Social Mobility in the UK

Published: 2017-09-28 14:55:43
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George Washington University
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What is social mobility in sociology?

Social mobility refers to the manner in which people migrate along their social ranks. In order to have this movement, there must be in existence some social classes. Social classes exist everywhere in the world by default, the poorest communities notwithstanding. For instance, from a village in a developing country, there are some rich individual within the set up or even renowned farmers ranked at the top of the social ladder. This implies that in any settings, there are no absolutely poor society or absolutely reach ones. Instead, every community is a blend of both poor and the rich at different proportion. The proportion of this mixture determines the level of certainty that individuals accrues to and may also dictate the level of social mobility in the region of concern. In a village comprising of the rich individuals, the latter could act as the money lenders to their relatively poor counterparts and the process may castigate the level of poverty that the region experiences.

In the middle of social ranks, one may also find middle class individuals constituting majority of the population with average income sufficient from their farming activities or else through other vocations responsible for their survival. At the bottom of such ranks, there is often a group of low class individuals characterized with high unemployment or even qualifications for high profile jobs hence highly dependent on the rich in the society. In this regard, social mobility defines the manner in which class moves from one level to another either downward or upwards. The movement may also entail achievement in education or acquisition of new skills for performing certain tasks. Skills are often the prerequisite of getting new jobs with better pay. At times, the movement may be sporadic such as in the case of winning lottery or inheritances from parents while others simply employ the ordinary natural path through wealth accumulation. Regardless of the procedure used, the individuals eventually move from one class to another hence, social mobility.

Social mobility has also been referred from an economic perspective as, ‘intergenerational mobility’. It is used in measuring the extent of dynamics of individual social status across different generations. In many instances, this element is used in measuring the equality in life opportunities thus, reflecting on the extent to which parents leverage future excellence of their children. It has also been perceived as the measure of the level of success that children can achieve by virtue of their motivation, luck or talents. From the perspective of sociology guide, social mobility is an important social stratification as well as a unified component of social stratification system since its nature, range, form and extent is dependent on the nature of stratification system in reference (Archer 2007). The system of stratification often implies that procedure of placing people on different strata is encompassed.

Social mobility has also been described as the movement between social groups as well as the advantages that follows alongside this movement with respect to aspects such as incomes, employment opportunity as well as a platform for advancement. Besides, another type of social mobility is the intra-generational mobility which involves a change in an individual’s social position as opposed to the entire society. For instance, when a junior officer working up the ranks in an organization is promoted or otherwise, this could be considered as an intra-generational mobility (Brooks & Waters 2010).  On the other hand, in case an individual’s position change over a generation as opposed to an individual, this change is known as inter-generation mobility which is also the most renowned category of social mobility.

How did social mobility in the UK change over time and what reasons are behind?

In the United States, there is a wide range of intergenerational mobility though it is considerably lower than it has often been perceived. The origin of an individual is often associated with significant impact on their destination. In particular, the adult children are likely to resemble their parents on matters like incomes than anyone can assume with regard to chances. Nevertheless, US can always be associated with considerable mobility relative to UK. Even at times when occupations or income classes are widely determined most of the adult progenies takes different occupational and income categories relative to their parents (Brooks & Waters 2009.   

There is also Horizontal mobility where an individual change their job-related ranks but retain their respective social classes. Similarly, vertical mobility also seems to be an essential category of social mobility as it occurs quite often in many instances worldwide. Vertical mobility involves where individuals change job-related positions as well as their social classes. This results in a situation in which the individuals involved fundamentally change their socio-economic positions. Similarly, vertical social mobility can be subdivided into different categories. For instance, if an individual moves downwards the social ladder, this is referred to as downward mobility while the upward movement results into an upward mobility (Breen 2004).  For instance, when an army officer is promoted in his rank, it could result into an upward mobility in their social status.

Structural mobility is also another type of social mobility involving vertical mobility though its movement is credited with certain disorders. For instance, structural mobility may be a product of changes within the society that leads to improvement of their social lifestyles. For instance, industrialization may result into structural mobility regarding the social status of individuals. Other aspects that may lead into this change are computerization of work and expansion of education levels. The above changes are associated with improvement of social lifestyles of the UK citizens at large. In essence, individuals have acquired high social status and got high paying jobs relative to their parents courtesy of education advancements and industrialization (Bartley & Plewis 2007).  Besides, there has been personalized mobility involving persons being restrained from assuming opportunities due to their geographical locations, color, religion and gender among other aspects of discrimination.

The effect of education systems on the opportunities based on social classes are immense and have not changed significantly since the inception of education system in UK. Nevertheless, it is still difficult for the working classes young ones to high profile schools and grammar since the middle class and their upper class counterparts have preoccupied regions that such schools are located in. Nonetheless, there has been a shocking lack of social mobility in UK as a result of long periods of elitism (Breen & Jonsson 2005). Besides, the situation is likely to deteriorate due to the breakdown in links between wages of majority of workers and economic growth of the country as posited by many observers.

Highly-entrenched inequality coupled with a flat lining mobility have been accusing political parties over being carousel  to short-term effects of preventing possible redress on the main issues that cause inequality and entrenched social mobility in the country (Boyle & Popham et al. 2009). The political parties have therefore been accused of failure to focus on issues perpetrating inequality and lack of social mobility in the country and instead focused on minor issues that hardly generate positive class change in the country. For instance, the government has been faulted for failure to recognize concrete trends such as the decoupling of the country’s earnings growth as well as the economic growth that demands labor market intervention that the government has avoided for more than three decades. If the trend continues, UK is said to be on the path to social division as witnessed in US (Andrews & Leigh 2009).  

The acute lack of social mobility in UK is also grossly entrenched in the British society. In particular, this study posits the existence of a glass ceiling within the British society while more ceilings have been hitting it. By all sorts of disciplines such as journalism, medicine and politics, the upper class of UK is mostly dominated with the social elite. For instance, about 30 percent of the MPs in UK, 50 percent of the senior doctors are all drawn from the private schools educating just 7 percent of the UK population of children. These statistics are largely shocking as they reveal the level of inequality that Britain experience and the resultant state of absolute zero social mobility from around 1970s to date (Scherger & Savage 2010).

The economy of UK has been experiencing turbulence for sometimes in the past. However, recent reports indicate that there could be some positive recovery of the country’s economy. Nonetheless, despite these positive reports, the recovery is largely unlikely to stop the long term trend of absolute zero social mobility where the upper class in the society and the lower class stagnates. Besides, the recovery that would see the national wealth of the country increase may be however an economic excellence. However, if the earnings fall, it would result in a social failure in the country. In many developed countries, there has been a deteriorating share of the economic growth heading to labor while a higher share heads to capital simultaneously due to recurrent growth in wage inequality (Findlay & Skeldon et al. 2012).  

In UK, the overall share of her national income heading for wages to workers in the lower segment of earning distributions reduced between 1979 and 2009 by about 25 percent. The main challenge associated with this decline is the existence of uncapped gas bills or high competition within the energy market which could otherwise generate short-term resolute (Burgess & Briggs 2010). However, there has been lack of political goodwill that would enhance the performance of this situation in the country to minimize the gap between earnings and prices in the economy. 

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