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BRITAIN’S class divide is wider than ever, with working-class professionals losing out on thousands of pounds a year compared with their middle-class colleagues, a new study reveals today.
The average pay gap between a professional from a working-class background and one who has a more affluent upbringing is £6,800 a year, exposed in a report by the government’s Social Mobility Commission.
And even when people do exactly the same job and have the same educational qualifications, the class-based pay gap is £2,242 a year. Women and people from ethnic minorities suffer doubly.
The research, conducted by academics from the London School of Economics and University College London, looked at the average earnings of people from different backgrounds within the professions.
The worst affected professions are finance, with a pay differential of £13,713, followed by medicine on £10,218 and information technology on £4,736.
Class also comes into play when it comes to actually getting a job in the professions, with medicine, the law, journalism and academia dominated by the middle classes.
The research identified potential causes for the class-based pay bias as less access to social networks among working-class professionals and “conscious or unconscious discrimination among employers.”
Commission chairman and former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn 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 study found men from professional and managerial backgrounds earned 21 per cent more than working-class women in the same professions, while black and minority ethnic professionals generally earned less than white colleagues in similar roles.
Sutton Trust chief executive Dr Lee Elliot Major, who campaigns for educational opportunities for young people from non-privileged backgrounds, said: “We know too well that graduates from less privileged backgrounds are under-represented in the top professions.
“But today’s report is a stark warning that disadvantage does not end on a graduate’s first day of work. Despite doing as well as their more privileged colleagues, employees from poorer homes are penalised through their pay packets too.”
TUC leader Frances O’Grady added: “Far too many people are missing out on the pay and opportunities they deserve, simply because of their background.
“We need to get more working-class people in better-paid jobs. A start would be ensuring that workers have seats on company boards, bringing a reality check to corporate Britain.
“TUC research has shown that countries with workers on boards have higher employment rates, lower poverty rates and invest more in research and development.”
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