Our research sets out the latest class pay gap figures and includes a breakdown by ethnicity, gender, profession and geographical region. It builds on previous research by the academics Professor Sam Friedman and Dr. Daniel Laurison who originally conceived of the class pay gap.
We have worked with leading academic Professor Yoajun Li to review the UK class pay gap data from 2014 to 2021. To ensure its robustness the pay gap figure is an average across all the years we have data for. Class groups including “working-class” are based on parental occupation aged 14, which is the metric recommended by the government’s Social Mobility Commission. Further details can be found below.
The latest class pay gap
People from working-class backgrounds are paid £6,718 less per year than peers from professional-managerial backgrounds. A class pay gap of 13% means that those from working-class backgrounds effectively work nearly one day in every seven for free.
The existence of this gap makes the 14th of November the 2022 Class Pay Gap Day: the day in the year when those from working-class origins who work in higher professional-managerial positions cease earning relative to their peers from a professional-managerial background.
The class pay gap by ethnicity and gender
Women from working-class backgrounds are paid £7,331 less than women from professional-managerial origins working in the same role. The same comparison among men from professional-managerial and working-class backgrounds shows a class pay gap of £6,667.
White people from professional-managerial backgrounds employed in the most prestigious roles earn £6,802 more than their peers from working-class origins. For those of Indian heritage, the gap is even larger at £7,181.
For people of Black African and Chinese heritage, those from working-class origins appear to experience the opposite when working in the most prestigious roles. That is, they have a higher earnings profile than their peers from professional-managerial backgrounds at £3,898 and £1,116 respectively.
A minus figure, e.g. -£6,667, indicates that the group in question are paid less than those from professional-managerial origins, and a positive figure indicates they are paid more.
|Gender||Salary of Class 1||Class pay gap within group|
|Ethnicity||Class pay gap within group|
Class pay gap by sectors
There are pronounced differences among ‘elite’ groupings, with CEOs making the most money and showing the largest class pay gap of £16,748 between those from professional-managerial and working-class origins. They are followed by finance managers with a gap of £11,427. In contrast, scientists, life science professionals, social worker/welfare professionals, engineers, journalists, and academics are paid much less and show much smaller class pay gaps. Scientists from working-class origins did not suffer any ‘class penalty’ at all. If anything, a ‘class premium’ is found. That is, scientists from working-class origins and working in top-level (NSSEC 1) positions make £4,600 more than their colleagues from professional-managerial origins. The table shows the details of the intra-elite groupings’ earnings and class pay gaps.
|‘Elite’ Occupations||Salary of Class 1||Class pay gap within group|
|Social workers/welfare workers||£38,584||-£2,088|
|Life science professionals||£37,853||-£1,389|
Class pay gap by region
Regional differences in class pay are shown below, for people employed in the higher professional-managerial positions.
The data shows that regardless of their family origins, respondents in higher level professional-managerial positions and working in London tend to have higher earnings than their counterparts in other regions, reflecting the capital status and associated higher cost of living in London. However, there is still a sizeable class pay gap, second only to the gap in Northern Ireland. The Northern Irish class pay gap is caused by the rather low pay for those from working-class origins, at £35,136, which is the lowest among all regions.
In the Midlands and in Scotland, the class pay gaps are the smallest, at £2,276 and £2,848 respectively. The class pay gaps are at around similar levels in the South, North and Wales, at around £6,000 – £6,500.
Class pay gap by region for people working in Class 1
Regional pay gaps
The South £6,532
The Midlands £2,276
The North £5,896
Northern Ireland £8,537
National statistics socioeconomic classification (NSSEC)
|NSSEC classes||Our classification|
|1||Higher managerial, administrative, and professional occupations||Professional-Managerial|
|2||Lower managerial, administrative, and professional occupations|
|4||Small employers and own account workers|
|5||Lower supervisory and technical occupations|
|8||Never worked and long-term unemployed|
A note of thanks and similarities and differences to Friedman and Laurison
This analysis is inspired by the work of Friedman and colleagues, particularly their 2016 paper that appeared in the American Sociological Review as well as their report for the Social Mobility Commission with Professor Lindsey Macmillan (2017) and their book The Class Ceiling (2021). There are many similarities but some minor differences. We similarly used aggregate data, looking at the overall class pay gap across the years where the data were available, and we kept the same age range and geography as they used, namely, for respondents aged 25-60 and resident in the UK at the time of interview.
While their analysis tends to focus on one or two years, we cover a much longer time span (2014-2021). There is some year-to-year variation but little systemic change in the class pay gaps over time. Thus, taking a longer timeframe gives us a more accurate depiction of social structure, even though our main findings are rather similar to those reported by Friedman and Laurison. The overall similarities in findings are greater than the differences between our analysis.
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