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Across the EU, citizens and governments of Member States are becoming increasingly concerned that – for the first time in decades – younger generations will have fewer opportunities for upward social mobility than preceding generations. This concern is shared by those on low incomes and the middle classes. This report sheds new light on the debate on social mobility in EU Member States and provides new evidence on patterns of intergenerational social mobility. It examines to what extent family background has determined people’s prospects for social mobility over the last few decades. It identifies key barriers to social mobility and reviews policies aimed at facilitating upward social mobility and equal opportunities specifically in the areas of childcare, early education, schooling and the labour market.

This report is the first to examine patterns of social mobility across all 28 Member States. It considers absolute social mobility (the extent and nature of structural, occupational change and societal progress) as well as relative social mobility (or ‘social fluidity’) – people’s chances of moving between certain occupational classes. Unlike many previous works in the field, the report analyses quantitative data regarding patterns of social mobility for men and women separately, underlining the increasingly important gender dimension. The qualitative information highlights the most pressing issues in terms of policy debate, the key barriers to social mobility, and policies for fostering equal opportunities and social mobility. In these analyses, occupational status is taken as the key indicator for measuring social mobility.


Suggested Citation
European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. (2016). Social mobility in the EU. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.