Social Class in the UK

How much does it matter?
Are we all middle class now?
In the past 40 years the proportion of
Britons who regard themselves as middle
class has risen from 30 to 43%.
According to a report from the Future
Foundation think-tank, the working
classes are in rapid decline, with the
middle class poised to become the
majority of the population by 2020.
What social class are you?
Marketing by Social Class
Upper middle class and managerial
Lower middle class
Supervisory or clerical and junior managerial, administrative or
Skilled manual occupations
Manual labourers
Casual labourers, state pensioners, long term unemployed
M&S Advert
Which social class does M&S target?
Many businesses, prefer to use the
definition of social class as provided
by the National Readership Survey.
This enables them to market their
products towards the people most
likely to buy them. For example,
Newspaper readership by social class
Daily Readers,
January - June 2007
Social Class AB (%)
Social Class
DE (%
The Guardian
The Independent
The Star
The Sun
Why do so few people from
classes DE read The
Why do so few people from
classes AB read The Sun?
Traditional definitions of social class
The sociologist who pioneered much of our thinking on social class was Karl Marx.
While he lived in the 19th century, much of today’s discussions of social class still revolve around Marx’s
language and his model of social class, deriving from a person’s economic status.
Has the working class disappeared?
In the 1980s many “traditional” working jobs and communities disappeared. This was
popularised on tv by, left, “Loadsamoney”, right, “Yosser” Hughes.
Loadsamoney was a plasterer who became self employed. He made “Loadsamoney” as
the sale of council houses prompted people to improve their homes. By contrast, Yosser
became long term unemployed, unable to find a job as his skills in manufacturing
industry became obsolete.
Is there an underclass?
Has the working class disappeared? Either upwardly into the middle class or
downwardly into a “chav” lifestyle?
Is it fair to label people as “neds” or “chavs”?
Class and education
Education is often the
key to social mobility
Not just formal
qualifications, but “soft
skills”, such as
confidence and
But, do we all get an
equal chance to have a
good education?
What are the factors
that determine who
does best at school?
Location Location Location
Where someone is brought up has a key part to play in social mobility. Kelvinside
(Glasgow) and Morningside (Edinburgh) are desirable and expensive residential areas. And
for good reason.
Peer pressure? Access to a “good” school? Local facilities? Opportunities to socialise at
home? Housing, education and social class are all bound up together.
More Choices More Chances
It is estimated that in Scotland there are around 35,000 “NEETS” . The UK Government still uses the term, but the Scottish Government
prefers to speak of More choices, More Chances.
Government research suggests that each new NEET dropping out of education at 16 will cost taxpayers an average of £97,000 during
their lifetime. These figures include the costs of benefits, lost tax revenue, the extra cost of health and medical services, and the costs of
their criminal activity.
The Hunter Foundation was established in 1998 by Tom and Marion Hunter. The Foundation's focus is
on investment in national educational programmes that, as described on its website, 'challenge
stubborn, system wide issues that prevent children from achieving their potential'.
The rich get richer
While incomes and
living standards for all
Britons have grown in
recent years,
inequality between the
classes has grown too.
The top 10% of
individuals in the UK
now receive 40% of all
personal income.
Emmanuel Adebayor
Manhester City. He is
believed to earn
£170,000 per week.
Simon Cowell earned
£40 million (or
thereabouts) in 2009.
Sir Fred Goodwin got a
£2.7m pay off from the
Government for
resigning as head of
The top 0.1% get
4.3% of all income the highest figure in
the UK since the
1930s, and three times
as much as they
received as a share of
income in 1979.
The UK is becoming a
more divided and
fragmented society.
But poverty is a way of life for many
The JRF estimates that that child
poverty will fall from 2.9 million to 2.3
million by 2010 – 600,000 short of the
Government’s target.
To meet its target for 2010, according
to the JRF, the Government would
have to invest an estimated £4.2 billion
a year in benefits and tax credits above
its present plans.
The allocation of an additional £2 billion
since 2006 has been offset by an
unexpected rise in child poverty
between 2004 and 2007 and the
increased costs of the recession.
Government misses child poverty
Overall, in 2009, there were 11 million
people living in relative poverty in the
UK, a figure that has gone up by
300,000 since 2006.
By 2020, without new policies to help
low-income families, child poverty is
projected to rise to 3.1 million.
Is there social mobility in the UK?
But his former colleague
Alan Milburn’s 2009
research shows that we
still have a “closed shop”
“I believe that together we can
create a Britain where individuals
can rise as far as their talents can
take them, and where the talents of
each of us then contribute to the well
being of all.”
Gordon Brown, June 2007
Fair Access?
“It is the unholy alliance between home ownership and
education policies that has done most to reduce the
diversity of young people’s networks.
The less well-off are ghettoised in enclaves of deprivation,
with schools to which their near neighbours in more affluent
catchments would not dream of sending their children”.
Anna Minton, author of “Ground Control”