Patrick Ainley Guardian Letter
Contrary to the assertions of Alan Milburn (Observer 2 December*), the Tories have dramatically increased social mobility. However, it is general, absolute, DOWNWARD social mobility that has increased, whilst the limited, relative, upward social mobility of the post-war, welfare state period is nowadays so statistically insignificant as to be exceptional.
As the traditional post-war class pyramid has gone pear-shaped, a select few children of the (mainly skilled) manual working class can no longer move into non-manual administrative and professional careers. Instead, those in a new middle/working class are running up a down-escalator of devalued qualifications, desperate not to fall into the reconstituted reserve army of labour in low-paid, insecure, unskilled and increasingly precarious jobs – perhaps 40% of all employees by some estimates. Meanwhile, formerly secure professions are automated and deskilled. Contracted out and working to targets as demand dictates, they are reduced to the level of increasingly fungible wage labour.
The result is a dramatic increase in both the rate and volume of that catch-all term ‘social mobility’!