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News : EU Economy Last Updated: Apr 24, 2009 - 5:31:05 PM

UK professions dominated by the wealthy; Nepotism and networking restricts access to top jobs according to official report
By Finfacts Team
Apr 15, 2009 - 8:42:25 AM

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Tower Bridge, London.

UK Professions were urged on Tuesday to end the nepotism and networking, which restricts access to top jobs in professions such as the law, accountancy, media and the City, after an official report warned that the professional classes had become even more dominated by the wealthy in the past two decades.

Alan Milburn, a former cabinet minister appointed by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown to advise on social mobility, said a Cabinet Office report published on Tuesday, showed “shocking” evidence the Professions had “become more, not less, socially exclusive” with access governed by“who you know, not what you know”.

The report suggests privately educated people took the lion’s share of jobs in some professions, despite accounting for only 7% of the population. Three-quarters of judges, 70% of finance directors and 45% of top civil servants went to independent schools, for example.

The Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, published a first research paper highlighting key trends and issues in access to the Professions.

The report identifies where progress had been made to widen access to professions such as law, medicine, media, publishing, Civil Service and banking for young people but also identifies where barriers still exist.

The research report finds that many of Britain’s professions have become more socially exclusive and that, as a consequence, bright children from average income families, not just those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, are missing out on a professional career.

Amongst its key findings the report says:

  • Over half of professional occupations like law and finance are currently dominated by people from independent schools which are attended by just 7% of the population
  • 75% of judges and 45% of top civil servants were independently schooled
  • A typical professional born in 1958 came from a family which earned 17% more than the average family income; but by 1970 the family income gap between those who went on to pursue a professional career and the average family had risen to 27% with journalism and accountancy seeing the biggest rise
  • Lawyers who were born in 1970 grew up in families 64% above the average family’s income and for doctors the figure was 63%
  • By contrast the teaching, academic and cultural professions saw a decline in numbers who had grown up in families with above average incomes

The report stresses that this data reflects entry to the Professions as it was in previous decades. It also stresses the social pattern may be changing as recent evidence suggests that the link between family background and levels of educational attainment is being weakened.  In addition many professions have taken action to address access issues and the report points to progress, for example, on narrowing the pay gap between male and female professionals.

Panel Chair, the Alan Milburn MP said: “This research report is in an important piece of work that will give the Panel a solid basis for making our recommendations. It shows that, whilst progress has been made, there is still a long way to go to ensure that all young people get a fair crack of the whip when it comes to pursuing a professional career.

“It is shocking that despite the best efforts of many professions they seem to have become more not less socially exclusive.

“Bright children from middle class families as well as those from poorer backgrounds are missing out on top professional jobs.

“Many professions are working hard to put this right but their efforts need to be intensified. 

“Both the Professions and the Government have to do more to widen the talent pool if Britain is to recruit the estimated 7 million new professionals we will need by 2020.”

The research report identifies five key entry steps where support can be targeted:

  1. Young people’s aspirations: Only 1 in 5 young people from average backgrounds and 1 in 8 young people from poorer backgrounds currently aspire to be a professional. This compares to 2 in 5 young people whose parents are already in the Professions.
  2. Careers and development support for young people:  7 in 10 young people are unhappy with the careers support they receive, whether through Connexions or schools.
  3. Work experience in the Professions:  Over 9 in 10 young people who have been interns say that it helped raise their aspirations and improved their CV, and 4 in 5 employers recruit former interns. However, a disproportionate number of internships are in London and the South East.
  4. Recruitment & Selection: 7 in 10 of the top graduate employers target only 20 of the 167 UK universities.
  5. Flexible routes for entry and progression: There has been a long term decline in the non-graduate routes into the Professions. Today, only 27 of the Times Top 100 Employers accept alternative entry routes, such as non-graduate entry.

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