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People from working class backgrounds work one day a week for free, figures show

15 Jun 2023 4 minute read
Inset: Luke Fletcher MS

The latests figures on the pay gap in Wales have revealed that people from working class backgrounds are effectively working nearly one day in every seven for free.

Analysis by the Social Mobility Foundation has found that people from working-class backgrounds are paid £6,718 less per year than peers from professional-managerial backgrounds.

The research – which was gathered over a significant period of time from 2014 to 2021 – offered a breakdown by ethnicity, gender, profession and geographical region.

It showed that women from working-class backgrounds are paid £7,331 less than women from professional-managerial origins working in the same role.

The same comparison among men from professional-managerial and working-class backgrounds shows a class pay gap of £6,667.

White people from professional-managerial backgrounds employed in the most prestigious roles earn £6,802 more than their those from working-class origins.

For those of Indian heritage, the gap is even larger at £7,181.

For people of Black African and Chinese heritage, those from working-class origins appear to experience the opposite when working in the most prestigious roles and have a higher earnings profile than their peers from professional-managerial backgrounds at £3,898 and £1,116 respectively.

“Long shadow”

Plaid Cymru Economy Spokesperson, Luke Fletcher has been working closely with the Social Mobility Foundation and recently invited them to the Senedd to give a briefing to Members and staff.

Mr Fletcher said: “Our class origin casts a long shadow over our lives – one of the areas in which this manifests is through the existence of occupational sorting and the class pay gap.

“Money deftly steers those who have it into clearly demarcated paths, allowing certain people to nimbly navigate those career paths that increase their chances of long-term stability and ‘success’. Privilege is a propulsive tailwind.

“This is a point forcefully made by The Social Mobility Foundation, an organisation whose research has revealed that even when working class people enter certain occupations, they are still not paid on par with their peers from professional- managerial backgrounds.”

The study builds on previous research by the academics Professor Sam Friedman and Dr. Daniel Laurison who originally
conceived of the class pay gap and found that people from wealthier backgrounds disproportionately work in occupations that are more desirable, influential and better paid.

In Wales, professionals of working class origin are paid £6,703 less than their peers from middle class backgrounds each year.

With the exceptions of the North of Ireland (£8,537) and London (£7,713), the gap in Wales is the largest in the UK.


The Social Mobility Foundation’s Aspiring Professionals Programme has been supporting young people who are eligible for free school meals or becoming the first in their family to attend university.

The programme supports young people from Year 12 onwards and offers full professional mentoring, skills sessions and career workshops, university application support and internships.

In 2023, 53 students from Cardiff joined the programme, joining 219 alumni students. Only five employers in Wales currently have partnerships with the Foundation and they say more Welsh employers are needed to better support young people and help even out the playing field by providing opportunities for communities.

Marking Social Mobility Awareness Day on Thursday (15 June), Luke Fletcher said: “Wales is home to some of the UK’s most deprived communities. This is no secret. Our economy should be a product of the kind of society we wish to see – compassionate and one where nobody goes without the essentials.

“Through the Co- operation Agreement, Plaid Cymru has delivered universal free school meals to all primary school children, investment in extending Flying Start childcare, and a whole raft of policies which make positive differences to the lives of people in Wales.

“We could add to that list by supporting The Social Mobility Foundation’s calls to support the introduction of a mandate on socioeconomic reporting for all public bodies and private firms with over 250 employees.

“This is a measure that could increase accountability among businesses to ensure that classism in the workplace
is fought, and that fairness is par for the course, not an anomaly.”

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10 months ago

Worked in banks for years, managers put pressure on you to work through your lunch and made you stay for free after hours because one team member would of had a cash error. Hated it especially being a single mum then. With the travel home sometimes it would be nearly 7 pm!

10 months ago
Reply to  Donna

.. and the manager would get a bonus for shafting the staff ! Nice work for those who like wielding power over employees.

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