One City, Two Worlds

London's social mobility puzzle

Our joint report with Mayor’s Fund For London shows that despite greater progress in education, London remains stagnant on social mobility.

Despite academic success, those from London’s most deprived neighbourhoods do relatively worse in employment compared to their peers in the rest of England. In fact, only 17% of London’s professional jobs are occupied by people from lower income backgrounds compared to 30% nationally.

The GCSE attainment gap between low income students and their peers in London is 15%, which is significantly smaller than 28% across the rest of England. But clearly improving academic ability alone is not enough. Sufficient awareness of opportunities, strong aspiration to achieve and equal access to employment at the right stages of a young person’s development are all essential.

There is no long-term strategy or agreed approach to addressing social mobility in London. Due to lack of coordination of support to young people, as well as significant funding cuts over the years, interventions are often implemented in an inconsistent and ad hoc manner. Across London there is also a geographic mismatch, where many outer boroughs are under-served.

How to improve London's social mobility puzzle

The report outlines that the potential for immediate impact lies in the hands of London employers who have the power to open doors to different career paths. With the UK leaving the EU, there is an enhanced imperative for businesses to invest in their local, diverse talent pools. The report recommends they focus on:

  • Stronger cross-sectoral leadership that brings together decision-makers and drives development of positive interventions and partnerships across London

  • Placing socio-economic background at the core of workforce strategies and making a senior leadership commitment to achieving this

  • Increasing the availability of evidence-based interventions, such as mentorship schemes and the provision of role models. From as young as seven, 36% of children base their career aspirations on people they know, whereas fewer than 1% hear about the jobs they aspired to through people from the world of work coming to talk to them.

To support these actions, educators, employers, charities and statutory organisations need to work together more closely. The success of interventions can be accelerated through data sharing and better network coordination, whilst raising the profile of the issue across London.

More information

To find out more about our social impact work, please visit Oliver Wyman for Society

One City, Two Worlds