State of the nation 2021: Social mobility and the pandemic – technical annex – GOV.UK

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Updated 21 July 2021

© Crown copyright 2021
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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/state-of-the-nation-2021-social-mobility-and-the-pandemic/state-of-the-nation-2021-social-mobility-and-the-pandemic-technical-annex
Absolute poverty
This is one measure of poverty (see also Relative poverty ). A household is in absolute poverty if its income is below 60% of the average (median) net household income as it was in 2010 to 2011. This threshold stays the same over time – it does not adjust for changes in average income. Many experts, including us, prefer the relative poverty measure, because it shows the number of households significantly below today’s normal living standards. In contrast, the UK’s absolute poverty measure becomes increasingly out of date over time.
Absolute social mobility
This is the idea that you have a good chance to do better than your parents, especially in terms of occupation and income.
Absolute mobility rates look at the proportion of the population who are in different positions (occupational class or income) from their parents, and are usually given as a simple percentage.
For example, a person experiences upward absolute income mobility if their income is greater than their parents’ income.
They experience upward absolute occupational mobility if their occupation class is higher than their parents’. Absolute social mobility increases if more and more people do better than their parents.
Advanced Higher exams
Exams taken by students around 16 to18 years of age after the completion of their main university entrance qualification in Scotland.
Apprenticeships
A work-based training system, where apprentices earn a qualification after completing a blended mix of study and work.
Apprentices must complete 20% of their training off the job, be paid the apprenticeship minimum wage (£3.70/hr for those aged 19 and over) and pass an end point assessment.
Attainment Scotland Fund
A targeted initiative focused on closing the attainment gap between the most and least advantaged children in Scotland.
Attainment 8
Attainment 8, a measure used in England, gives a student’s average grade at Key Stage 4 (when pupils are generally aged 16) across eight subjects. The same subjects count towards Progress 8. The eight subjects fit into three groups: English and maths. These are double-weighted, which means they count twice.
Three further qualifications which count for the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).
Three further qualifications from the ‘open group’ which is any remaining GCSEs and other approved academic, arts or vocational qualifications. It can include qualifications which count for the EBacc.
A student’s Attainment 8 score is calculated by adding up their points for their eight subjects and dividing by 10. Students score zero for any unfilled slots.
Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014
This Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 19 February 2014 and received Royal Assent on 27 March 2014. The legislation is a key part of the Scottish Government’s strategy for making Scotland the best place in the world for children to grow up and establishes a new legal framework within which services are to work together in support of children, young people and families.
Class pay gap
The difference in average pay between people from different class backgrounds.
Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
COSLA is a councillor-led cross-party organisation which was established in 1975 to champion councils’ vital work to secure the resources and powers they need, focus on the challenges and opportunities they face, engage positively with governments and others on policy, funding and legislation.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)
A scheme offered by the UK Government to provide grants to employers to ensure that they can retain and continue to pay staff, despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 FE/HE Student Hardship Taskforce
The Scottish Government established this to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student hardship and to determine if the mechanisms and measures currently in place are enough to mitigate against student hardship in further (FE) and higher education (HE).
Developing the Young Workforce (DYW)
The Scottish Government’s Youth Employment strategy to better prepare young people for the world of work.
Digital exclusion
Digital exclusion refers to the lack of internet access, digital devices or skills that prevents people from effectively engaging with digital services and environments.
Early years
The period in a child’s life between birth and five years of age.
Early years foundation stage
The early years foundation stage (EYFS) sets standards in England for the learning, development and care of a child from birth to 5 years old. All schools and Ofsted-registered early years providers must follow the EYFS, including childminders, preschools, nurseries and school reception classes. There are different early years standards in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Economically inactive
Individuals that are out of work and not looking for a job. Reasons for this include: sickness, looking after family, and being a student, amongst other reasons.
English Baccalaureate (EBacc)
The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is a school performance measure in England, derived from GCSE results. It uses the average score from GCSE grades in specified subjects:
Fairer Scotland Action Plan
Came out of the Fairer Scotland conversations in 2015 and consists of 50 actions to help tackle poverty, reduce inequality and build a fairer and more inclusive Scotland.
Fair Start Scotland
A flexible employment support service in Scotland that helps to find the right jobs. It is a voluntary programme delivered in Glasgow and the Highlands and Islands which offers tailored support for up to 12 months.
Fair Work: action plan
A document which sets out the strategic approach the Scottish Government is taking to help achieve the 2025 vision for Fair Work.
Foundation phase
The statutory curriculum for all 3- to 7-year-olds in Wales.
Furlough
The word ‘furlough’ generally means temporary leave of absence from work. This can be due to economic conditions affecting one company, or matters affecting the whole country.
Furlough leave in 2020 temporarily provided employers who were severely affected by coronavirus with an option to keep employees on the payroll without them working at all. Under the flexible extensions to the furlough scheme (from July 2020 onwards) employees could either cease working completely or work reduced hours. As the staff on furlough are kept on the payroll, this is different to being laid off without pay, being made redundant or becoming unemployed.
Further education
Typically refers to classroom-based learning at Further Education (FE) colleges or providers. Students can start at age 14 or 16, depending on the college.
GCSE, General Certificate of Secondary Education
The GCSE is an academic qualification taken in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, normally at the age of 16. State schools in Scotland use the Scottish Qualifications Certificate instead.
Higher Exams
One of the national school-leaving certificate exams in the Scottish secondary education system and can be referred to as ‘Highers’.
Students can normally study four or five Highers, the Scottish curriculum allows for this to be sat over one to two years which can lead to university, further study, training or work.
Income mobility
See Social mobility , Absolute social mobility and Relative social mobility.
Intermediate (occupations)
See NS-SEC
Key Stage 1
The two years of schooling in England and Wales described as Year 1 and 2, when pupils are aged between 5 and 8.
Key Stage 2
The four years of schooling in England and Wales described as Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6, when pupils are aged between 7 and 11. Key Stage 2 SATs (standard admissions tests) are taken by pupils aged 11 at the end of Year 6, which is, usually, the final year in primary school.
Key Stage 3
The three years of schooling in England and Wales known as Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9, when pupils are aged between 11 and 14.
Key Stage 4
The two years of schooling in England known as Year 10 and Year 11, when pupils are aged between 14 and 16. Most pupils take their final general certificate of secondary education (GCSE) exams at the end of Year 11.
Key Stage 5
The two years of schooling in England and Wales known as Year 12 and Year 13, when pupils are aged between 16 and 18. Typical qualifications studied for during this time are A-levels and BTEC Level 3 courses. T Levels are expected to be the gold standard of new vocational courses offered at Key Stage 5 from 2020.
Lad o’pairts
A Scottish term for a youth, particularly one from a humble background, who is considered talented or promising.
National minimum wage
The minimum wage that an employer must pay its workforce. For those aged over 25, it is currently set at £8.91, an amount known as the “National Living Wage”. There are lower National Minimum Wages amounts for younger people. In this report, this is referred to as the minimum wage.
National Transition Training Fund
The £25 million fund aims to tackle the rise in employment caused by COVID-19 by helping people to identify relevant employment and training opportunities in Scotland.
Nine Challenge Authorities
The Scottish Government Attainment challenge focuses on these nine authorities: North Ayrshire, Dundee, Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire, Clackmannanshire, North Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire and Renfrewshire. These are the nine local councils with the highest concentrations of deprivation in Scotland.
No detriment policy
‘No detriment’ is the principle that when there is significant and unavoidable disruption to studies, students are not disadvantaged by receiving grades that are lower than might otherwise be expected. The approach to applying ‘no detriment’ varies across institutions.
NS-SEC, the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification
This is the best national measure to monitor occupational social mobility. We define an individual’s socio-economic background according to the occupation of their higher earning parent:
Occupational mobility
See Social mobility , Absolute social mobility and Relative social mobility.
Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills)
The education and skills inspectorate, and both regulator and inspectorate of services which provide care for children and young people.
Poverty and Inequality Commission
An advisory non-departmental public body established from 1 July 2019, which provides independent advice and scrutiny to Scottish ministers on poverty and inequality.
Professional, professional/ managerial (occupations)
See NS-SEC
Pupil Premium
A sum of money given by the UK government to schools in England to improve the attainment of disadvantaged children.
Pupil Equity Funding
Funds to help Scottish schools support children who experience barriers to learning and might not be getting the same chances in their education because their family is experiencing poverty and other financial difficulties.
Relative poverty
This is one measure of poverty (also see Absolute poverty ). A household is in relative poverty if its income is below 60% of the average (median) net household income in the same year. In other words, the pound amount of the poverty line changes each year based on current average income in the country.
Many experts, including us, prefer the relative poverty measure, because it shows the number of households significantly below today’s normal living standards. In contrast, the UK’s absolute poverty measure becomes increasingly out of date over time.
We can look at relative poverty in two ways: before and after housing costs. We look at poverty after housing costs to see how much households have in disposable income. Ignoring the cost of housing means you only have half of the picture of financial pressures on struggling households. Since housing costs have spiralled over the past 25 years (increasing by almost half in real terms for private tenants), and because housing costs differ dramatically across the country, it makes a real difference to families’ disposable income.
Relative social mobility
This is the idea that your parents’ position in society doesn’t determine your position in society, especially in terms of occupational class and income.
Relative mobility rates compare the chances that people from different backgrounds have of ending up with a particular occupational class or income. They are usually given as a ratio or a similar statistic (such as a slope in a regression model). For example, we note in this report that people from a professional background are 60% more likely to be in a professional job.
Relative occupational mobility is low if almost everyone ends up in the same occupational class as their parents. Relative income mobility is low if almost everyone ends up in a similar place in the income distribution as their parents – for example, if parents in the bottom decile of earnings have children that mostly end up in the bottom decile of earnings.
While absolute and relative social mobility often go together, they are not the same concept. For example, if a society creates more professional jobs, absolute occupational mobility should improve. But if most of these professional jobs go to people from professional backgrounds, relative social mobility may remain static.
SATs
A common term for tests taken at the end of Key Stage 1 and the end of Key Stage 2 in England.
Secondary 3
Also known as S3, it is the third year of schooling in Scottish secondary schools and is roughly equivalent to Year 10 in England and Wales and Year 11 in Northern Ireland. Most pupils are 14 or 15 years old at the end of S3.
Scottish Framework for Fair Access
This framework was designed to produce a step change in knowledge about which interventions designed to promote fairer access to higher education work best. This framework has two pillars. Firstly, a toolkit to assess the effectiveness of existing interventions to promote fair access and secondly, the establishment of Scotland’s Community of Access and Participation Practitioners (SCAPP).
Scotland’s National Performance Framework (NPF)
This framework which pertains to Scotland provides a vision for national wellbeing across a range of economic, social and environmental factors. It aims to:
Social mobility
This is the idea that where you start in life shouldn’t determine your future, and that you have a good chance to do better than your parents. To measure it, we look at what occupation or income your parents had and what occupation or income you end up with. See Relative social mobility and Absolute social mobility.
Socio-economic classification, background
See NS-SEC
Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan
The plan is focused on reaffirming rights and entitlements and reflects the Scottish Government’s commitment to ‘inclusive growth’, aiming to provide a foundation of entitlements that tackles poverty and leaves no one behind.
Technical education
The academic and vocational education of students for jobs that usually include an applied element.
The Fairer Scotland Duty
This is an interim guidance for public bodies which came into force from April 2018. It places a legal responsibility on specific public bodies in Scotland to actively consider how they can reduce inequalities of outcome caused by socio- economic disadvantage when making strategic decisions.
The Fair Work Convention (April 2015)
This convention which acts as an independent advisory body to Scottish ministers, came into force in April 2015.
The convention’s vision is that, by 2015, people in Scotland will have a world-leading working life where fair work drives success, wellbeing and prosperity for individuals, businesses, organisation and society.
The Scotland Act 1998
An Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which legislated for the establishment of a devolved Scottish Parliament with tax varying powers and made provision for a Scottish Government of ministers.
The Scotland Act 2016
This is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which sets out amendments to the Scotland Act 1998 and devolves further powers to Scotland.
The Scottish Attainment Challenge
The First Minister of Scotland launched the Scottish Attainment Challenge in February 2015 to bring a greater sense of urgency to tackling inequity, which is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s agenda. It aims to raise the attainment of children and young people in deprived areas, to close the equity gap, foster improvements in educational outcomes and ensure that everyone is encouraged to be the best they can be.
The Scottish Government’s devolved employment support service
Provides intensive and individualised employability support to people facing challenges in accessing work across Scotland.
The Young Person’s Guarantee
Offers young people in Scotland a connection to the following opportunities:
UCAS
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service – a non- profit organisation which conducts the application process for UK universities.
(UKSPF) UK Shared Prosperity Fund
A new fund to replace the structural funding which the UK received as a member of the European Union. The UK government has stated that the purpose of the fund is to tackle inequalities between communities.
Working class occupations
See NS-SEC.
This report uses socio-economic background questions within the UK Labour Force Survey (LFS) to provide comprehensive analysis of social mobility from 2014 to 2020. The LFS represents the largest survey of employment in the United Kingdom, with a sample of around 70,000 to 90,000 each quarter.
The survey has a rolling panel design over five waves, with one fifth entering the survey and one fifth leaving at each wave. The July to September wave has been used in each year for this analysis, as this has questions on socio-economic background, asking about the survey respondents’ parents in childhood. It asks about the household composition, the main wage earner (including if no parent was earning) and the occupation of the main wage earner when the respondent was 14. This has been included in each July-September wave since 2014, meaning that there is now seven years’ worth of data. However, where we’ve marked it in the report, we have had to pool data across multiple years to achieve sufficient sample sizes.
A quarterly main LFS dataset typically contains around 75,000 individuals. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, from July to December 2020, the wave 1 LFS sample size was doubled in order to improve achieved sample sizes while response rates were impacted by the pause in face-to-face data collection. The change in the mode of collection also impacted on the weighting used in the survey and full details can be found in the ONS methodology. Unweighted sample sizes for each of the charts included in the report are in the tables below.
The analysis of this report replicates and updates the analysis from our 2018 Statutory report for the UK and its constituent countries and therefore the main sample for this report is those aged 25 to 60 (175,387 respondents). The sample is expanded to cover 16 to 64 year olds when looking at measures of economic activity (as this does not require a measure of own occupation). This increases the sample size to 229,810.
Sampling weights are used throughout the analysis. Income-related analysis in the report has been drawn from smaller samples, due to income not being captured in all waves of the survey. Income analysis also does not include individuals that are self-employed, as the LFS does not include earnings data for these individuals. Any figures that are shown on an annualised basis have been calculated by multiplying gross weekly earnings by the relevant multiplier. Earnings are only included for those classified as working full-time and where hourly wages are greater than zero, but less than £100 per hour. Income-related analysis makes use of the relevant income-related sampling weights, which differ from the standard weights.
Socio-economic background has largely been derived using occupational class in this report, the measure that sociologists traditionally favour. This is based on an individual’s National Statistic Socio-Economic Classification (NS-SEC), a measure which combines occupation with the degree of autonomy of the role and size of the employer. Mobility is calculated by looking at how a person’s NS-SEC compared to that of their main income- earning parent.
The seven groups of NS-SEC have been simplified into three distinct groups:
We call people whose parents were in this category ‘advantaged’, ‘privileged’, ‘professional’ or ‘high socio-economic background’
NS-SEC code: NS-SEC 1, NS-SEC 2
Examples include CEOs, senior police officers, doctors, journalists, barristers, solicitors, teachers and nurses
NS-SEC code: NS-SEC 3, NS-SEC 4
Examples include shopkeepers, paramedics, small business owners and police officers
We call people whose parents were in this category ‘working class’ or ‘low socio-economic background’
NS-SEC code: NS-SEC 5, NS-SEC 6, NS-SEC 7
Examples include receptionists, electricians, plumbers, butchers and van drivers
This matches the classification system proposed by ONS and used in the 2018 to 2019 State of the Nation report. However, it differs slightly from the approach used in the academic literature, which treats NS-SEC 5 as part of the ‘Intermediate’ group. This accounts for about 6% to 7% of individuals each year.
The Labour Force Survey already includes the NS-SEC classification for individuals’ own occupation. This report focuses on the occupation recorded at the same time as parental backgrounds (the July-September wave). Individuals who are studying full-time according to the NS-SEC classification or have a missing classification and are permanently retired are excluded from the analysis. Individuals who are not working for other reasons are included and treated as ‘Not working’.
To measure intergenerational occupational mobility, origin class has been created using information on the respondent’s main earning parent’s occupation when the respondent was 14. In particular, this report uses a simplified-method to compute NS-SEC based on the three-digit Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code (SMSOC103), which is the most detailed variable included in the End User Licence version of the data.
Individuals are excluded from the analysis where parental occupation is missing, uncertain or where parent(s) were not working. This applies to about 5% of cases. This matches the approach in the 2018 to 2019 State of the Nation Report. This group is also often excluded or treated entirely separately in the academic literature given uncertainty about where they should be included in any occupational hierarchy.
Figure B1 below shows the share of individuals where parental background is missing or workless in different jobs. As can be seen, a relatively high share are in working class jobs (34% in 2020) which is slightly above the share of those from working class backgrounds in working class jobs (31% in 2020). A relatively low share are in professional jobs (about 30%), a lower share than from all other backgrounds. Around 15 to 20% of this group have a missing occupation or are out of work themselves over time.
Figure B1: Proportion of people in the UK aged 25 to 60 with missing, unknown or workless backgrounds in different occupations.
Source: SMC Analysis of Labour Force Survey (ONS)
This work contains statistical data from ONS which is Crown Copyright. The use of the ONS statistical data in this work does not imply the endorsement of the ONS in relation to the interpretation or analysis of the statistical data. This work uses research datasets which may not exactly reproduce National Statistics aggregates.
Unweighted sample sizes for each of the charts included in the report are in the Tables below.
Appendix Table B1: Proportion of people aged 25 to 60 from different socio-economic backgrounds in working class occupations, unweighted sample sizes and 95% confidence intervals.
Note: 95% confidence intervals are shown in parentheses and sample sizes are unweighted.
Appendix Table B2: Proportion of people aged 25 to 60 from different socio-economic backgrounds in professional occupations, unweighted sample sizes and 95% confidence intervals.
Note: 95% confidence intervals are shown in parentheses and sample sizes are unweighted.
Appendix Table B3: Unemployment rate for 16 to 64 year olds by socio-economic background, unweighted sample sizes and 95% confidence intervals.
Note: 95% confidence intervals are shown in parentheses and sample sizes are unweighted. Figures for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales individually are 3 year moving averages up to and including the year given (that is 2016 represents the average for 2014 to 2016).
Appendix Table B4: Change in the share of individuals in paid work between September 2019 and September 2020 by own occupation and socio-economic background, unweighted sample sizes and 95% confidence intervals.
Note: 95% confidence intervals are shown in parentheses and sample sizes are unweighted.
Appendix Table B5: Median earnings in 2019 by occupational background and own occupation, with 955 confidence intervals and unweighted sample sizes.
Note: 95% confidence intervals are shown in parentheses using the bootstrap method with 500 repetitions. Sample sizes are unweighted.
Appendix Table B6: Proportion of men and women aged 25 to 60 from different socio- economic backgrounds in different occupations, unweighted sample sizes and 95% confidence intervals.
Men
Women
Note: 95% confidence intervals are shown in parentheses and sample sizes are unweighted.
Alternative Appendix Table B6: Proportion of men and women aged 25 to 60 from different socio-economic backgrounds in different occupations, unweighted sample sizes and 95% confidence intervals.
Note: 95% confidence intervals are shown in parentheses. Sample sizes are unweighted.
Appendix Table B7: Change in the share of individuals in paid work between September 2019 and September 2020 by age group, gender and socio-economic background, unweighted sample sizes and 95% confidence intervals.
Men
Women
Note: 95% confidence intervals are shown in parentheses and sample sizes are unweighted.
Appendix Table B8: Proportion of individuals with and without disabilities aged 25 to 60 from different socio-economic backgrounds in different occupations, unweighted sample sizes and 95% confidence intervals.
Note: 95% confidence intervals are shown in parentheses. Sample sizes are unweighted.
Appendix Table B9: Percentage of people from different backgrounds in professional occupations by ethnicity (2014 to 2020), sample sizes and 95% confidence intervals.
Note: 95% confidence intervals are shown in parentheses using the bootstrap method with 500 repetitions. Sample sizes are unweighted.
Appendix Table B10: Change in the share of 16 to 24 year olds in different forms of economic activity between September 2019 and September 2020 by socio-economic background, unweighted sample sizes and 95% confidence intervals.
Note: 95% confidence intervals are shown in parentheses and sample sizes are unweighted.
Additional methodological notes from charts in the main body of the text
Figure 2.7: Child income poverty rates (after housing costs) UK, England and by English regions – 1996/1997 to 1998/1999 to 2017/2018 to 2019/2020 (three-year moving averages).
In 2021, the Social Mobility Commission produced national benchmarks setting out what percentages of each of the socio-economic background categories (professional, intermediate and lower socio-economic background) are found in the working population (age 16+) and in different sectors.
These are aimed at employers, who can use them to see how their own diversity and inclusion of people from different socio-economic backgrounds compares with the national and sector socio-economic background benchmarks. These benchmarks can also be used to monitor social mobility trends over time.
The national benchmarks are not included in the main analysis of the report due to definitional differences. These include:
Due to these differences, direct comparisons between the analysis in this report and the national benchmarks cannot be made at this time. However, the national benchmarks for each of the countries are included below for completeness.
Of those aged 16+ in the workforce in the UK, 37% came from professional backgrounds. This is a similar picture for England and Scotland. Northern Ireland and Wales have a smaller proportion of their workforce from professional backgrounds.
Figure C.1: National benchmark for the UK – socio-economic background of the overall UK workforce aged 16+.
Source: Office for National Statistics licensed under the Open Government Licence v.3.0
Note (applicable to all charts below): The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC) distribution was identified by mapping the four-digit standard occupation classification (SOC) category (or occupation group) of the main wage earner when the survey respondent was 14 to NS-SEC. See annex B in this guidance for further information.
Figure C.2: National benchmark for England – socio-economic background of the overall workforce in England aged 16+.
Source: Office for National Statistics licensed under the Open Government Licence v.3.0
Figure C.3: National benchmark for Northern Ireland – socio-economic background of the overall workforce in Northern Ireland aged 16+.
Source: Office for National Statistics licensed under the Open Government Licence v.3.0
Figure C.4: National benchmark for Scotland – socio-economic background of the overall workforce in Scotland aged 16+.
Source: Office for National Statistics licensed under the Open Government Licence v.3.0
Figure C.5: National benchmark for Wales – socio-economic background of the overall workforce in Wales aged 16+.
Source: Office for National Statistics licensed under the Open Government Licence v.3.0
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