Class pay gap at 13% research reveals

updated on 18 November 2022

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New research from the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) has revealed that those from working-class origins earn, on average, 13.05% less than their middle and upper-class peers.

Foundation Chair Alan Milburn calculates that the class pay gap equates to people from underprivileged backgrounds in professional employment “working 13% of the year for nothing”; which translates to one in seven days for free.

To put this in stark terms, from the 14 November, which was Class Pay Gap Day, working class people in manegerial roles will be working for nothing for the rest of the year. The data indicates that the pay gap is even wider – over £8,000 – for CEOs, finance managers, management consultants and solicitors.

Steven Barrett, a commercial barrister who comes from working-class origins and now mentors young people for the SMF and chairs the legal social mobility charity BVL, said he “became posh performatively” and believed he would be earning more had he come from a wealthier background, stating he saw his success as reliant on changing his accent and overall appearance, The Guardian reports.

When gender and ethnic differences are taken into account Milburn says that those from a working-class background are at a “double disadvantage”. Working-class women are currently being paid £9,450 less than their male colleagues – even in instances where they’re both in higher professional-managerial roles. Research reported in The Guardian also suggests that workers of Bangladeshi and Black Caribbean heritage are paid £10,432 and £8,770 less respectively than their white peers in the same roles.

It's noted that some employers are taking action to combat the class pay gap; Clifford Chance, KPMG, and PwC all now publish their class pay gap data. Some also set targets to drive their progress, acknowledging the positive effect that reducing class inequality will have not only on company culture, but also business performance. However, at present, these businesses are in the minority.

Milburn has called on the government to create a legally-based register for class pay gap reporting. When UK law began to recognise the impact of the gender pay gap, the issue highlighted the alarming divide between the average earrings of men and women, and by 2021 the gender pay gap decreased to 14.9% from 17.4% in 2019.

With the cost-of-living crisis majorly impacting individuals’ incomes, the class pay gap serves as a double whammy in these difficult times, and it’s time to close it.