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The class pay gap: from today, working class people work for free

A landmark study has found that people with a working class background earn thousands less a year than their middle and upper class counterparts for doing the same job

According to a landmark study on the UK’s class pay gap, on average, people from working class families earn thousands of pounds a year less for doing the same jobs as people from middle and upper class families.

The Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) found that professionals from working class backgrounds earn £6,718 less a year on average. Working class women and most ethnic minorities are also particularly disadvantaged, with professional working class women earning £9,450 less. Professional working class Bangladeshis were the worst off, earning £10,432 less.

This means that today, Monday November 14, marks the day when those from working class backgrounds working in higher professional-managerial positions essentially begin working for free until the end of the year.

The analysis used data from the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey from 2014 to 2021 across professional and managerial occupations. The SMF found that working class chief executives earn £16,749 less than their peers. Finance managers are paid £11,427 less, and accountants and solicitors have a gap of more than £8,000.

Class pay gaps are less pronounced in other, less well-paid professions, but still substantial. For example, working class police officers and firefighters earn £5,229 less than their middle or upper class peers, while teachers and social workers also earn about £2,000 less.

Alan Milburn, the former health secretary and now chair of the SMF, called on ministers to legally require companies to measure and report their class pay gaps. Only three companies do, according to the foundation: PwC, KPMG, and the law firm Clifford Chance.

“Those on the receiving end of this class pay gap are being hit by a double whammy as the cost-of-living crisis also eats into their incomes,” Milburn wrote in response to the findings. “Employers and the government need to take urgent action to stop hundreds of thousands of workers from being undervalued and underpaid.”

“Creating a legally based register for class pay gap reporting is morally right and economically savvy,” he continued. “At a time when incomes are being squeezed, such a legal change can be a part of the solution to combat the cost-of-living crisis.”