Social mobility and the public sector | 1. Introduction

Social mobility and the public sector | 1. Introduction

1. Introduction

In 2018, ACCA published Purpose and the profession (ACCA 2018a), the results of a global survey in which almost 14,000 members and students shared their views on, and experiences of, social mobility.

One of the key challenges of the 21st century will be reconciling growth and equity, where the distribution of economic gain will become an increasingly important question for governments and firms. Governments will need to work to generate the right regulatory environment, as well as adopting appropriate employment and diversity policies to set good standards in the labour market.

This report follows on from ACCA’s award-winning report [1], Purpose and the profession, published earlier this year – which explored the global challenge of improving social mobility and the role of professional accountancy in achieving this goal. This follow-on report looks more deeply at the role of the public sector in achieving equal opportunities for all. The report explores many dimensions of social mobility, such as: educational attainment, life-course mobility, gender, and geography – and then maps these dimensions to policy levers that governments can explore to help reduce the opportunity gap.

New analysis derived from combining datasets from the OECD and Transparency International demonstrates that there is an inverse relationship between the level of perceived corruption and the amount of social mobility in a country. The public sector is also an essential actor in limiting corruption and so helping to create an environment of equal opportunity.

ACCA’s global survey showed a number of distinctive results for the public sector. The data showed that public sector finance professionals were more likely to come from comparatively underprivileged socio-economic backgrounds (“lower SEBs”), being more likely to have parents with only primary-level education and to have pursued an accountancy qualification later in their career, than those in other sectors.

Finally, the report discusses how the profession and public sector actors can step up and make a difference in improving social mobility. This is supplemented with examples of capacity-building work that ACCA is undertaking around the world in order to develop the accountancy profession the world needs.


[1] ACCA was awarded ‘Best social mobility initiative by a professional body’ at the 2018 Memcom awards.