Making housing more affordable is crucial if we’re to improve social mobility in London

 
Mark Boleat
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High housing costs make it harder for disadvantaged people to access jobs in the City (Source: Getty)

The City of London Corporation announced last week that it will sponsor the Social Mobility Employers’ Index, a new initiative from the Social Mobility Foundation and Social Mobility Commission which ranks Britain’s top businesses on how open they are to accessing talent from all backgrounds.

We are backing the Index with £70,000 of funding as part of our aim to encourage and support the capital’s responsible businesses, residents and workers to help change the lives of hundreds of thousands of Londoners.

The Index gives firms from across the UK the opportunity to showcase the real progress they are making towards improving social mobility by ensuring they recruit the best people for the job – regardless of their social background.

Shocking statistics have shown that people from more affluent backgrounds, who attend private schools and elite universities, take a disproportionate number of the best jobs.

Read more: Employers must tackle professions' class pay gap, says social mobility tsar

While an increasing number of firms are creating paid internships and apprenticeships to attract bright young people from low-income backgrounds, many others could be much more ambitious. Giving young people experience of the work environment and helping them gain skills can raise their ambitions, boost their career prospects and open up a wider pool of talent for businesses.

The UK’s long-term economic sustainability is left vulnerable unless we bridge the skills gap by casting the net wider in the search for talent.

That’s why the City of London Corporation recently pledged to hire 100 new apprentices. This figure, combined with 17 current positions, will give 117 career-starters a role in our organisation. Our report – City’s Business – highlights the vital role that Square Mile businesses can play in reducing youth unemployment in London.

And our City of London Business Traineeship programme also helps state school students from the City’s neighbouring boroughs to develop the skills needed for a successful career.

Read more: The City should welcome apprentices to build a high-skilled economy for all

Some of these students may wish to continue their careers in London but would struggle to do so due to a lack of affordable housing. People who own their homes have average non-pension wealth of £307,000, compared to less than £20,000 for social and private tenant households.

Bridging this gap should be right at the top of the UK’s political agenda and we strongly welcome the government’s recent commitment to build more affordable housing.

Affordable housing supports the diversity of London’s communities and it is an integral part of the capital’s success as a global city. London needs to be an inclusive and affordable place in which to live and work if it is to remain globally competitive.

Read more: London must shake off its complacency if it's to thrive post-Brexit

If workers on low to middle incomes cannot find affordable housing, then working in the Square Mile will be less economically viable.

We all have a responsibility to do what we can to tackle the housing crisis, and as our role in supporting London goes way beyond the narrow geographical confines of the City, we feel this responsibility especially keenly – and that’s why we have committed to building 3,700 homes in London by 2025.

Many businesses are making excellent progress in breaking down the barriers to social mobility. We must celebrate their success, as well as encourage and empower others to go further.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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