Social mobility refers to change in a person's socio-economic situation, either in relation to their parents (inter-generational mobility) or throughout their lifetime (intra-generational mobility).
Social mobility is linked to equality of opportunity: the extent to which people have the same chances to do well in life regardless of the socio-economic background of their parents, their gender, age, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, birthplace, or other circumstances beyond their control.
Social mobility and equality of opportunity can be measured in terms of earnings, income, or social class, but can also be understood to encompass other well-being dimensions such as health and education.
At the OECD, we:
Collect data to better measure social mobility and equal opportunity,
Conduct analysis and make policy recommendations, and
Consider what role civil society and the private sector can play in shaping equal opportunities.
Thanks to this work, significant progress has been made in understanding the drivers of social mobility. But key gaps remain. COVID-19 and megatrends such as the digital transformation and green transition pose new, systemic challenges that call for fresh investigation.
The newly launched Observatory on Social Mobility and Equal Opportunity responds to this need. The Observatory aims to move our knowledge forward, capitalising on existing work, addressing information gaps, and helping develop data-informed policies to promote equal opportunity for current and future generations. The Observatory is part of our broader work on inequality.
Policies should foster an economic environment in which high-quality jobs can thrive.
Workers must be protected from labour market risks and empowered to gain the training they need.
Young people in particular can benefit from greater government investment in skills, education, jobs, and mental health resources.
Explore a wide range of policy options from the OECD Jobs Strategy, and in the Recommendation on Creating Better Opportunities for Young People.