Nature of Social Mobility

2.2 Social Mobility versus Inequality

One of the studies on social mobility based of UK referring to individuals born in the 1970s identified that if an individual born with their father earning at the bottom 10% of all earners had a 0.06 chances of achieving climbing up to the top ladder in the society to earn within the range of the top 10 percent earners in the society. a different study also posted that children born to high ranking professional fathers has a 20 times more likely to end in high status job profiles compared to their counterparts in lower class working profiles. for the individuals still wishing to assert that individuals can make to become a high earner in the society regardless of their backgrounds is also right as the accruing figures are also mixed up and never generate plain truth to the effect that it can be judged as a matter of congruence.

It is unfortunate however that the low pay within the UK job market has implied that mobility in the working life of an individual is considerably low. Recent studies found that almost 75% of individual in the low paying brackets in 2002 had been unable to have closed the low pay bracket as at 2012. A similar study also found that only 25% of bottom low paying job brackets moved to the upper 60% job paying brackets by virtue of income increased while majority were in constant level of service delivery or climbed upwards slightly. From these findings, it is clear that it is hard for individuals to grow up the income ladder in UK hence the low social mobility witnessed in the country.

Growing inequality has been associated with low mobility in the country. In particular, high income inequality has been credited with widened gap in income ladder. Subsequently, this scenario has complicated the prospects of individuals to rise up the ladder. Nevertheless, it has been argued that income inequality is not the exact cause of stunting social mobility but rather the UK’s dynamism in labor market. This scenario has also been perceived in many other economies globally. Since 1970s, the polarization of the UK labor market has increased significantly alongside increase in low-paying jobs as well as top-end professional duties. Similarly, the middle-level ranks have fallen concurrently. In particular, research into the latter has found that decline in professional roles have resulted into many individuals experiencing high downward mobility (Spaaij 2009).  The implication of these findings is that individuals born among the middle class have become more unlikely to make their parents’ social-economic situation any better.

High concentration of wealth and incomes in the upper class results into a significant difference in this scenario. Subsequently, this implies that inequality have a direct impact on a country’s social mobility. In the case where a small group of individuals secures very high salaries relative to the majority while at the same time securing jobs in the top levels, individual with better education scopes are more likely to secure jobs. This also implies that the overall situation becomes the winner-takes-all labor market situation. Providing every individual with a fair opportunity to participate in the labor market is very important to a society. However, this does not imply that it is fair to leave those that do not secure such chance to lavish in poverty. An inclusive economy provides virtually every individual with a chance to achieve decent living standards though individuals excel better than their peers. Measures to enhance social mobility must be accompanied with actions aimed at low pays and in-work poverty (Li & Warde et al. 2008).  This is not only the case because the two elements are unrelated but simply because they are prerequisites of a healthy society.

UK is not a perfect meritocratic society but it should always crave to become. Although there has been no distinguished problem accruing from economic inequality, its cumulative effect causes social and economic challenges. From the perspective of the New Economic Foundation of UK, there are several viable main solutions to economic inequality in UK namely: improvement of the labor market, address the issue of concentration of incomes and wealth in the upper class, open the country’s education system but commence these mechanism by creating awareness to the UK’s public on the problem. Previous research shows that the UK public underestimates disparities in incomes and wealth in the society as well as the opportunities available to majority of the public.  With this awareness, it is possible to manipulate mechanisms that would enhance bridging the gap in income variability in the country.

2.3. International Variability in Social Mobility

Countries have different levels of social mobility. This scenario is linked to equality of opportunities. In order to determine opportunities available in UK to the public, the country can be compared with other developed nations as in the case of the OECD report earlier analyzed involving 12 nations. There are various factors associated with high or low mobility in countries under similar economic conditions. This implies that these factors could experience very minor if any variance across developed nations. There are individual country’s measures to clear barriers to social mobility which may be specific to a country or routed in the general concept of global economy. Social Mobility involves a relationship between social destinations and social origins. As stated earlier, social mobility provides a link between individuals’ origins and their destinations between family generations (intergenerational mobility) or through individual life courses (intergenerational) mobility.

The manner in which destination links with origins is dependent on the opportunity structure within the society based either on the social structure or income distribution of the population. However, this relationship is also pegged on ease of movement from one position to another by workers. This movement is considered very poor in UK as researchers have stated. Changes in aggregate structure of opportunities such as increased opportunities at top are called absolute social mobility. Similarly, the rate of change in positions is called relative mobility. Mobility level may be measured by virtue of incomes or classes while the overall results can differ due to the existing relationship between incomes and classes over time and across countries (Hallqvist & Blane 2004).  Social mobility may also constitute an upward or a downward movement from riches to rags or rags to riches.

Many researchers claim that mobility patterns are so complex at times but there are obvious approaches to summarizing aggregate mobility in the society through measures such as average levels of parents’ economic positions that are often inherited by children. Such scenario is called intergenerational income elasticity taking values range 0-1. With zero elasticity rate, there exists no relationship between parental incomes and their children. On the other hand, the ratio of 1 implies that children always assert their parental income status. UK, Italy and the US have one of the least mobility among the groups of developed countries (Beller 2009).

The difference in mobility for countries at similar economic level has also been studied. These differences have been described through multiple approaches. In particular, Solon (2002) asserted that when other factors are held constant, the society may demonstrate varying mobility due to aspects of inequality in income distribution. This however does not imply that high inequality equals low social mobility. Instead, other factors also play a pivotal role in this determination. For instance, equity of education was also emphasized upon as an important element to consider. However, recent evidence to the issue prescribes a significant relationship between inequality and social mobility.

From the political perspective, high social mobility is associated with compensating for income inequality. In case inequality is linked to low social mobility as it has been evidently confirmed, the defense against inequality collectively fades away. For instance, various studies have cited Canada as one of the countries with high inequality and high mobility levels. This case instance is also reflected in Finland among other countries. In many instances, Solon’s argument posits that social mobility is very likely to increase if an only if other factors are held constant.  For instance, if the a country offer high quality education providing equal opportunities for both the poor and the rich, social mobility is likely to increase. Invariably, this is not the case in UK where about 7 percent of the private education sector provides esteemed education services to the upper class while majority of the poor have low to no access to quality education. This scenario results into high inequality in the society by education acquisition and resultant job positions. On the contrary, the Canadian education system achieves the regarded balance. With regard to equity, the education system of Canada is more egalitarian nation in nature.

The effect of this scenario is that countries can leverage the impacts of inequality on social mobility through the development of effective education system. However, Canada is exceptional with respect to quality and equity aspects of its educational sector.  Besides, the country also has low inequality levels relative to either US or UK. For instance, the education system in UK would probably have to realize equitable results relative to Canada to recompense its high inequality in the country. This is however a major challenge nonetheless. In addition, women’s employment is related with social mobility (Platt 2005).  For instance, employment of women on a full-time basis is linked with high mobility relative to employment based on part-time work. The impact of this scenario is the reverse.

The reason behind the above has been associated with less polarization in employment opportunities between households in countries when female working opportunities in full-time position are high hence, a resultant equal income distribution across gender. In such scenarios, there are central mechanisms upon which efforts to enhance social mobility must be concentrated. From the analysis however, UK is highly unlikely to attain social mobility levels comparable to best placed countries which is a major driver to economic inequality between enhancing equity in education outcomes and families.