Working class professionals paid less than more affluent colleagues

30 January 2017

People from working class backgrounds who get a professional job are paid an average of £6,800 (17%) less each year than colleagues from more affluent backgrounds, according to new research by the Social Mobility Commission.

Academics from the London School of Economics (LSE) and University College London (UCL) used data from the UK Labour Force Survey (LFS) - the largest survey of employment in the UK with over 90,000 respondents - to examine access to professions and the impact of socio-economic background on earnings.

The report found that access to Britain’s professions remains dominated by those from more privileged backgrounds.


But even when people from working class backgrounds manage to break into a professional career they face an earnings penalty compared to colleagues who come from better-off backgrounds - even when they have the same education, role and experience as their more privileged colleagues.

Women and ethnic minorities meanwhile, face a ‘double’ disadvantage in earnings.

In terms of why this happens, the report says those from poorer backgrounds may be less likely to ask for pay rises, have less access to networks and work opportunities or, in some cases, exclude themselves from promotion for fear of not ‘fitting in’. Other explanations for the ‘class pay gap’ could include conscious or unconscious discrimination or more subtle employment processes which lead to ‘cultural matching’ in the workplace.


The Rt Hon Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, says: “Many professional firms are doing excellent work to open their doors to people from all backgrounds, but this research suggests much more needs to be done to ensure that Britain is a place where everyone has an equal chance of success regardless of where they have come from.

“The Commission will be sending major employers details of this research and asking them how they intend to close the class pay gap.”

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