Social class could be holding young people back from their preferred career, new research finds

Social class and nepotism are impacting early career opportunities for young people, according to new research from KPMG UK.

Social class and nepotism are impacting early career opportunities for young people

Social class and nepotism are impacting early career opportunities for young people, according to new research from KPMG UK.

Carried out ahead of Social Mobility Awareness Day on Thursday 15 June, the study of 2,000 adolescents found that those from low socio-economic backgrounds were less likely to have gained either formal or informal work experience. Two-fifths (40%) of those from low socio-economic backgrounds had gained exposure to the world of work, compared to around half (47%) of young people on average.

Nearly three-quarters (71%) of those surveyed felt that certain professions – such as becoming a doctor or lawyer – are easier to get into if your parents or guardians also worked in a similar profession. And of those who obtained work experience, this was more commonly arranged via a family member or friend (45%), rather than via their school (32%).

When asked about accountancy specifically, nearly half (48%) of those surveyed thought the profession favours those with parents or guardians from a professional background – such as doctors, lawyers and accountants.

Jon Holt, Chief Executive at KPMG in the UK, said:

“So many young people face an unlevel playing field and it’s limiting their long term prospects. The reality is, without access to decent and fair work experience and someone to show you the ropes, it can be hard to break into some professions. And talented individuals are therefore being ruled out of the running for jobs, at a really early stage of their career.

“Businesses, including our own, need to play an active role to change this. If we want to nurture the talent of tomorrow, we need to open our doors and offer the opportunity to come and see inside our firm to learn what work is like. And to help the next generation succeed, we need to equip them with skills that are highly valued in the workplace, such as problem solving and creative thinking.”  

Reflecting on her own career journey, Gabriella Falco, an apprentice at KPMG UK, said:

“I didn’t really have access to work experience or careers fairs growing up, but I was fortunate enough to stumble across a Women in Banking seminar, which really opened my eyes. Researching careers in finance, I came across KPMG and I was really interested in how the firm gives back to communities. As someone from a lower socio-economic background, I felt the firm’s values aligned with my own. 

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“Alongside my role in our People Consulting practice, I’m also a committee member of our social mobility employee network, UPbringing. The work I get to do is so rewarding, having such a big impact on the experience and opportunities of our colleagues from lower socio-economic backgrounds. I know it can seem daunting coming into a business like KPMG, but I hope we can help young people from all backgrounds feel excited and confident about the many career options available to them.”

KPMG has focused on increasing social mobility in its profession for over a decade. The firm was among the first businesses to publish its socio-economic background pay gaps in September 2021 and set ambitious targets to increase the socio-economic diversity of its workforce.

In December last year, the firm also published a pioneering ‘progression gap’ analysis to deepen understanding of social inequalities in the workplace. It showed that socio-economic background -measured by parental occupation - has the strongest effect on an individual’s career progression, compared to any other diversity characteristic.

KPMG already has a variety of formal work experience opportunities in place, including its Discovery work experience programme in support of Access Accountancy, and its One+1 programme in collaboration with the Social Mobility Foundation. However, to give even more young people insight into the world of work, KPMG is launching its Opening Doors to Opportunities programme.

During office visits, participants will build their teamwork, leadership and problem solving skills, while working through challenges similar to those faced by KPMG’s own clients.

The firm has pledged to give one million young people the opportunity to build their skills by 2030. As part of this, KPMG will be opening its doors to younger people from areas of lower social mobility across the UK*. The firm hopes to create a model that can be replicated by other businesses, to deepen the impact of the programme.

You can find out more about KPMG’s Opening Doors to Opportunities programme by visiting Our Impact site.



For media queries, please contact:

Simon Wilson, Media Relations Manager at KPMG UK

Tel: +44 (0) 207 311 6651

Mob: +44 (0)778 537 3397



Notes to editors:

* KPMG UK worked with research-based social impact consultancy, The Bridge Group, to identify schools most in need. This considers social mobility cold spots, as well as government-identified opportunity areas, education investment areas and areas of high deprivation in the UK. You can find out more about our firm’s place-based approach here.

Research methodology:

KPMG UK commissioned research agency One Poll to conduct a nationally representative survey of 2,000 young people aged of 11 – 18, between 25 May and 5 June 2023. The parent or guardian of the child in question was asked to disclose the occupation of their highest household earner to assess socio-economic background by parental occupation. Thereafter, the young respondent was asked various questions relating to their access to work experience opportunities and their perception of the world of work. 

Defining socio-economic background:

KPMG follows definitive guidance, provided by the Bridge Group and Social Mobility Commission in 2021, around how best to define and measure socio-economic background. Our firm uses parental occupation (the occupation of the highest earner in your household at age 14), which is widely considered the most robust indicator.


KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, operates from 20 offices across the UK with approximately 17,000 partners and staff. The UK firm recorded a revenue of £2.72 billion in the year ended 30 September 2022.  

KPMG is a global organization of independent professional services firms providing Audit, Legal, Tax and Advisory services. It operates in 143 countries and territories with more than 265,000 partners and employees working in member firms around the world. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such. KPMG International Limited is a private English company limited by guarantee. KPMG International Limited and its related entities do not provide services to clients.