Deloitte's sixth annual millennial survey revealed that just 36 per cent of millennials think they will be financially better off than their parents and only 31 per cent think they will be happier. The survey also found income inequality to be one of the issues of most concern to millennials and underlined a growing anxiety among young people about what the future holds.
Such concerns are not unfounded. Our Fair Access to Work research showed that students from the least advantaged backgrounds earn, on average, nearly 10 per cent less than their most advantaged peers six months after graduating from the same subject.
These figures are compounded by the fact that the UK has one of the poorest rates of social mobility in the developed world. If you’re born into a low-income family, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the same opportunities as someone born into more privileged circumstances – regardless of your talent or hard work.
While there has been some progress, social mobility remains a hugely complex matter. Business leaders must do more to help break down the barriers facing the least advantaged students to improve employment equality.
At Deloitte, we take this responsibility seriously and have started changing and adapting our recruitment processes accordingly. We have introduced contextualised academic data which allows us to recognise young people’s qualifications within the context they have been achieved. We have also announced school and university-blind interviews to help prevent unconscious bias and ensure we are making job offers on the basis of present potential, not past personal circumstances. We are recruiting more people who think and innovate differently, come from a variety of backgrounds and bring new perspectives and experience into the firm.
In London specifically, we’ve also introduced an initiative to support our graduate hires with the cost of living, which can be a brake on mobility. Working with Get Living London – owner and manager of privately rented homes at the former Olympic Athletes’ Village – we’ve given our graduates the option of renting newly furnished flats exempt from credit checks and fees. Graduates also benefit from two-weeks free rent, the ability to reserve a property up to six weeks in advance and free optic broadband.
But this is just the start. Through our One Million Futures social impact strategy, we are working with more than 45 charities, schools and social enterprises to help 1m people get to where they want to be – and reach their aspirations regardless of background, whether it’s in the classroom, the workplace or the boardroom. Our programme supports a range of beneficiaries including young people, the homeless, carers, school pupils and individuals with learning disabilities.
Of course, business cannot work in isolation; progressing social mobility requires a coordinated effort and it is therefore encouraging that government has repeatedly made it a central feature of policy. This was evidenced again last week with an announcement from the chancellor of a £500m boost to spending on vocational and technical training. We would also like to see policy-makers support increased transparency around the recruitment and progression of disadvantaged young people in the same way we have seen for gender equality.
I believe that where you’re from shouldn’t dictate where you’re going. If the UK is to further social progress and promote inclusive growth, we need all business leaders to consider how they can find ways to improve access to employment. This is critical to securing the future of the workforce and it’s a challenge we must all accept as responsible leaders.