Posts Tagged 'working class'

Why upward social mobility means some people move downwards

Originally published by The Conversation on 17th July 2017. 

Geoff Payne

A damning report into social mobility has concluded that successive UK governments have failed to tackle the issue for the past 20 years. But the analysis by the Social Mobility Commission (SMC) also fails on this front. Very little of its review of the past two decades is actually about social mobility.

This is not really a surprise. Ever since it was set up in 2012, the SMC has concerned itself with social inequality in general, rather than the life chances of escaping from one’s family background – the essence of being mobile. Social mobility usually means people from low-income families leaving that background behind. The more that happens, the “better” we are at social mobility.

According to the SMC’s chair, Alan Milburn:

“Higher social mobility can be a rallying point to prove that modern capitalist economies like our own are capable of creating better, fairer and more inclusive societies.”

In this view, mobility is of symbolic importance rather than being a central issue in its own right. Of course, there is nothing wrong in working for “better, fairer and more inclusive societies”. And the SMC has done a valuable job in documenting how government policies have failed to tackle social inequality. But the central question of whether mobility rates have risen or not remains unanswered in the SMC’s reports.

This latest one, Time for Change, starts by presenting the changing economic environment since 1997. It discusses GDP, employment rates, earnings, public expenditure and housing. Although the report does not spell it out, this is actually a useful reminder that the conditions in which mobility takes place are constantly evolving.

To measure the flow between people’s family origins and their adult destinations (and their changing shares of advantage and disadvantage), we need to take into account the changing proportions of those origins and destinations. As the report says:

“Two decades ago there were more manual than professional jobs. Now the reverse is true […] Today nearly 5m people are in self-employment, over 1.5m people are on short-term contracts and approaching a million people are on zero-hours contracts.”

Social mobility is measured in terms of social class (or income percentiles if you are an economist). And because occupations are used to place people into social classes, the kinds of employment available are a central factor in understanding mobility.

If we take one kind, let’s say senior managers and professionals, the fact that there are now more of these types of jobs available creates new opportunities for recruitment to their ranks. In 1997, about 16% of male employment and 5% of female employment was in this type of job, compared with 20% and 12% now.

But this “occupational transition” does not mean more people are automatically upwardly mobile from working-class origins. Some of the new opportunities are taken up by the offspring of already advantaged families.

Added to this is the expansion of the middle classes, which means there are more middle-class families seeking to place their children in these kind of jobs. But even if the middle classes are doing relatively well in taking a big share of the new destination opportunities, there is still widespread “mobility anxiety”. In other words, the mobility competition has hotted up.

What goes up…

Unless the number of professional destinations continues to increase, there can be no room at the top for all the children of the middle classes – let alone upward mobility from working-class children. And if the expansion of professional destinations remains low, more middle-class children will have to be displaced – to become downwardly mobile.

Political discussions about rates of social mobility tend to ignore this embarrassing element of the topic. But it cannot be avoided. Achieving higher upward social mobility means it must be balanced by more downward mobility too. If we are really concerned about social mobility, this brute fact should trump the SMC report’s focus on general social inequalities (vitally important though they are).

The chapter titles in Time for Change – “early years”, “schools”, and “young people” – give the game away. They deal with unfairness and exclusions which may well be related to mobility. But even the remaining chapter, “working lives”, deals mainly with poor pay and low skills, rather than mobility itself.

Nowhere are we reminded that a series of studies has consistently shown that more than three-quarters of today’s adults are in a different social class to their parents. True, not enough of these movements were in an upward direction. But they cannot all be. And it is hard to see how current government policies will generate more future upward mobility than in the previous 20 years.

The new social mobility by Geoff Payne is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for £19.19.

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Brexit and working-class politics

the-rise-of-the-right-updated-fc-4webTo mark the timely publication of the ebook of The rise of the right by Simon Winlow, Steve Hall and James Treadwell, we are offering the postscript to the book FREE on our website.

Read the intro here, then click on the link to download.

We wrote the majority of this book in 2015. Our project was at an end by the time the nation went to the polls in June 2016 to vote on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.
Roughly 52% of those who voted wanted to bring Britain’s membership to an end. More than 33.5 million people voted in the referendum, and almost 17.5 million people voted to leave.
Most columnists, commentators, pundits and broadcasters – and the enlightened liberals who dominate our academic institutions – were shocked by the result. They just could not understand how and why so many voters had been persuaded by the fearmongering of the Leave campaign. How could voters place their trust in Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove? These men represented the elite, and they were committed to ensuring the continued dominance of capital over human life. Couldn’t people see this? How could so many voters fall for the absurd claims the elite made about the economic benefits of leaving? Didn’t these voters find the Leave campaign’s blatant demonisation of immigrants distasteful? Didn’t they know that the EU generally benefits Britain’s economy, and that a vote to leave the EU was a vote for economic uncertainty and a reduction in living standards for the majority? Continue reading ‘Brexit and working-class politics’

Trump, Brexit and the EDL: the left’s failure to capture the electorate’s trust

The US election results have brought out aggression and hostility from supporters of both the right and the left. In particular, the left seems to be contentiously repeating one question: 

“Why did so many people feel safer putting their trust in Trump rather than in Clinton? “

Many people are quick to blame racism and bigotry, but there are deeper reasons. Simon Winlow, Steve Hall and James Treadwell, authors of The rise of the right, discuss the ways in which the left has failed to capture the trust of much of the electorate. 

 

simon-winlow

Simon Winlow

The mainstream liberal media outlets are outraged. For the liberal commentariat, Trump is the embodiment of all that ails the world. A racist, homophobic and misogynistic billionaire, a climate change denier, a man who apparently inspires loathing throughout the free world, a cocky and self-confident, tax-avoiding bigot whose election suggests the end of progressive liberal multiculturalism and dawning of a new Dark Age.

How could a man such as this win a clear mandate to govern the world’s most powerful nation?

Already our mainstream liberal media elites are asking what it all means. Political activists on the left look crestfallen as they call for a new solidarity in the face of adversity.

Now we need to ask why

Initial analyses tend to suggest that Trump has been voted into office by tens of millions of racist, homophobic and misogynistic white men who are angry about the erasure of their traditional power. Such analyses, fuelled by justifiable ire and shock, offer us only simplistic and predictable cultural reductionism.

What we need are careful empirical and theoretical analyses of the forces that appear set to carry us all into a new era of right-wing nationalism. Why are so many people angry at our established political elites? Why has fear come to play such an important role in the new politics? Why is there such a popular desire to move beyond the established parameters of marketised liberal democracy? What is it that inspires such open hostility towards minorities? These are important questions that demand a clear and objective response shorn of sentimentality and free from the usual academic constraints and injunctions.

 

“What we see at EDL protests, and what we see with Brexit and the election of Trump, is an inverted and distorted mirror-image of our own ideological failure.”

Continue reading ‘Trump, Brexit and the EDL: the left’s failure to capture the electorate’s trust’


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