People from working-class families earn several thousand pounds less a year on average for doing the same jobs as their more privileged peers, according to a landmark study on the class wage gap.
Professionals from working-class backgrounds earn £6,718 less on average, while women and most ethnic minorities face a double disadvantage, according to the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF), which conducted the research. Working-class women earn £9,450 less than men, while working-class Bangladeshi professionals earn £10,432 less than their white counterparts in the same jobs.
Alan Melbourne, the former health secretary and now head of the SMF, has called on ministers to legally require companies to measure and report pay gaps. Only three firms do this, according to the foundation: accountants PwC and KPMG and law firm Clifford Chance.
“Those who are on the receiving end of the wage gap in this category are taking a double whammy as the cost of living crisis is also eating into their income,” Melbourne told the newspaper. observer. “Employers and the government need to take urgent action to prevent hundreds of thousands of workers from undervaluing and underpaying. Creating a legal record of segregation wage gap determination is both morally correct and economically smart. At a time when income is slashed, it can be Such a legal change is part of the solution to combating the cost of living crisis.”
The 13% wage gap affects hundreds of thousands of people and means tomorrow marks the day working-class professionals will effectively start working for free, according to SMF.
Analysis of wage data used from the Office for National Statistics’ Labor Force Survey from 2014 to 2021 across professional and managerial occupations, which account for more than a third of the UK workforce. Since 2014, the survey has asked half a million people annually about their parents’ jobs, an indicator of socioeconomic class.
Working-class CEOs earn £16,749 less than their peers. Finance managers are paid £11,427 less, and there is a gap between accountants and lawyers of more than £8,000.
Pay gaps are smaller in lower-paying occupations, but they are still large. Police officers, firefighters and army officers earn £5,229 less than their middle- or upper-class peers. Academics face a fine of £5,807, and £5,123 for IT workers. Teachers and social workers earn around £2,000 less.
The wage gap in the classroom was identified by Professor Sam Friedman and Dr. Daniel Lawrison in their book class ceiling in 2019.
“People tend to anticipate differences but think that maybe a distinct background can buy an expensive education, or maybe it has to do with how hard people work,” Friedman said. “But when you adjust to all of those, you can see that there is a continuous gap that is fundamentally unfair. It is a stark response to any ceremonial ideas of merit that people might hold.”
He said the “brute force of parental wealth” is the main factor that allows children to climb up the housing ladder or isolate them from dangers. “People often have to walk this incredibly risky tightrope of short-term roles that lead to really lucrative roles at the end of their careers.”
He added that class has been “completely absent from the equality and diversity agendas. It is now something central to the discussions.”
PricewaterhouseCoopers began publishing data on class and disability pay gaps last year, showing a 12.1% pay gap in the UK workforce, along with gender and ethnic pay gap reports.
Addressing the pay gap in the classroom was vital to the company’s bottom line, said Kevin Ellis, head of PwC UK. “We have 46,000 clients from all kinds of backgrounds and geographies, and unless we represent our clients, we will have no relevance,” he said. “So it is really important that we have a diverse workforce. Besides, if you are trying to be a talent magnet, you have to make sure that you don’t exclude the talent you are trying to attract. Unemployment is almost non-existent, especially for young talent and for different backgrounds.” The company also no longer asks candidates for their Ucas score and has dropped the requirement for a minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree.
Ellis said there has been resistance to class scaling, both from partners who felt it would unnecessarily make PwC a target for criticism and from employees who were skeptical about why they were required to disclose their background. At first, less than 30% of employees were happy to share data, but that rose to 88% as Ellis and other executives explained why, he said.
Stephen Barrett is a commercial attorney who grew up in Birkenhead, the son of an electrician. “It seems silly to my upper middle class friends, but I always have Kellogg’s and Fairy Liquid pills in this house, because growing up, those were two things we couldn’t stand,” he said.
Barrett, who directs youth at SMF and chairs the social mobility legal charity BVL, said he believed he would have earned more if he had come from a different background, and felt success depended on changing his tone and appearance. “I tell my students that I have washed well,” he said. “It’s getting classy in terms of performance. There are countless rules of thumb that seem to be out there to expose someone who’s grandiose but not original – there’s a cat-and-mouse game where you constantly worry about being in danger.”