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EUROFOUND Report: Social Mobility in the EU

Published 4 June 2019

EU citizens are increasingly concerned that today’s young people will have fewer opportunities for upward social mobility than their parents’ generation.

This report maps patterns of intergenerational social mobility in the EU countries. It first looks at absolute social mobility, how societies have changed in terms of structural and occupational change and societal progress. Then it turns to relative social mobility (‘social fluidity’), the opportunities for individuals to move between occupational classes. The story of recent social mobility is explored using data from the European Social Survey (ESS) and findings from Eurofound’s Network of European correspondents across the EU Member States.

The report also analyses the current policy discourse, examining to what extent social mobility has been visible on the policy agenda in different Member States and how it has been framed and discussed. It goes on to look at barriers to equal opportunities and policies to promote it.

Finally, it focuses on developments in the last decade that could foster social mobility in childhood and early education, school and tertiary education, and the labour market. According to the Report, younger Europeans are likely to have fewer opportunities for upward social mobility than preceding generations. Social mobility in Europe seems to have stagnated, at least in some countries, with opportunities for upward social mobility only increasing in a minority of EU countries for all age groups; in some Member States there is even evidence of a decline in social mobility.