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Social mobility initiatives fall by 23%

Employers have focused disproportionately on outreach rather than recruitment of less advantaged candidates

Recruitment of candidates from lower socio-economic backgrounds (LSEBs) fell from 75% in 2022 to 52% in 2023, according to research from social mobility charity Making The Leap.

In 2023, a third of employers (35%) took action focused on retention and inclusion for candidates from LSEBs, down from 53% last year.

However, employers were more likely to report progression initiatives in 2023 (31%) than in 2022 (23%).

Tude Banjoko, founder of Making The Leap, told HR magazine employers often neglect DEI goals during financially difficult times.

He said: “Whenever there are challenging times in the economy, employers tend to do less when it comes to social mobility and diversity. It is only the ones that truly embrace the business case that continue. 

“Efforts must be sustained even during difficult periods to be able to truly shift the dial and achieve a more diverse workforce.”

Read more: Social mobility: too little, too late?

While 87% of UK employers committed to advancing social mobility through outreach efforts, only 52% hired people from LSEBs.

Banjoko said: “Employers might prioritise outreach over recruitment because it’s easier to do, it’s cheaper, and less of a commitment. 

“Outreach is important as a first step, but ultimately what less-advantaged people need is the jobs in which they can work their way out of poverty.”

People from LSEBs are under-represented in many industries, including financial services.

Research from The Bridge Group found white men from higher socio-economic backgrounds are 30 times more likely to be in senior financial services positions than working-class women from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The same research found 20% of senior financial services employees attended a private school – more than triple the national average of 6.4%.

Read more: Working class and a woman: what the research tells us

Nik Miller, CEO of the Bridge Group, said: “The evidence is clear. Progression and hiring are heavily influenced by attributes available to those from higher socio-economic backgrounds. 

“This includes drawing on family and alumni networks, and on cultural preferences that have been shaped over many years by this dominant group.”