cent of workers aged 35 to 64 believe economically disadvantaged people in the younger generation below them have a harder time getting on in their careers than those one generation their senior. 

The findings suggest workplaces where the baby boomer generation forged their careers were more encouraging of social mobility than those facing millennials today.  

The poll also asked thousands of workers aged 18 to 64 to score how easy it is to get on in life regardless of your background in the UK. With one being ‘very hard’ and 10 being ‘very easy’, an average score of five was registered – although 25 per cent of respondents rated it ‘hard or ‘very hard’.

Progressing as a disadvantaged young person, meanwhile, is either ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’, according to the majority (54 per cent) of respondents, and 62% in London. 

Only 44 per cent of respondents said getting on in life regardless of background is easier in the UK than elsewhere in the world. 

The Social Mobility Pledge was set up last year to kick start social mobility in Britain. It aims to encourage employers to work with local schools and colleges, offer apprenticeships and adopt open recruitment policies such as name-blind or “contextual” recruitment.

John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and ITV are among the organisations - collectively employing over 1 million workers – that have signed up so far. Others include Nottingham Trent University, Vodafone, True Potential, Adidas and Severn Trent Water.


The Pledge was founded in response to Britain’s widespread lack of social mobility*, by former Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening MP and entrepreneur David Harrison, founder of the Harrison Centre for Social Mobility. 

Ms Greening had a working-class upbringing, experienced unemployment in her own family and later became the first Secretary of State for Education to go to a comprehensive school.

She said: “Our latest findings suggest class diversity at work may actually be regressing generation to generation. This is hugely concerning, given that the UK already has such a poor record in terms of social mobility.

“Enabling people to get on in life regardless of their background drives prosperity in local communities, businesses and the national economy. This really is a defining issue facing the UK currently and employers in all sectors have a central role to play in solving it.”

Meanwhile, Social Mobility Pledge co-founder, David Harrison, added: “Businesses are at the forefront of efforts to improve social mobility. The overwhelming majority want to find the best people for the job and that requires an open and broad approach to recruitment and training. It is the reason we set up the Social Mobility Pledge, to create a more level playing field where talent is what counts not where you come from.”

The Social Mobility Pledge was launched in response to Britain’s widespread lack of social mobility.

The Social Mobility Pledge