UK economy worse off by £270bn per year due to workplace discrimination and failure to address social mobility

UK economy worse off by £270bn per year due to workplace discrimination and failure to address social mobility

Debut today releases the findings of its ‘Working with class: The state of social immobility in graduate recruitment’ report‘.

After surveying and interviewing young people in the UK (18-25-year-olds), it found over a third (35 per cent) of participants are put off joining a business if they perceive the workforce to be made up predominantly of middle and upper-class employees – extrapolated out this equates to 2.5 million young people.

The OECD reveals it would take 150 years for a child from a poor UK family to earn the national average wage. To couple this, the Social Mobility Commission reveals those from better off backgrounds are almost 80 per cent more likely to be in a professional job than their working class peers. This is costing businesses and the wider economy enormously: the cost of poor social mobility and workplace discrimination equates to a staggering £270 billion per year.

James Turner, CEO at Sutton Trust, commented,

Disadvantaged young people are still struggling to get ahead and face worse outcomes than their more advantaged peers. The UK is a particularly class-based society, which hasn’t changed significantly over time.

In addition, the research found two thirds (66 per cent) of graduates felt they had to change who they are, including their appearance in order to ‘make a good impression’ during an interview. And the majority (64 per cent) of candidates said they weren’t able to express themselves as individuals during the application process.

A 21-year old  said,

We need more opportunities to show who we are, and our potential. Filling in an application form or submitting your CV is not enough.

James Bennett, CEO of Debut, comments on the report,

Our research reveals the majority of UK businesses are guilty of ‘professional exclusion’ and as such are missing out on a huge pool of tremendously talented young people from diverse backgrounds. This is not only stunting business’ own growth but also severely affecting the wider economy. It is imperative that businesses must do more than just pay lip service to diversity and inclusion and start taking real action to ensure they are in-step with modern social trends and viewpoints.

Other key findings:

Attitudes towards businesses – the majority (61 per cent) of respondents don’t think businesses are doing enough to hire people from diverse (defined here as: gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, socio-economic) backgrounds.

Salary transparency – the majority of respondents (67 per cent) would be put off applying for a job that isn’t immediately transparent about the salary. This was mainly because respondents didn’t know their worth, or they needed a clear number to plan their living expenses.

Demand for personalisation – many participants wanted a more direct and personal approach to graduate recruitment:.

Charlotte Leer, Emerging Talent Recruitment Manager at HSBC, comments,

As this timely report shows – the scale of this issue is vast. However, all businesses should be taking steps to address this. For example, we’ve taken the bold decision to focus on a strengths-behaviours-values based approach. 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.

Bennett adds,

Today’s graduates don’t just demand equality – they expect it. And as graduates become increasingly more aware – and more vocal – about such issues, the talent pool will dry up for companies that aren’t putting enough of an emphasis on this.

Interested in attracting young talent and diversity in the workplace? We recommend Early Talent Forum 2019 and Diversity and Inclusion for HR Professionals training day.






Aphrodite is a creative writer and editor specialising in publishing and communications. She is passionate about undertaking projects in diverse sectors. She has written and edited copy for media as varied as social enterprise, art, fashion and education. She is at her most happy owning a project from its very conception, focusing on the client and project research in the first instance, and working closely with CEOs and Directors throughout the consultation process. Much of her work has focused on rebranding; messaging and tone of voice is one of her expertise, as is a distinctively unique writing style in my most of her creative projects. Her work is always driven by the versatility of language to galvanise image and to change perception, as it is by inspiring and being inspired by the wondrous diversity of people with whom paths she crosses cross!

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