Coronavirus could spread work opportunities more equally throughout the country

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People who move to London and the south-east for their career have better prospects and earn more money than those who stay in the areas where they grew up.

Though an analysis of internal migration in the country’s workforce has demonstrated the benefits of this upheaval, the Social Mobility Commission (SMC) has identified the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to shift the balance and spread opportunities more equally throughout the country.

According to the SMC’s report ‘stayers’ are 20% less likely to be in a higher managerial or professional occupation than those who have moved for work (59%).

Stayers also on average earn 33% less than movers –with £1,739 average gross monthly earnings compared with £2,327.

Yet there is a trade-off between financial and professional gain and quality of life.

Those who stayed in the areas where they grew up were found to benefit from greater wellbeing and sense of community.

Sixty-four per cent of ‘stayers’ were also found to be homeowners compared to just 55% of movers.

Due to the success of the widespread remote working experiment of the pandemic, the SMC has urged employers to rethink the way they hire staff.

Sandra Wallace, joint interim chair of the commission, said: “Home working has been successful for many employers and for particular job roles.

"It has also shown that people’s views about where they want to live, and why they want to live there may be shifting.

“In our combined efforts to rebuild the economy after the coronavirus outbreak, we must mitigate the trade-offs involved in becoming more socially mobile and ensure that opportunity relies much less on geography. People should not have to move to prosper.”

The SMC has made policy suggestions as a springboard to further conversations about social mobility with councils, metro mayors, educators and employers in coastal and rural areas of the UK.

Areas for consideration include collaboration between local authorities and employers to identify and correct mismatches between local skills and local needs and developing digital infrastructure and skills, transport connections and good quality, affordable housing to help attract new people.

Neil Morrison, group HR director, at Severn Trent, agreed with the SMC's recommendation.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: "The answer cannot be for firms in London and the South East to implement well meaning recruitment and outreach schemes but instead to focus on the systemic development of opportunities across the UK through the investment in regional businesses and the incentivisation of opportunities in all parts of the UK, particularly more rural areas.

"Education providers, employers and government need to come together on a regional basis to deliver a step change – particularly in a post-COVID world”

The SMC’s Moving out to move on: understanding the link between migration, disadvantage and social mobility report draws on research carried out by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES).


Further reading:

Is HS2 on the right track for the UK job market?

Does L&D have an exclusivity problem?

Barrister Hashi Mohamed talks social mobility and how to make it to the top

State of the Nation report: Employers must do more on social mobility

Hot topic: Improving social mobility

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