Today, there is no prospect of child poverty ending in the UK, and we are more than 40 years away from closing the attainment gap between poor five years-olds and their better-off peers. Two-thirds of disadvantaged children still do not get five good GCSEs at age 16.

Since 2008, young people’s wages have fallen 16%, taking their pay to below 1997 levels, and across age groups one-in-five people in the UK are stuck on low pay – a consistently higher proportion than other comparable nations. We are an increasingly divided nation; by generation, region, income and wealth. While employment is high, real earnings have stagnated and some five million people are working in jobs below the skill level that they have already attained.

The essays in this collection shed light on the meaning of social mobility and meritocracy, and many of them, like us, challenge the usefulness of social mobility – if understood in a narrow sense of helping the ‘able’ reach the top – as a useful guiding concept for politics and policy. The pieces enrich our understanding of class in the UK today, what goals government needs to set, and what it would mean to have an equal economy and society.