By Bilal Hafeez 13-08-2019
In: podcasts | Growth & Labour Market

The Myth of Meritocracy (Weekly Economics Podcast, 29 mins)

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(You can listen to the podcast by clicking here)

With Boris Johnson making the 20th Prime Minister to have attended Eton (considered the most prestigious private school in the UK), concerns are heightening around stagnating social mobility and class privilege. Data shows that students with a privileged background but a 2:2 degree end up with better jobs than their ethnic minority peers who achieve a 1st .  It’s not just class – indirect discrimination based on race and gender is just as prevalent. Further, the labour market often unduly rewards things that have very little to do with the ability to do a job well – accent, dress, self-presentation. In the podcast, Jo Littler, a reader in sociology at City University of London and Sam Friedman, Sociology Professor at LSE, discuss potential solutions. They both support the idea of abolishing private schools altogether but recommend small steps first – ban unpaid internships, and introduce free childcare and a more transparent admissions process.

Why does this matter? The class ceiling is the new glass ceiling – with social mobility stagnant since 2014 in the UK, key talent might be missed out. Whilst this is unlikely to have a noticeable impact anytime soon, we could see this issue begin to affect output and innovation if it isn’t politically addressed. Theresa May’s statement that Britain must become ‘the world’s greatest meritocracy’ seems unrealistic for now.

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