The Government should increase the number of high-skilled jobs in the regions and particularly in social mobility cold spots by encouraging and incentivising public sector bodies and private companies to base themselves in those areas, according to a major report on social mobility.
The ‘Time for change’ report from the Social Mobility Commission examines various public policies pursued over the last 20 years and assesses the impact they have had – for good or ill – on social mobility in Britain. One of the areas it covers is work which is given a red light rating, the lowest rating in terms of success of translating policy into positive social outcomes.
While the report says that some policies – such as increasing employment and getting more working-class young people into university – have had a positive impact, overall it concludes that ‘too little’ has been done to break the link between socio-economic background and social progress.
With regard to work it says despite high employment rates and the minimum wage, one in five people in the UK are stuck on low pay – a higher proportion than other comparable nations. It states that wages have stagnated in real terms with living standards falling – particularly for young people – and that regional inequalities have risen with London and the south moving ahead while other parts of the country fall behind. It adds that the highest-paid and best-paid jobs remain deeply elitist and that any progress being made is “painfully slow”.
In addition to the recommendation on more high quality regional jobs, the report says the Government should introduce a new ambition to make the UK the country with the lowest level of low pay in the OECD by 2030 and should work with employers to improve career progression, for instance, through high-quality apprenticeships. It also calls on all large employers to make access and progression fairer, with the Civil Service leading the way as an exemplar employer and it recommends the development of local skills strategies.
The report says successive governments have failed to make social mobility the cornerstone of domestic policy and that long-term progress “has too often been sacrificed to short-term change”. It calls for longer term plans and 10-year targets and for a national coalition with councils, communities and employers to improve social mobility.
The report also mentions issues like childcare and says there should be more focus on promoting quality childcare. Neil Leitch of the Pre-School Learning Alliance welcomed the report, saying: “For far too long, childcare has been used as a political football, with all parties appearing to prioritise a short-term desire to win votes over a long-term ambition to improve children’s life chances. As a result, over recent years we’ve seen ill-thought-out policy after ill-thought-out policy, most of which are not only significantly underfunded, but don’t actually help those families that need the most support.
“The government has repeatedly stressed the need to close the gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their wealthier peers as early as possible, but to date, this rhetoric has not been matched by sufficient action, and we are continuing to see the development of policies that benefit the more well-off over and above families that are struggling.”