Monday, 11 November 2013

Social Mobility, Winning And Losing

Social mobility cuts two ways.  All the noise we are getting at the moment about reduced social mobility refers to going up in status, wealth or both.  The mobility down is forgotten but it is arguable that to have the ups then you need to have the downs.

What is not realised is that the downward element from the upper classes has been much reduced because simply they are breeding far fewer children than they once did. Add to that the ability in the last three or so decades to preserve wealth by all sorts of tax avoidance, trusts and the rest of most of them this means that acquired or earned wealth is retained for fewer children.

For those children it can mean that the crucial first decade of work etc. they are able to gain additional qualifications, experience and contacts without the worry of incomes, mortgages and the demands that the great majority have to consider.  Moreover, accessible funds enables greater immediate mobility in both location and employment as well as the ability to take chances.

There is all this equality.  No longer are the daughters of the upper levels mostly away from the labour market.  They are very much part of it.  While at the very top there might be limitations in the crucial management levels below they are well represented and especially in the last decade or so at entry levels for the most promising opportunities.

There is paradox in that among notably the surplus younger children of elites there were many who formed a middling group of people with some education and ambitions.  One sector here in the past was among the large families bred by many of the Anglican Parish Clergy, younger sons of younger sons.

They and others of their ilk often married where there was some money which then repatriated a minority of their children into the upper orders.  The boundary between these and the better off professional classes or business families was never clear cut and allowed a good deal of movement both ways.

In the mid 20th Century the expansion of the public sector in areas beyond the traditional meant opportunities for lower middle or educated working class men to rise as did new industries and technologies in business and a few made the transition into the topmost reaches.

The effects of recent globalisation are complex.  On the one hand if the opportunities are better elsewhere this means a good deal of mobility may occur for the upward movers outside the UK.  On the other hand it allows the young of the wealthy from elsewhere ready entry into the top levels in the UK.  The twin effect will impact on the overall figures.

There is also alleged to be increasing concentrations of wealth with more restricted access to the key sources of it.  If that is the case then opportunities may be declining in reality.  Add to that the squeeze on middle incomes and the debt loading common to many of the young their chances of progress will certainly be less.

New technology may confer advantages to a small number at the peak but seems to be having a limiting effect at the lower levels in that the pace of change reduces the time period for becoming rich.  Additionally it is squeezing the structures and may even be creating bottle necks for those wishing to rise but not for those on the way down.

Basically and to put it simply the politicians are talking old garbage and we are living in a very different world that may be impossible to control.

Must go, time to buy the lottery ticket.

1 comment:

  1. "What is not realised is that the downward element from the upper classes has been much reduced because simply they are breeding far fewer children than they once did."

    Good point. As long as people feel comfortable, there may be less reason to be socially mobile too. Until things change.