From education to employment

People from more privileged backgrounds are 42% more confident in their job search, with a lack of family connections and financial support hindering those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds

Total jobs

A new report from Totaljobs and the Social Mobility Foundation reveals how a lack of career confidence among people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and is holding millions back from applying for the record number of vacancies currently available.

Of those that started their first job in the last two years, only 50% from lower socioeconomic backgrounds said they were confident about eventually being able to do the job they want. This contrasts with the 71% of those from more privileged, professional backgrounds. This gap has widened since the pandemic.

The research has found that people from professional backgrounds are 47% more likely to have benefited from family connections when securing their first job, with over half receiving financial support during the job seeking process as well.

In turn, the report highlights a growing gap in starting salary between those from different socioeconomic backgrounds and how factors like location, ability to work remotely and educational background significantly impacts how confident people are in applying for a broader range of jobs. 

Those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds earn less than half of what their more privileged counterparts do in their first job after full-time education (£11,595 versus £23,457), according to the new research.

Confidence and a perceived lack of access holding people back

As the UK continues to face severe labour shortages, and the government pledges to create a ‘high wage economy’, the study of 5,000+* people finds that overall, those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds put themselves forward for 35% fewer roles after full-time education (on average, submitting 6 applications in comparison to 9 applications by people from professional backgrounds).

The report also highlights the factors that negatively impact those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds as they job search, including; limited jobs in their local area that are relevant to their skillset or experience (19%); not having qualifications that meet the requirements of roles they want to apply for (16%); not being confident in writing a CV (15%); and not being able to travel outside of their local area for work (13%).

What’s more, the likelihood of relocating for work decreases for those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, with 76% of those from professional backgrounds prepared, or able to move, compared to 64% of those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

Despite the rise in remote working, geographical location continues to be a major barrier for some workers in the UK – 35% of those who live in social mobility ‘cold spots’** feel that where they’re based has a negative impact on their job prospects and 16% of this group say that the lack of secure work in their local area negatively impacts their job search.  

Upbringing’s impact on job hunt success

The adage of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” continues to sadly ring true for many – as only a third of people from lower socioeconomic groups have received help from family or friends in securing a job, compared to a half of those from professional backgrounds.

Additionally, more than a third (34%) of people from higher socioeconomic backgrounds report being heavily influenced by what their parents did, versus just 17% of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

People from higher socioeconomic backgrounds are almost twice as likely to have received financial support during the job seeking process than those from less privileged backgrounds (54% v 30%) and concerningly, the report finds that for many, the ability to do unpaid work experience continues to come as an unfair disadvantage. 56% of those from professional backgrounds have undertaken unpaid work experience at some point, versus 44% of those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition, 47% of those from social mobility “cold spots” have never done any work experience (paid or unpaid) compared to the national average of 37%.

Jon Wilson, CEO of Totaljobs said:

Social mobility is a long-standing, complex issue and there are many barriers that exist for those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. But limited family connections or the professions of someone’s parents should not impede their search for the right job.

“Businesses, now more than ever, need to implement a multi-pronged approach when it comes to boosting opportunity in the workplace, by reaching potential candidates in social mobility ‘cold spots’, engaging candidates with career advice and monitoring the diversity of their applications.

“With record numbers of job vacancies in the UK, the ability of employers to find and hire the right people is vital. By assessing hiring strategies to make them as inclusive as possible, employers can not only begin to remedy some of the inequality we see in employment, but reach a larger, more diverse pool of talent to hire from.”

Sarah Atkinson, CEO of The Social Mobility Foundation said:

“The stark reality is where you grew up and what your parents did still has an impact on your opportunities and your earning potential. Employers can play a huge role in improving social mobility in the UK.

“We urge firms of all sizes to take a look at the recommendations within this report and take their first steps to improving socio-economic background in the workplace. Whether implementing contextual recruitment or reporting on the socio-economic background of staff, there is practical advice on the changes you can make to ensure you’re open to the biggest pool of talent and applicants with the most potential, not just polish.”

Totaljobs and the Social Mobility Foundation have partnered to produce a comprehensive report and advice checklist to support improving social mobility as businesses recruit in the future. 

Totaljobs has also launched “Equality Boost” technology that will allow employers to target their job adverts to those in social mobility cold spots, measured by the number of free school meal recipients within the area.

Related Articles