03/04/2013 06:16 BST | Updated 03/04/2013 09:26 BST

UK Split Into Seven Social Classes, From The 'Elite' To The 'Precariat'

British people no longer fit into three social classes, with only one in seven in the "traditional working class", a new study has suggested.

The UK also has an "elite" - just 6% of the population - who have savings of more than £140,000, extensive social contacts and education at top universities, according to the BBC's online Great British Class Survey.

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The established breakdown of three social classes has become 'fragmented'

More than 160,000 respondents took part in the survey, the largest ever of its kind in the UK, the BBC said.

Researchers found the established model of an upper class, middle class and working class has "fragmented" and there are now seven classes ranging from the "elite" to the "precariat".

Representing 15% of the population, the "precariat" earn just £8,000 after tax, have average savings of £800, with fewer than one in 30 gaining a university education.

Professor Mike Savage, of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), carried out the research with Professor Fiona Devine, of the University of Manchester, with the help of BBC Lab UK.

Prof Savage said: "It is striking that we have been able to discern a distinctive elite, whose sheer economic advantage sets it apart from other classes.

"At the opposite extreme, we have discerned the existence of a sizeable group - 15% of the population - which is marked by the lack of any significant amount of economic, cultural or social capital.

"The recognition of the existence of this group, along with the elite, is a powerful reminder that our conventional approaches to class have hindered our recognition of these two extremes, which occupy a very distinctive place in British society."


Researchers found the "traditional working class" has fallen to just 14% of the total population, and "is fading from contemporary importance".

At one in four of the population, the "established middle class" is the largest group, with household income of £47,000 and some "highbrow" tastes.

The "emergent service workers" are the sixth group and the youngest, with a mean age of 34 and high proportions of ethnic minorities.

Prof Divine said: "It's what's in the middle which is really interesting and exciting. There's a much more fuzzy area between the traditional working class and traditional middle class.

"There's the emergent workers and the new affluent workers who are different groups of people who won't necessarily see themselves as working or middle class."

The findings will be presented at a conference of the British Sociological Association today, and will be published in this month's Sociology Journal.

Researchers analysed people's income, assets, social connections and social activities.

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Precariat: Jobs in this group include cleaner, van driver and care worker. People in this group often live in old industrial areas away from urban centres.

Emergent service workers: People in this group have the highest score for emerging culture, which includes going to gigs, using social media and playing sport. Jobs in this group include chefs, nursing auxiliaries and production assistants.

Traditional working class: They tend not to enjoy emerging culture, such as going to the gym or using social media. Jobs in this group include lorry drivers, cleaners and electricians

New affluent workers: This youthful class group is economically secure, without being well off. These people have high scores for emerging culture, such as watching sport, going to gigs and using social media.

Technical middle class: Many people in this group work in research, science and technical occupations. They come from largely middle class backgrounds.

Established middle class: Many work in management or the traditional professions. They often live outside urban areas.

Elite: They are the UK's biggest earners. Many went to private school and elite universities - 24% of people in this group were privately educated, far more than in any other class group.