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Do young people from poor backgrounds face a ‘Class Ceiling’?

The goal of the initiative is to encourage employers to hire and promote those from all backgrounds

Most of us will be familiar with the phrase ‘glass ceiling’ – the idea that women are only able to advance so far in the workplace. But how many of us have considered another vital barrier to success that so many people will face in their lifetimes: the ‘class ceiling’?

It’s a controversial topic, to say the least, but recent studies have shown young people from poorer backgrounds may not be allowed the same opportunities as their richer peers, causing them to hit a ‘ceiling’ preventing them from rising above their parents’ social class.

Social Class

Although we may consider social class to be a thing from history, if we’re honest most of us know where we fall in the social hierarchy we seem incapable of escaping.

Following an employment survey undertaken by The Labour Force Survey, it’s been established a “class pay gap” exists in the UK. An example of this is people from working class backgrounds earning roughly 16% less on average than those from privileged backgrounds. This gap exists even when the individuals have the same education, level of experience and job title.

In a similar study, it was found that most pupils accepted into Oxford and Cambridge universities were from just five of the most elite UK schools as opposed to nearly 2,000 other schools.

With these statistics, it’s clear there’s a fundamental class difference in the UK which must be addressed to ensure young people from all backgrounds are offered the same opportunities for social movement.


Worryingly, the ‘class ceiling’ might be getting worse, not better, as time goes on. In another study from the Social Mobility Pledge Initiative, 60% of workers between 35 and 64 stated they believe poorer people find it more difficult to progress in the workplace.

According to a former education secretary and founder of the Social Mobility Pledge Initiative, Justine Greening, the ‘baby boomer’ generation might have been more liberal when considering people of different social class backgrounds.

Today’s Millennials may be having a harder time proving their worth, with issues such as names, strong regional accents and vocabulary being stated as things which may be reducing their ability to progress in their careers. 54% (62% in London) of those aged between 18 and 64 who identify as a ‘disadvantaged young person’ find progressing to be “difficult” or “very difficult”. This represented the biggest group in the survey.

The Social Mobility Pledge

Following the findings that there is a social gap in pay and progression opportunities for young people from different backgrounds, Greening set up the Social Mobility Pledge upon leaving the Tory cabinet. The goal of the initiative is to encourage employers to hire and promote those from all backgrounds by using schemes such as name-blind recruitment and additional apprenticeships being offered to give everyone a fair chance at success.

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