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Dismantling the Barriers to Social Mobility - Touchstone Extras pamphlet

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Publication imageTouchstone Extras #12 Download Dismantling the Barriers to Social Mobility [PDF]

This year’s State of the Nation report from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission was grimly realistic about the prospects for next few years: 

Britain remains a deeply divided country. Disadvantage still strongly shapes life chances. A balanced economic recovery, between different parts of Britain, is not currently within reach. If, as seems likely, the recovery sees the trend of the last decade continuing, where the top part of society prospers and the bottom part stagnates, inequalities will grow and the rungs of the social ladder will grow further apart.

In this paper, we ask if social mobility is going into reverse. What are the connections between  social mobility and inequality? And what policies might help a recovery of social mobility?  These answers are important, because stalled social mobility is at the heart of the modern battle of ideas. Cuts in benefits and services are likely to lead to a growth in inequality dwarfing that of the 1980s. If social mobility was growing, this might justify (or at least ameliorate) high levels of inequality. This is clearly one of the government’s objectives: the Child Poverty Commission was transformed into a Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission and the Deputy Prime Minister has belittled the evidence from around the world that you cannot have social mobility with rising inequality.

This pamphlet shows that Nick Clegg is wrong. His favourite examples – Canada and Australia – are much less unequal than he likes to claim. Social mobility is not particularly strong in ‘Anglo Saxon’ societies with weak welfare states and low tax. It is strong in the ‘Nordic’ countries, with well-funded, universal welfare states and high rates of women’s employment.
One of the more surprising findings of this pamphlet is that it is the level of inequality before taxes and benefits that seems to be most important. The other big issues for a social mobility agenda are the importance of child poverty and women’s full-time jobs. 

In the past, the TUC has pointed to the ‘Iron Triangle’ connecting women’s poverty, child poverty and in-work poverty. This pamphlet suggests three predistribution steps that could address these issues and increase social mobility: childcare, education investments and reforms and using the National Insurance system to enhance paid time off work for family responsibilities

Touchstone Extras #12 Download Dismantling the Barriers to Social Mobility [PDF]

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