Young people took “revenge” at the ballot box for the “profound unfairness” of Britain in 2017, the UK’s social mobility tsar has said.
Alan Milburn has warned “us and them” divides are opening up across society as a new report by the Social Mobility Commission reveals the scale of the hopelessness felt by the under-24s.
The survey in the report - carried out just before the general election - makes for grim reading.
Young vs old
Nearly half (48%) think your background and who your parents are dictate where you end up in life, compared to less than a third (32%) who believe everyone has a fair chance.
When asked if they agreed with the above statement, 51% of 18 to 24-year-olds said they did, while the figure was 40% for those 65 and over.
Half of young people think it is getting harder to move up in British society and only a fifth thought they had better job security compared to their parents. Just 17% said they have better job satisfaction.
‘Revenge of the young’
Milburn, who chairs the commission, said the report is a “wake-up call” for law-makers and explains why, after years of austerity, young people queued up to back Jeremy Corbyn and punish the sitting Tory government at the ballot box.
He said: “Young people increasingly feel like they are on the wrong side of a profound unfairness in British society - and they are unhappy about it.
“Perhaps unsurprisingly, what could be dubbed the ‘revenge of the young’ was evident at the general election with record numbers of young people turning out to vote.
“Down the generations, hope has been a defining characteristic of the young but this poll suggests that today youthful pessimism is becoming the norm. There is a stark inter-generational divide about Britain’s social mobility prospects.”
Rich vs Poor
The vast majority said poorer people are held back at nearly every stage of their lives - from childhood, through education and into their careers - and most (79%) think there is a large gap between the rich and the poor.
Over three quarters of people (76%) say poorer people have less opportunity to go to a top university, and 66% said the same group have less opportunity to get into a professional career.
And over six in ten people feel the ‘just about managing’ are not getting enough support from Government (61%), while 49% say the same about those at the very bottom.
Moving on up, moving on out
And, according to the survey, geography matters. Nearly three quarters (71%) say there are ‘fairly or very’ large differences in opportunity depending on where you live.
Those living in Scotland (75%), Wales (75%) and the North East (76%) are the most likely to think that differences in opportunities exist.
Around 47% of those who moved away from where they grew up feel their prospects had improved.
Almost half of all Brits (49%) see themselves as working class and just over a third (36%) think they are middle class. Just 1% identified as upper class. Interestingly, 78% of those who grew up in a working class family classify themselves as this now.
A quarter (23%) of people who say that their family was working class when they were growing up, said that their social background has held them back in their working life.
‘Getting worse not better’
Milburn said the government had to step up and take action to improve life for young people.
He said: “The feelings of pessimism young people are expressing are borne out by the facts they are experiencing. Those born in the 1980s are the first post-war cohort not to start their working years with higher incomes than their immediate predecessors. Home ownership, the aspiration of successive generations of ordinary people, is in sharp decline among the young.
“Britain’s deep social mobility problem, for this generation of young people in particular, is getting worse not better. The twentieth century promise that each generation would be better off than the preceding one is being broken.
“The research also exposes a deep geographic lottery in Britain today where large majorities of people from the regions feel they have been left behind. The growing sense that we have become a divided ‘Us and Them’ society is deeply corrosive of our cohesion as a nation.
“It is a wake-up call for the new government when six in ten people say not enough is being done to help those treadmill families who are running hard just to stand still. Cracking Britain’s social mobility problem has to become its defining domestic priority.”