Half of working people in the UK believe coming from a working class background and having a regional accent are impediments to success, according to a new survey that found working class representation in leadership roles stands as low as 17 per cent.
Around half of the 2,000 people from different regions and industries surveyed for the study, which was commissioned by former education secretary Justine Greening, said it was easier to climb the career ladder for those in their workplaces without a strong regional accent.
A quarter of respondents said their regional accent had stopped them progressing at work, rising to half in London.
Just one third of people said their boss came from a working class background, dropping to one in five in the health and social work sector. However, for those in the manufacturing industries this figure rose to 50 per cent.
Only 17 per cent of respondents from Wales said there was a working class individual in a top leadership position in their workplace.
Responding to the survey, Unite national officer for equalities Harish Patel said,“Unfortunately the inequalities of Britain’s age-old class system are alive and well. What this survey shows is that what you sound like, where you come from all and who you know all to often trump ability when it comes to getting a foot on the career ladder or progressing in the workplace.
“Only around 7 per cent of people go to private school, yet the privately educated dominate politics, law, finance, medicine and journalism – not to mention the top jobs in other professions and industries. Not only is this unfair, it hinders these sectors by making them less dynamic and open to new ideas.
“Thankfully the manufacturing sector, where there is still a strong culture of trade unionism, goes some way to defying that trend. One of the reasons for this is that working class people in manufacturing are listened to and valued, rather than been unfairly judged on the sound of their voice.”
Patel added, “We live in a two tier system which has continued to grow under a Conservative Party still dominated by the elite. If we want to tackle classism in the workplace, it is essential to have strong trade unions as well as a Labour government that actually represents the interests of working people, rather than a Tory one whose priority is to perpetuate closed off networks of patronage that only benefit the few.”