The unprecedented economic and educational shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic could inflict long-term damage to young people’s prospects in life, a new study finds.

According to the authors, the ‘COVID generation’ – young Britons currently under the age of 25 – face declining social mobility unless bold moves are made to create a fairer society – including a job guarantee scheme for those facing long-term unemployment and catch-up tutoring for disadvantaged children.

The new report – COVID-19 and Social Mobility, published today by the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) – points out that before the crisis, younger generations were already facing declining ‘absolute mobility’: falling real wages, fewer opportunities and stagnant or declining living standards.

Now that the crisis has drastically worsened economic and education inequality, young people are even less likely to fare better than past generations, less likely to climb the income ladder and less likely to fulfil their potential regardless of their background. There is a genuine concern that these inequalities could become entrenched for some time.

But, the authors say, rebuilding after the pandemic also offers an opportunity to give serious consideration to radical policies that will create a more mobile society and a better functioning economy.

The report calls for the introduction of job guarantees for people who are unemployed for more than 6 or 12 months, a one-off progressive wealth tax on the net worth of the top 1% of richest individuals and a living wages for key workers.

It also calls for a national tutoring service, with undergraduates and graduates helping children to catch up during the next school year, a dual approach to upper secondary schools, with a credible vocational stream alongside current academic routes and random allocation for school and university admissions, where candidates have met a threshold of selection criteria.

Professor Lee Elliot Major, co-author of the report, said: “There are serious concerns that the pandemic will plunge the COVID-19 generation into a dark age of declining social mobility because of rising economic and educational inequalities. The effects of the crisis and lockdown vary across age groups: while the coronavirus health shock has particularly affected the over-60s, the longer-term economic and social damage is likely to hit young people disproportionately, especially the under-25s.”


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