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Social Mobility – how can we increase opportunities through training and education?


11 Jun 2018


Social Europe & Jobs

EU-decision makers, civil society, qualification providers and employers discussed the role of training and education to improve social mobility, at recent ACCA, PwC, EMI and European Youth Forum joint event held at the European Parliament

Over the past few decades globalisation, digitalisation and automation have changed the way we work and live. A recent Eurofound study  has also identified that EU citizens are increasingly concerned that young people have fewer opportunities for upward social mobility than their parents. It is thus vital to open up access to new opportunities that help build healthy and prosperous economies, where people of all backgrounds are able to flourish. But for that, people need to be equipped with the right skills

To shift mentalities we need everyone on board and collaboration between policy makers, stakeholders and business is critical. With this in mind,  ACCA, PwC, European Movement International and the European Youth Forum organised  a lively debate hosted by Martina Dlabajova, MEP, at the European Parliament on how improving training and education can be critical factors for social mobility.

Martina Dlabajova, MEP opened the debate: “It is crucial in every political debate to define the goal, vision and objectives. Priorities must be set in the right order, especially when we talk about social mobility, future skills, labour market and employment. What is actually the goal we want to achieve? Merely getting people a job which they will keep for life, or do we want to raise a skilled workforce and young individuals that will be flexible and motivated enough to deal with the future challenges of the labour market? We need to think what the future labour market will bring us, how it will change the conditions and requirements, what kind of flexibility will be needed. We need to prepare the youth of today for the jobs of tomorrow.”

The debate confirmed the importance of perception in the social mobility issue, and of education as one of the main enablers of social mobility. The EU is addressing the issue from different fronts - the Skills Agenda and the launch of the European Commission European Pillar of Social Rights. Discussion also revealed the increasing impact of parental environment on education – participants heard that 95% of career decisions for children are taken by mothers - but also on transition/entry into employment. It is important to support people in their career transitions from education to employment and invest in soft and entrepreneurial skills, which are probably the hardest ones to get, and to focus on attitude, talent and motivation of young people.

Maggie McGhee, Director of Professional Insights at ACCA said “Social mobility is a lifelong journey. There are also societal and cultural obstacles linked to the perception of accessing certain professions, a “limiting” factor, the belief that ’this is not for me’- a very dangerous stigma. A recent ACCA report highlights the importance of improving awareness of ‘stigmatized” professions, such as accountancy, as a career choice at younger levels. It also includes practical recommendations to address the stigma such as removing bias from the recruitment process, removing barriers by introducing flexible learning routes, and focusing on new skills, as well as lifelong learning, to keep the profession relevant. The report also recommends using digital tools to counteract the legacy of closed professional networks.

Stephen Hogan, Head of Social Mobility at PwC said: “Where you start out in life should not determine where you end up. Equally, social mobility is not just about young people. At PwC, we believe that all businesses can play their part in providing the work and learning opportunities that will help people to progress as far as their talent and determination will take them.”

Anna Widegren, Secretary General of the European Youth Forum “flexible education pathways between vocational education and training and academia are needed, and everything needs to be recognised at an equal level and of equal quality. Education and training must be free and without hidden costs so it doesn’t benefit some and leave others behind. Investing in digital literacy and lifelong learning, especially among youth, as a result of increased digitalisation of the labour market is crucial. The assumption that young people are “digital natives” fails to reflect the fact that not all young people have equal access to technology, nor do all young people come from families that can afford them”.

Brando Benifei, MEP,  Vice-President, European Movement International and Chair of the European Parliament’s Youth Intergroup concluded "Just like unemployment cannot be reduced to a matter of skills mismatch, social mobility cannot be understood as a static or flat phenomenon. Its occupational, horizontal, vertical, as well as inter and intra generational dimension needs to be fully acknowledged. Its implications range across several policy fields, from education to employment, from welfare policies to macro-economic considerations. It therefore requires a continuous effort in the development of new and more effective quality indicators to better target policy choices".



Notes to editors

About ACCA

For media enquiries, contact: Cecile Bonino, Head of EU Affairs, Tel: +32 (0) 2 286 11 37,

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

ACCA supports its 200,000 members and 486,000 students in 180 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 101 offices and centres and more than 7,200 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

ACCA is currently introducing major innovations to its flagship qualification to ensure its members and future members continue to be the most valued, up to date and sought-after accountancy professionals globally.

Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. More information is here:


About PwC

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 157 countries with more than 223,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at

PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see for further details


About European Movement International

The European Movement is the largest pan-European network of pro-European organisations. It is present in over 30 countries and encompasses 38 International Associations, bringing together European civil society, business, trade unions, NGOs, political parties, local authorities and academia.

Founded 70 years ago, we have continuously advocated in favour of European co-operation and integration, based on the principles of peace, democracy, liberty, solidarity, equality, justice, the respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Today the European Movement seeks to provide a platform to encourage and facilitate the active participation of citizens and stakeholders from a cross-section of sectors in the development of European solutions to our common challenges. We offer thought leadership on the issues that confront Europe; we seek to inform the debates on our Union’s future, involve citizens and stakeholders in the decisions that affect them and influence policy-makers in favour of an open, inclusive, transparent and united Europe.


About European Youth Forum

The European Youth Forum (YFJ) is the platform of youth organisations in Europe. Representing 104 youth organisations, both National Youth Councils and International Non-Governmental Youth Organisations, we believe youth organisations are the tool through which we empower, encourage, involve, represent, reach out and support young people. The Youth Forum brings together tens of millions of young people from all over Europe, organised in order to represent their common interests.

The Youth Forum works to empower young people to participate actively in society to improve their own lives by representing and advocating their needs and interest and those of their organisations. In the current uncertain political and social context that affects young people, they can be powerful catalysts for positive change and contributors of innovative solutions to Europe’s problems.