Research demonstrates a negative relationship between worklessness and outcomes for children over and above what would be expected due to other factors, such as material deprivation and low income. This underlines the importance of supporting parents to move into the labour market. In addition, the high number of young people not in education, employment or training is a huge risk to the skill development of the current cohort of young people. Other research points to the pressing need for interventions, such as apprenticeships, that improve employability combined with strategies to improve the quality, flexibility, sustainability and progression routes of the jobs on offer

Key findings

  • Family background characteristics are still influencing who gets the UK’s top jobs. Consistent with other evidence on social mobility, this trend appears to have worsened for many of the top professions over time.
  • The extent to which our economy will be able to produce more and more ‘top jobs’ needs to be considered. Avoiding future poverty may for many people be just as much a matter of being able to make a ‘good life’ from lower paid, lower status employment, and to find this worthwhile.
  • The first few years of life are not totally decisive, and interventions aimed at promoting mobility throughout the rest of childhood, adolescence and into working life are also important. Interventions that change students’ decisions at key points (eg, the decision about whether to stay in full-time education beyond age 16) rather than influence their skills directly, could still have a positive impact on social mobility.
  • Apprenticeships used to offer not just skill acquisition but also five years of structured, disciplined relationships with adults. For many young people who have not experienced this at home, the apprenticeship system offers a chance of psychological growth and development. However, demand from potential apprentices for training significantly outstrips the supply of places made available by employers.
  • Targeted educational opportunities for mature women from ethnic minority groups are needed to assist ethnic minority women into the workplace, improve workplace culture and to progress in employment.
  • Developing the evidence base on ‘what works’ in terms of intervention is vital. Robust field trials of promising interventions should become a core part of the child poverty strategy, building an evidence base of action which is proven to work, cost-effective and capable of being scaled up to the required level.
  • While inducing lone mothers to work could lift some children out of poverty, encouraging young mothers to take up any employment might also impact negatively on their children, particularly in the absence of good quality child care. Supporting employment through the provision of good quality childcare is a priority.
  • Undertaking interventions to improve social mobility at the very bottom of the skill or income distribution may be more difficult and more expensive than interventions to improve the social mobility of those nearer the middle of the distribution.
  • Understanding how to manage money requires complex skills and those with poorer levels of education can find financial decisions difficult, particularly in terms of accessing appropriate advice, products and services.