This report explores the employment outcomes of disadvantaged Londoners – focusing on the extent to which disadvantaged Londoners can translate their better-than-average education attainment into successful careers.
Political debate around social mobility tends to describe London as a success story. This reflects the tendency among politicians and commentators to see social mobility through the lens of school performance and exam results.
London’s education story
Disadvantaged young people do exceptionally well in London’s education system up until the age of 16. Londoners eligible for free school meals (FSM) perform well at GCSE – the gap between those eligible for FSM, and those who are not, is much less marked in London than in other regions. Unfortunately, this performance at 16 does not continue into A level. Inner London’s strong performance at GCSE does not appear to translate into high A level grades. A large proportion of young Londoners go to university – however, students at university in London are more likely to drop out of university compared to the other regions of England. Graduates are also affected by degree class attainment gaps by ethnicity and socio-economic status.
London’s labour market
Although London has higher wages than other regions, London also has above average unemployment. The competitive nature of the city’s labour market can mean that graduates from London struggle to obtain graduate jobs. Graduates who lived in London prior to university have the lowest employment rate of graduates in England, and this is true one, three, five and ten years post-graduation.
Using the Next Steps dataset (LYSPE), we can track Londoners who performed well at GCSE (5+ A* to C grades including English and Maths) into the labour market. This shows that those from lower socio-economic backgrounds have significantly lower earnings at age 26, compared to those from more advantaged backgrounds. Londoners who have a degree and are from lower socio-economic backgrounds experience a ‘pay penalty’ of £1,664 per year. For those without a degree, this pay penalty stands at £4,004. This suggests that London may not be the social mobility hotspot many believe it be.
What are the barriers to success?
Through qualitative interviews conducted with Londoners, businesses and charities, we identified five barriers to success for disadvantaged Londoners. There are as follows:
- A lack of self-belief and ‘soft’ skills – These skills are important in the workplace and yet are less likely to be developed in disadvantaged Londoners
- Poor educational choices and pathways – Young Londoners are let down by inadequate advice and guidance
- Barriers to gaining work experience and internships – Many work experience placements or internships are unpaid or acquired through social connections which can add further barriers for disadvantaged Londoners
- Financial disadvantage – Financial pressure can influence the decision on whether to attend university. It can also impact the amount of time Londoners have to decide which career they want to take – they opt for the first job rather than the right job.
- Unfair recruitment practices – Practices such as UCAS grade requirements, university filtering, the use of social connections and biased assessment practices can act as barrier for disadvantage students.
How can policy reduce some of these barriers?
Policy can play a role in helping to remove some of the barriers faced by disadvantage Londoners.
Policies for the government
- Funding should be provided to promote the creation, and development of, alumni networks
- Core skills should be a compulsory component of the education system (for all ages)
- Schools and colleges should be provided with ring-fenced funding for careers advice – with additional funds being made available where there is a high proportion of FSM students
- Compulsory work experience should occur within Year 12 regardless of the qualification route taken
- Maintenance grants should be reintroduced for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds
- The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) should investigate recruitment practices in industries where there is underrepresentation of those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
- Employers and recruitment agencies should receive a trademark if their business complete several steps associated with fair and equal recruiting – based on BIT findings.
Policies for the Mayor of London
- The Mayor should facilitate the creation of a school outreach database. This would enable employers to connect with schools that currently lack partnerships and help to diffuse the geographical concentration of outreach activity.
- The Mayor should create groups of community careers champions to spread accurate information on all educational routes within the community
The Mayor should challenge large employers to engage with London universities to fund internship opportunities for students at firms where paid internships are not feasible or the norm