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Young people ‘avoid working for firms with poor socio-economic diversity’

May 21
Tags: UK: London
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The majority of young people don’t believe that businesses in the UK are doing enough to diversify their workforces, with many saying they feel they have to change who they are during the recruitment process in order to make a good impression.

A new report from Debut surveyed 18 to 25-year-olds in the UK and found that 61% didn’t think businesses were doing enough to hire people from diverse backgrounds. Diverse here was defined as involving gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, and socio-economic backgrounds. 

Indeed, two-thirds of respondents reported they felt they had to conceal or change who they are in order to make a good impression and be hired. Furthermore, 35% said they would be put off joining a business if they believed the workforce predominantly consisted of middle and upper-class employees. According to the research, this could equate to 2.5 million young people across the UK, suggesting businesses failing to adopt progressive diversity policies are missing out on a wealth of young talent. 

Social mobility organisation Sutton Trust, who contributed to the report, commented on the issues surrounding socio-economic diversity. CEO James Turner said: “The UK is a particularly class-based society, which hasn’t changed significantly over time.”

Dame Martina Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said: “It is very worrying to learn that so many young people are put off joining a firm because they think the workforce is too middle-class.

Charlotte Leer, Emerging Talent Recruitment Manager at HSBC, which also contributed to the report, described the scale of the issue as “vast” and suggested that all businesses should take steps to address this.

“For example, we’ve taken the bold decision to focus on a strengths-behaviours-values based approach,” she said. “This enables all candidates to present themselves as they are, rather than how we would like them to be, while also removing the filters and biases arising from a CV-driven approach.”

Another recruitment issue for young people surrounded salary. The survey found that 67% of young people would be deterred from applying for a job that wasn’t immediately transparent about wages. 

The report - entitled ‘Working with class: The state of social immobility in graduate recruitment’ - was published on 16 May.

This comes after The Social Mobility Commission’s State of the Nation report revealed that graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds are earning 11.5% less than their peers five years after they graduate from university. It was found that UK citizens from wealthier backgrounds are almost 80% more likely to work in a professional job than their working class peers. 

The report urged government departments to become “model employers” regarding the promotion of social mobility, and to sign up for the voluntary Living Wage. The report contended that social inequality - which has remained “virtually stagnant” since 2014 - will remain at a standstill unless the government takes urgent action. 

Meanwhile, research from the OECD warned that it would take 150 years for a child from a disadvantaged UK family to earn the national average wage. 

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