Upward mobility becoming rarer

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The Independent Online
The chances of climbing up the income scale from a low-paying job have shrunk dramatically during the past two decades. Figures on the earnings of individuals tracked over time show that fewer than one in four on low pay at the start of their working life in 1979 had reached the top half of the earnings distribution by 1994.

Only half had made any advance up the ladder at all, according to new research published this morning. The rest were either still at the bottom of the pile or had become unemployed.

There was even less progress for the unemployed. Nearly two-thirds of those who had been on benefit as young people in 1979 were still in the same position in 1994.

The research, based on figures published by the Department of Social Security for the first time last year, challenges Tory claims that greater income inequality has been offset by greater upward wage mobility. Richard Dickens, of the London School of Economics, writing for the Employment Policy Institute, says the claims ignore both moves into unemployment and the fact that most people whose incomes do rise do not move very far up the scale. Diane Coyle

Business Comment, page 21