The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent normalisation of remote working presents a unique opportunity to improve social mobility in the UK.
COVID-19 has forced desk-based workers to move from working in the office, to working from home. The ONS estimates that in 2020 there was a 1000% increase in remote working in the UK, compared to 2018. Similarly, 9/10 employees in the UK who worked at home during the lockdown would like to continue working at home in some capacity in the future.
One of the most significant barriers to improving social mobility in elite sectors (e.g. finance, law, policy) has been that early-career jobseekers from less-privileged backgrounds are less likely to live in areas with a high concentration of employers and highly-skilled jobs. Until now, the over-centralisation of graduate and lower-paid roles or internships in expensive cities like London has prevented a large proportion of talented and qualified jobseekers from applying for and securing jobs.
Living in London is considerably more expensive than in the rest of the UK, rent per month alone is ¬£714 more expensive than the UK average. The cost of moving from the rest of the UK into London (or staying to live in London after education) has been an insurmountable barrier for many people from less-privileged backgrounds, as identified by the Sutton Trust and IPPR.
COVID-19 and its rapid normalisation of remote working has changed this landscape. There is an unprecedented opportunity to achieve greater social mobility by addressing the social barriers to equal opportunity in recruitment, now that the same initial physical barriers no longer exist.