Thursday 30 June 2016 9:57 am

Divided Britain: Most people still identify as working class and believe social mobility has worsened

Britain really is the nation of the white van man – at least if you let people describe themselves.

Most Britons still identify as working class even though only a quarter of the population are in working class occupations, according to the annual British Social Attitudes Survey. 

Six in ten respondents to the annual survey described themselves as working class, compared to 40 per cent who said they were working class. This was the same level recorded in 1983. 

Almost half of people, 47 per cent, of those in jobs classified as managerial and professional said they consider themselves working class.

Read more: There are now seven social classes, which one do you belong to?

The authors of the report, professors Geoffrey Evans and Jonathan Mellon, described this as a "working class of the mind". 

"Though working class occupations are usually thought to amount nowadays to only around a quarter of the population… 60 per cent still claim to be "working class" when asked to express a class identity.

"There is a big difference between working class as defined by officials and social scientists in terms of occupation and being working class as defined by people themselves."

Read more: Why climbing the social ladder keeps Britons happy

"Those in middle class occupations still think of themselves to a surprising degree as working class, and especially so if their family background was working class or they have never been to university," the authors added.

Divided Britain

The social class divide in Britain is also "alive and well", according to the 33rd annual poll of British attitudes produced by NatCen Social Research. 

Almost eight in 10 (77 per cent) of the 4,238 people interviewed described the class divide as "fairly wide" or "very wide", while most people also thought there was less social mobility than a decade ago.  



Just over a quarter of people (26 per cent) thought it was not very difficult to move between social classes, compared with 35 per cent in 2005. 

Read more: UK's top firms "locking out" working class graduates

In addition, the survey found 82 per cent of those who identified as working class would classify the divide between class as "fairly" or "very wide", compared to a smaller amount, 70 per cent, of those who described themselves as middle class. 

Director of the NatCen survey centre Kirby Swales said: "The class divide is alive and well in Britain and the economic instability and austerity of recent years seem to have sharpened our belief that it is difficult to move from one class to another…

"Our findings certainly show that people who believe themselves to be working class are more likely to believe in a class divide than those who say they are middle class and more think it is difficult to move between classes than did in the past."