The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a report arguing that it could take up to five generations for descendants of low-income families to reach the average national income.
More specifically, the OECD identifies difficult school-to-work transitions, occupation types, educational attainment and housing costs as the main factors contributing to lower inter-generational mobility.
Fostering higher social mobility requires focusing on three key priorities:
• Greater investment in retraining by extending lifelong learning for low-skilled workers;
• Strengthening workers’ bargaining power by increasing job security;
• Reducing housing costs by relaxing strict land use regulations.
The National Federation of Builders (NFB) agrees with the OECD’s assessments and thinks that small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are the best means to deliver on these key priorities.
SMEs employ 60% of the private sector’s workforce and make up 99% of all businesses in the UK. They are also the country’s predominant rural employer and nearly a fifth of SMEs operate in the construction industry.
Working within 15 miles of their head offices, construction SMEs train and retain two-thirds of apprentices and are integral to sustaining a regional supply chain. With construction paying more than the UK average and SMEs building homes more quickly and to a higher quality standard than volume developers, the Government needs to support the growth of regional developers.
Public frameworks and contracts must be more accessible to SMEs with a standard contract template, guaranteed payment terms, and fairer retention arrangements.
The planning process must be streamlined with local authorities showing greater support for developers, as well as plan-makers. To make the most of Brexit and increase social mobility, we must have a cultural change leading to a level playing field for all businesses, regardless of size.
Richard Beresford, Chief Executive of the NFB, said: “Saying SMEs are the lifeblood of the economy is not much good unless you put them in a position to enable them to grow in a sustainable manner.
“In construction, the Government needs to capitalise on the positive approaches made in the Industrial Strategy and the Housing White Paper, while committing to reform procurement, making payment terms fairer and reducing burdensome regulation in the planning process.”