In a survey which polled 32,500 people globally*, half of employees stated that they faced discrimination at work which led them to missing out on career advancements or training. 

A new survey by PwC reveals that discriminatory practices occurring at work could be holding employees back from upskilling and advancing in their careers.

Of 32,500 workers, 50 per cent reported facing discrimination in the workplace which hindered them from being offered career opportunities.

Breaking this down further, over one in 8 (13 per cent) stated that they were not given opportunities due to their ethnicity. The same number of workers (13 per cent) reported being discriminated against on the basis of class, with post-graduates and others with higher qualifications more likely to report prejudice.

Women were also shown to be twice as likely to report gender-based discrimination in the workplace than men, with the overall figure standing at 14 per cent.

In addition to workers being shut out of career advancement opportunities due to discrimination, another significant issue revealed by the report showed that chances to train are frequently being offered to employees who already have high levels of skills.

Almost half (46 per cent) of people with postgraduate degrees expressed that their employer gives them many opportunities to improve their digital skills. Only three in 10 (28 per cent) workers with school-leaver qualifications reported the same experience, showing a lack of inclusion.

Bhushan Sethi, Joint Global Leader of PwC’s People and Organisation Practice, warned that this type of upskilling could actually increase social inequality when “it should be doing precisely the opposite”. As such, Mr. Sethi called on the Government and employers to intensify efforts to ensure people in the most-at risk industries and groups get the opportunities they need.

Despite this, many employees have expressed a development in their skills during lockdown and a desire to continue learning.

Two-fifths (40 per cent) of employees say their digital skills have been improved through the prolonged period of lockdown, and claim they will continue to embrace training and skill development.

Almost four in five (77 per cent) said they were ‘ready to learn new skills or completely re-train’, echoing schemes implemented by the UK Government which urges workers to retrain and upskill.

In light of a rapid advancement in technology, a further four in five (80 per cent) said they are “confident” in adapting to new technologies entering the workplace.

Speaking to HRreview, Bhushan Sethi, Joint Global Leader of PwC’s People and Organization Practice, explained:

The last year has taught us that people have come to expect businesses to lead with purpose and consider their responsibilities to employees and the wider community.

Our data tells us people are confident they can adapt to new technologies entering their workplace, and that many have improved their digital skills during the pandemic, but 60 per cent are still worried that their jobs will be overtaken by automation.

Employers must adopt a relentless focus on ensuring that disparities in access to upskilling opportunities are identified, broken down and removed. Adaptation isn’t just important for workers – it’s essential for businesses too if they are going to stay relevant over the long term.


*Between 26 January, 2021 and 8 February, 2021, PwC commissioned a survey of 32,517 members of the general public which is documented in the ‘Hopes and Fears 2021 Report’. Respondents included workers, business owners, contract workers, students, unemployed people looking for work, and those on furlough or who were temporarily laid off. The survey polled workers in 19 countries including the UK.