Does Class Discrimination Exist in the Jobs Market? Statistics
In the past few years there have been a lot of studies that have found social class discrimination to still exist within many workplaces and during the recruitment process. Over 52% of HR managers and directors believe social class inequality occurs in the workplace, with 79% believing an unconscious bias to exist in recruitment and promotion opportunities.
This may come as a surprise to many, considering the government’s continuing efforts to outlaw racial, sex, age and other forms of discrimination within the jobs market. It would appear that class discrimination may be the last taboo that needs legislating.
The Equalities Act 2010
The Equalities Act 2010 was introduced to make discrimination illegal within the workplace and when recruiting for new staff. This only covers discrimination based on age, gender, race, marital status, disability, religion, expecting or having a child and sexual orientation. Class and economic status are not included, meaning that technically there is nothing illegal about businesses not hiring people due to such circumstances.
There has been some pressure put on the government to reform the Equalities Act to include social class or economic status, but so far it has not gone through. While there are of course many firms that do not discriminate openly when recruiting about class, there is a lot of unconscious discrimination that goes on.
Research has found that around 32% of privately educated people have had their most recent work placement in London, more than double the number of people who attended state schools. This is significant as London is not only the most expensive place to live in the UK, but it is also home to the most high-paying jobs and arguably greatest opportunities within many different sectors.
Similar studies have found that both conscious and unconscious ‘poshness tests’ are carried out by a number of businesses to help determine the best candidate. Many executives are likelier to make instant decisions and judgements on candidates based on their accent rather than ability to do the job being advertised.
There have also been findings that when it comes to promotions, those from a working class background are more likely to be overlooked for middle and upper class employees. This is often because those issuing the promotions look for those closest to meeting their image, and can therefore not recognise higher performers if they don’t fit that description.
Legal and City Firms
The same report discovered that over two-thirds of the job vacancies in legal and city firms were filled by university graduates who had been to private or grammar schools. Considering around 90% of all children go through the state school system, there is clearly an uneven trend going on, with class discrimination playing its part.
One of the problems is that many legal and city bosses will claim that they always want to hire the best candidate, not be forced to meet a quota. Plus, it can be harder to prove that someone missed out on a job due to class, rather than age, gender or race.
The banking sector is another industry struggling with class issues, as many top banking graduates have missed out on positions because they lack ‘polish’. Various graduates with first-class degrees have claimed they’ve missed out on a job with excuses given including ‘looking uncomfortable in a suit’ and ‘having the wrong aura’.
These can be attributed to class perceptions which set up barriers for non-priveleged individuals. It’s not every banking institution though, Saffron Building Society and many others are all inclusive, but the problem does persist elsewhere. Hopefully the government will introduce and begin to enforce stricter class discrimination acts in the future to eliminate such barriers.
By Ben Barlow
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
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