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Dimensions of social mobility 

Social mobility is a multifaceted challenge; educational attainment, gender and geography are just some of the dimensions affecting the social mobility agenda.

  • Life-course' mobility: individuals can move up or down a social ladder in their lifetime; this is called inter-generational mobility.
  • Educational attainment: this includes how well a child performs in school and what overall level of education they achieve, where both of these metrics are strongly related to family background.
  • The gender dimension: gender is one of the important dimensions that should be considered in shaping government policy for better social mobility.
  • The geographic dimension: the degree of social mobility is often considered at a national scale, but countries can exhibit considerable variation in mobility outcomes depending on where individuals live.

Social mobility in the public sector

Examining the respondents from the Purpose and the profession research (January 2018) we see large differentials between the public sector respondents and their peers in other sectors. Public sector professional accountants were more than twice as likely to have started their ACCA qualification in their 40s than a respondent working in any other sector.

There were also significant differences in the socio-economic backgrounds (SEB) of respondents by sector. Public finance professionals were more likely than those in other sectors to come from comparatively disadvantaged backgrounds and were also less likely to have parents or guardians working as managers or professionals 

These results suggest that, globally, the public sector finance function is providing a more effective route into the profession for those from lower SEBs. This could be the result of better diversity and open access initiatives in the public sector or it could be led by an organisational culture that is more aware of biases.

Tangible steps for public sector finance and accountancy professionals

  1. Awareness: making the profession better known as a career choice
  2. Removing barriers: making qualifications and employment opportunities more accessible
  3. Skills and the changing world of work: basic skills and lifelong learning
  4. Data: greater data collection on the social diversity imperative

Supporting the development of the global profession

Developing countries face rising social, economic and environmental threats from issues that include overly rapid urbanisation, climate change, water scarcity and extreme weather. These threats will add to an already challenging context for both public and private sector. 

Tackling these issues effectively demands an unprecedented level of collaboration. Professional accountants are a core part of this collaborative ecosystem by working to support effective public services, business growth and a transition to high-value and sustainable development – while at all times working to protect the public interest. Professional accountants can play their role in supporting development that is equitable, sustainable and ready for the future.

ACCA author, Alex Metcalfe