Now its clear: hard work doesnt make you rich. Surely thats the death knell for the myth of social mobility

Logo The GuardianThe Guardian
2023-09-19 16:07:02  • 5 mins

Every parent wants their child to reach their full potential and flourish: my mum called me Faiza because it means winner in Arabic in the hope that success would be inevitable. Its an emotion that runs deep, and one that politicians across the spectrum are keen to tap into, for ever promising to build an aspirational or truly meritocratic society where any individual can make it as long as they work hard enough.

Equality of opportunity is a phrase commonly used by our politicians, even for those too scared to talk about equality more generally. Yet for decades weve been moving in the wrong direction. A recent report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that where you are born in the UK, and the income and wealth of your family, now matter more than ever in defining life outcomes, with social mobility at its worst in more than 50 years.

After decades of failure, it is past the time to see through the empty political promises and popular narratives that place the emphasis on the individual to succeed, rather than a system that is rigged against the least wealthy. The dream big and you can do anything you want soundbite may offer inspiration to some, but it will do nothing to deal with the countrys vast and widening wealth and income inequalities. Neither will a focus on education, a classic trope of the social mobility genre, which has never been and never will be a sufficient tool to bridge Britains class divides.

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