LONDON (Reuters) - Young people with working-class backgrounds are being systematically locked out of top jobs in law and finance, according to a report on Monday.
As many as 70 percent of the jobs offered in 2014 were to graduates educated in selective state and fee-paying schools, said the report from the government-appointed Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.
Research by the commission discovered that for example some of the top law firms’ trainees are over five times more likely to have attended a fee-paying school than the population as a whole, while at leading accountancy firms typically 40 to 50 percent of applicants have been educated at the Russell Group of Britain’s leading universities.
“This research shows that young people with working-class backgrounds are being systematically locked out of top jobs,” said commission chairman Alan Milburn.
“Elite firms seem to require applicants to pass ‘a poshness test’ to gain entry,” he added in a statement.
“Inevitably that ends up excluding youngsters who have the right sort of grades and abilities but whose parents do not have the right sort of bank balances.”
Mark Boleat, policy chairman of the City of London Corporation, said the report had identified an obstacle to Britain’s growth.
“(It) indicates a huge threat to Britain’s social mobility and our economic growth,” he wrote in a commentary.
“While more employers are creating paid internships and apprenticeships to attract bright young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, too many are still guilty of hiring in their own image.”
The report said job interviews are being used to ensure that the candidate is someone with whom the interviewer will enjoy working.
Interview questions often ask about holidays the applicant has been on, places visited and languages known. Very occasionally, the report said, a person’s accent can be an obstacle to obtaining a job.
The report suggests that firms rarely hire a graduate who has not taken part in at least one relevant vacation scheme, to the point that leading investment banks in Britain recruit at least half their graduates through internships.
The study was based on interviews with the staff from 13 elite law, accountancy and financial services firms, who together represent 45,000 jobs.
Reporting by Antonio Sorgi, editing by Stephen Addison