Fair Access to the Professions – Not Yet


A new study commissioned by the British government shows that far from “fair access” improving within the high-status professions, people from lower social strata our now even less likely to make it into these jobs. This is despite the massive expansion in higher educational opportunities in recent decades. Amongst its key findings the report says:

* Over half of professional occupations like law and finance are currently dominated by people from independent schools which are attended by just 7% of the population

* 75% of judges and 45% of top civil servants were independently schooled

* A typical professional born in 1958 came from a family which earned 17% more than the average family income; but by 1970 the family income gap between those who went on to pursue a professional career and the average family had risen to 27% with journalism and accountancy seeing the biggest rise

* Lawyers who were born in 1970 grew up in families 64% above the average family’s income and for doctors the figure was 63%

* By contrast the teaching, academic and cultural professions saw a decline in numbers who had grown up in families with above average incomes

The report stresses that this data reflects entry to the Professions as it was in previous decades. It may be changing as recent evidence suggests that the link between family background and levels of educational attainment is being weakened. Nevertheless this report makes for dismal reading and adds yet more evidence about the rise of inequality in Britain – with all its consequences. (See previous blog ‘First Among Equals’)

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About Prof. Colin Talbot

Professor of Government (Emeritus). Universities of Cambridge and Manchester, England.
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