Working class youngsters who get a professional job earn on average almost £7,000 less a year then their more privileged colleagues, according to a report published today.
Research released by the Social Mobility Commission shows not only are doctors, lawyers, journalists and academics more likely to be from middle and upper class families, even when working class youngsters do break through they earn less money.
The so-called ‘class pay gap’ exists as those from poorer backgrounds are 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.
Former Labour Minister Alan Milburn, who now chairs the Social Mobility Commission, said: “This unprecedented research provides powerful new evidence that Britain remains a deeply elitist society.
“Too many people from working class backgrounds not only face barriers getting into the professions, but also barriers to getting on. It cannot be right that they face an annual class pay gap of £6,800.
“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.
“How much you are paid should be determined by your ability not your background. Employers need to take action to end the shocking class earnings penalty.
“The Commission will be sending major employers details of this research and asking them how they intend to close the class pay gap.”
Research into the class pay gap was carried out academics from the London School of Economics and University College London, who analysed 90,000 responses to the UK Labour Force Survey (LFS).
The results showed that nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of doctors are from professional and managerial backgrounds with less than 6 per cent from working class backgrounds.
In journalism, 63 per cent of respondents were from a professional background, with just 12 per cent identified as working class.
The report found the biggest class pay gaps exist in finance (£13,713), medicine (£10,218) and IT (£4,736)/
Women and ethnic minorities face a ‘double’ disadvantage in earnings.
Dr Sam Friedman, from the LSE said: “While social mobility represents the norm, not the exception, in contemporary Britain, there is no doubt that strong barriers to opportunity still persist.
“By capitalising on new socio-economic background questions in the UK Labour Force Survey, we have been able to shine a light on some of the most pressing, but largely unexplored issues in British society today.
“In particular, we have found evidence of a powerful and largely unacknowledged pay gap within the professions. There are a number of reasons for his such as higher educational attainment among the privileged. But even when these factors are taken into account, this gap remains significant.”
As well as examining social mobility in the top echelons of British society, the report also looks at rates of intergenerational worklessness.
It concludes that there is no evidence of generations of families never working. But it finds that those from workless households are 15 to 18 per cent less likely to work.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “This report shows the gaping class divide at the heart of our society that we all already knew existed.
“From the boardrooms of our businesses to Parliament, far too many professions are still dominated by a wealthy and connected elite.
“To get your foot in the door, too often it’s not what you know but who you know.
“I have never felt as common as when I entered the House of Commons.
“It’s time for the Government to not just say the right thing, but do the right thing, by investing in education and ensuring every person is given a chance to succeed.”