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Public optimism falls as more than half (57%) of people in Yorkshire & Humber say COVID-19 has made social mobility more difficult

Social Mobility
  • Almost six in ten (58%) of people in Yorkshire & Humber agree that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds have been further disadvantaged by the pandemic.
  • 7% of people in the region agree that COVID-19 has made social mobility more difficult
  • Just under half (46%) of those in Yorkshire & Humber are concerned about the large gap in opportunity between people from different social backgrounds
  • 44% of those across the region feel that it’s very important to have local employment opportunities in determining the ability to get a job and progress their career
  • Two thirds (63%) believe businesses should support social mobility within disadvantaged communities in the areas where they operate

COVID-19 is making it harder for people to achieve better opportunities in life, including women and those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, according to PwC’s latest social mobility research which surveyed 4,000 people across the UK.

More than half (57%) of people across the region say the pandemic has made social mobility more difficult with women more likely to feel this (65%) compared to men (56%). Almost six in ten  (58%) of people in Yorkshire & Humber also agree that those from lower socio-economic backgrounds have been further disadvantaged.

As the Government plans a post-pandemic catch-up to ensure those from the most deprived backgrounds and future generations are not further disadvantaged, PwC’s Driving Social Mobility research highlights the biggest barriers people face to reach their potential, and how the Government and businesses can help improve social inequalities.

Nationally the public lacks optimism for the prospects of future generations. Whilst six in ten (59%) people say they have had more opportunities than their parents, only half (52%) believe younger generations will have the same or better opportunities.

Across the generations, there are different views on barriers to social mobility. Those aged over 55 believe skills and education are the biggest barriers. Younger people (18-34 year olds) are more likely to see ethnicity and lack of a support network (27%), gender, disabilities, and the place where people grow up (24%) as the biggest hurdles.

Respondents from ethnic minority backgrounds feel the biggest barriers to people achieving their potential are ethnicity (38%), compared to 23% of the wider population, followed by gender (28%), disability (25%), lack of support network growing up (24%) and area grew up in (23%).

Significantly more men than women felt ethnicity (25% vs 20%), sexual orientation (13% vs 9%), and religious beliefs (11% vs 7%) are stopping people from achieving their full potential. However, more women (31% vs 21%) felt that the lack of support network was the main thing holding people back.

Businesses’ role in closing the gap

The public are united, wanting business to play a key role in securing the social mobility of future generations, by offering better work experience and career pathways, and greater investment in apprenticeships and skills.

Almost seven in ten (67%) people in Yorkshire & Humber think the government should work with local businesses to offer more hands-on experience as part of the education catch-up process from the pandemic. People unanimously see the steps businesses can take, such as providing work experience placements, providing non-graduate routes into employment, upskilling, and mentoring, as all playing an important role in social mobility.

Over two thirds (66%) of people in Yorkshire & Humber agree that the government should target interventions in areas of the country with the lowest levels of social mobility - one such example is Bradford which is one of the government’s flagship social mobility initiatives, known as Opportunity Areas, which seek to make targeted interventions in 12 of the UK’s lowest performing areas for school achievement and the social mobility index.

PwC has signed up to support this initiative because of the strength of our links with local schools and colleges, our proud history of local community activity and our links with the technology degree apprenticeship the firm has launched with Leeds University, now entering its third year, provides computer science graduates access to a fully funded course with employment opportunities.

In addition, in March 2019 PwC opened a new Assurance Centre in Bradford with the purpose of creating employment opportunities to those who might be ready for a career change; at the start of their working life or just after a new challenge, the new office helps develop skills and boost employability irrespective of an individual’s background. We now have in excess of 100 people working in the centre with plans already in place to double that number.

PwC is also ranked the top UK employer in the Social Mobility Employer Index and as one of the largest graduate employers in the country, has continued to hire thousands of school leavers, graduates and experienced professionals during the pandemic. In 2021, across the North, PwC has already hired 195 people as part of its school leaver/graduate programmes of which 67% were either female or from a BAME background.

Armoghan Mohammed, PwC’s regional chair for the North said:

“This research is a stark warning that the pandemic risks putting social mobility into reverse. While older people have been the principal health victims of COVID, without action the younger generation will suffer both socially and economically for many years to come.

“COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of our society.  Urgent action is needed to create opportunities for  jobs, education and skills for our young generation and this should be at the heart of the Government’s levelling up agenda.

“The public wants businesses to more actively step up to the plate to create new opportunities for people to progress in life. That’s why we have invested in a presence in Bradford – not only creating employment opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds but also creating a new pathway for people to build a future career with PwC.”

Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PwC, added:

“Quite rightly there is a clear expectation for the Government and businesses to work together to remove barriers and provide greater opportunities to make sure people are getting on based on their potential, and not on their background. 

“We are committed to doubling down on our social mobility commitments, including our paid work experience placements for people from less privileged backgrounds and helping disadvantaged young people and young people in social mobility ‘coldspots’ develop workplace skills.”  

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