Social mobility

Social Mobility

Download the executive summary of our report exploring Social Mobility, Inclusion and Belonging at Co-op here

Download the full report here and infographic here

Socio-economic background and social mobility

People’s life chances can be determined by their backgrounds – by gender, ethnicity, disability, or socio-economic background. We don’t think it’s fair that those from poorer backgrounds are still twice as likely to end up in working class jobs than others from more privileged backgrounds. Socio-economic background [SEB] is a measure that looks at how much people earn, what they do and their social background. Research consistently shows that SEB can play a big part in determining people’s chances of future success in life and at work.

At our AGM in 2021 members called on us to ‘Campaign and advocate for change, to tackle the inequality we see today and challenge Government to address the root causes of these issues and enable social mobility throughout our society’. We believe that social mobility is simply fairness; wherever you start should not determine where you end up. Putting this right is everyone’s responsibility. Whilst the Government has a leading part to play we must all - employers, schools, communities and individuals - step up to the challenge. We want to break the link between who you are and what you can become.

Did you know?

  • The UK (United Kingdom) has one of the poorest rates of social mobility in the developed world. This means that people born into low-income families, regardless of their talent, or their hard work, do not have the same access to opportunities as those born into more privileged circumstances.
  • People whose parents held professional jobs are more likely to be in a professional job themselves.
  • 60% of adults who were on Free School Meals (FSM) as children were in full time employment in 2018 compared to 77% of those adults who were not on FSM as children.
  • Only 7% of the UK population are educated privately, but nearly 40% of those in top jobs went to a private school.

Data matters

Data matters. We think employers should be asking their employees to share information about their SEB. This can help them understand the diversity of their workforce as a whole and at various levels within it. Data can identify whether recruitment into the organisation reflects society as a whole and it can also show whether employees are able to progress and perform equally whatever their SEB is.

Without this data, it’s simply not possible for an employer to understand what interventions might be needed and what activities need prioritising. And most importantly whether action taken is working and having an impact. At the Co-op we ask people to share their SEB with us on a confidential basis when they apply or join. We also ask existing colleagues to share it.

You can learn more and check your own socio-economic background here.

Our research partnership with Making the Leap

We looked at the data we already had within the Co-op to understand whether socio-economic background can act as a brake on progression and performance for colleagues. Our initial evidence suggested that there was a link, but we knew needed to know more.

That’s why we commissioned Making the Leap, an innovative grass roots societal change charity, to talk to some of our colleagues who identify as being from a lower Socio-economic background about their experiences of working at the Co-op. Making the Leap held a series of focus groups including colleagues from all parts of the business and conducted one-to-one interviews with a number of our most senior leaders. The report gives us valuable qualitative data and insight for the first time as well as independent recommendations for what we need to do to drive positive change. You can read our response to the report here.