OECD pours scorn on social mobility record

Social mobility remains poor in Britain
Social mobility remains poor in Britain

Social mobility continues to blight Britain, a major report concludes, prompting criticism of the government's record on the issue.

Analysis of income inequality and poverty in countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) finds the UK is also performing badly on other measures of equality.

Earnings have become much more unequal, with the wage gap widening by 20 per cent since 1985.

Child poverty rates are above the levels seen in the mid-1980s, despite having fallen between the mid-1990s and 2005.

And the number of people living alone or in single-parent households has increased, with the average household size falling from 2.4 to 2.1 in the same period.

"What your parents earned when you were a child has much more effect on your own earnings than in more mobile countries," the OECD report notes.

Trends seen in Britain are also mirrored in other developed countries like the US and Italy. There is concern the positive impact of economic growth has had the impact of exacerbating inequalities rather than helping narrow them.

OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria said governments needed to act to tackle the problem, warning societies would pay the price if they do not address the issue.

"Growing inequality is divisive," he said.

"It polarises societies, it divides regions within countries, and it carves up the world between rich and poor.

"Greater income inequality stifles upward mobility between generations, making it harder for talented and hard-working people to get the rewards they deserve. Ignoring increasing inequality is not an option."

Existing trends appear to demonstrate how the problem drives itself forward. Countries with a wide distribution of income tend to have more widespread income poverty, while some countries have seen the gap between the rich and the middle class also widening.


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