It makes uncomfortable reading for the middle class radical left but confirms what we always knew – the middle class have always had it better than us, despite pretending to be like us
Professionals from working class backgrounds are being punished by a “class pay gap”, according to new research from the government’s Social Mobility Commission.
They are paid an average of 17 per cent less (£6,800) each year, than colleagues from more affluent backgrounds.
The report, compiled by academics from the LSE and UCL using data from the UK Labour Force Survey, examined access to the professions and the impact of socio-economic background on earnings.
It found that access to professions is still dominated by those from more privileged backgrounds, and when those from working class backgrounds do secure a professional career, they face an earnings penalty.
Dr Sam Friedman, from the LSE said of the pay gap within the professions: “There are a number of reasons for this such as higher educational attainment among the privileged. But even when these factors are taken into account, this gap remains significant.”
When the individuals in question have the same education attainment, role and experience, the report found those from poorer backgrounds are paid an average of £2,242, or seven per cent, less.
Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said the research provided “powerful new evidence that Britain remains a deeply elitist society”.
“Too many people from working class backgrounds not only face barriers getting into the professions, but also barriers to getting on,” he said.
- The study, using data covering almost 65,000 people drawn from the UK Labour Force Survey, found that on average professionals from more disadvantaged backgrounds were paid 17% less than their more privileged peers, or £6,800 a year.
- The difference is partly explained by the fact that people whose parents had professional jobs tend on average to be better educated. The statistics also show they are more likely to join bigger firms or to work in London, both of which are associated with higher pay.
- The study identified signs of what it called “occupational segregation”, whereby people from working class backgrounds are more likely to enter a profession at a lower-paid level.
- However, the authors found that the 7% pay gap remained even when people from different backgrounds were professionally the same “in every way we can measure”, and meant other factors must be at work.
- These could include people from poorer backgrounds being less likely to ask for pay rises or having fewer chances to network. Other possible explanations include conscious or unconscious class discrimination, and the idea of “cultural matching”, whereby those in senior positions promote people they feel similar to.
The research found more glaring class pay gaps in some professions than others. While it was fairly modest in nursing, teaching, social work and life sciences, in medicine the difference in average annual pay was just over £10,200, and in finance it was more than £13,700.
Parallel analysis of the labour force data showed medicine was also the profession least accessible in the first place to people from working class backgrounds, with these comprising just 6% of the total, compared with 33% of the population. Next worst was journalism, with 12% of people coming from poorer backgrounds.
Overall, the study found, people from a professional or managerial family were 2.5 times more likely to end up in a similar job themselves than people from less advantaged backgrounds.