Blog & Articles

The price we pay for poverty wages is too high

Date: 27. November 2013
Gavin Kelly

Low pay is not simply a rite of passage that young people go through, the odds of escaping are truly grim.

Living on low pay in 2013 is a rough and all too common experience, but being stuck on poverty-pay for a decade or more is tougher still. Yet for all the talk in Westminster about living standards, and the growing recognition that nearly five million workers are paid less than the living wage, there is very little understanding of the fact that many people survive on low pay for years on end. Low pay is too often thought of in terms of a series of snapshots rather than a motion picture.

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snakes ladders300

Want to earn your way up? Fine – just don’t be a woman, live outside of London, or work part-time

Date: 23. September 2011
Gavin Kelly and

This post originally appeared on Gavin's New Statesman blog

Who earns their way up in today's Britain? Recent work suggests the story of mobility is not all doom and gloom. It showed a significant rise in overall earnings mobility in the 2000s compared to the 1990s, admittedly starting from a low base. More people are now climbing the earnings ladder in their own lifetime, which of course means that more people are falling down too.

But who benefited from this from increased mobility – who went up, who slid down and who got stuck? Given the constant preoccupation of the entire political class with the notion of social mobility, it’s rather surprising that until now none of them could answer these questions. Now new research allows us to fill this gap, and in doing so it tells us some important things about the character of contemporary Britain.

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Willetts plays snakes and ladders

Date: 7. September 2011
Vidhya Alakeson and

This post originally appeared on The Spectator Blog

Social mobility has become something of a hot topic for the coalition. February's Social Mobility White Paper made it the government's number one social policy goal. Yet arguments over tuition fees have rather drowned out much of what they have to say on the topic, particularly when it comes to education and skills. So it was interesting to hear Higher Education Minister David Willetts restate the government's case with a speech at the Resolution Foundation yesterday.

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Signpost 2

The type of social mobility no-one talks about

Date: 4. February 2011
James Plunkett and

Ed Miliband today addressed the issue of social mobility in a speech in Gateshead. His argument was built around the concept of the ‘British Promise’ – the idea that each generation of children will do better than their parents. It’s our own rather less lofty version of the American Dream, and it’s a promise, he says, that’s in danger of being broken. With young people trapped out of employment and housing, and increasingly pushed out of education by fees and cuts, this is a generation that risks being left behind.

Miliband is not alone in his pessimism about social mobility in modern Britain. Leading researchers put us near the bottom of international league tables, and evidence suggests that things are getting worse over time. But what’s less widely understood is that almost all of this evidence (and Miliband’s speech) refers to just one of the two main measures of social mobility. Data on this commonly-discussed measure is undeniably gloomy. But when we look at the other measure, we see a different story emerge.

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Savage 1

Social mobility and earnings change over the life-cycle

Date: 16. December 2010
Lee Savage and

Since the emergency budget in June of this year, government policymaking has been unswervingly focused on reducing the deficit. However, the coalition has asked to be judged not just on its impact on the public finances, but also on the progress it makes in increasing social mobility.

Social mobility is undoubtedly an important issue. It can provide us with a measure of meritocratic advancement in the UK together with helping to reduce inequality. But understanding of what social mobility is and what it means for people’s life chances is still quite limited.

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