New research shows that outlook inequality, describing young people from certain backgrounds having less belief in their ability to achieve, is holding them back from the careers they want. 

A new report by the think tank The Social Market Foundation reveals that outlook inequality is prohibiting young people from achieving their potential.

Outlook inequality describes the idea that young people from specific backgrounds have less belief in their ability to achieve their goals, which has negative implications for their lives and career prospects.

The research, overall, found that young people are less optimistic now than after the financial recession of 2008-2009.

Half say they have lowered their ambitions since the pandemic, and this rises sharply among those from lower income families who reported lower levels of optimism and career expectation.

This group also felt less equipped to compete in the job market, especially due to the impact of COVID-19.

Almost a third of young people (30 per cent) reported feeling they were going to end up in a dead-end job.  This rose to almost half (43 per cent) for those from lower income backgrounds.

In addition, over a third of this age group (34 per cent) stated they do not feel equipped to compete in the job market. This was true for more than half (52 per cent) among those from less affluent backgrounds.

Young people from lower income families were also twice as likely to not feel optimistic about the future (33 per cent) and almost half said that they were discouraged by setbacks (47 per cent).

Natasha Adams, Tesco’s Chief People Officer commented on these findings:

Inequalities in society are having a big impact on the outlook and chances of young people. At the same time, a whole generation is grappling with the disruption that COVID-19 has caused to jobs and education.

We must not allow a two-tier system to emerge where some are equipped with the confidence to get on and others are left behind. Businesses like ours need young, diverse talent.

Jonathan Townsend, UK Chief Executive, The Prince’s Trust added:

Young people’s employment prospects and aspirations have been hit hard by the pandemic and for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, it is harder still.

This generation of young people have faced a disrupted education and now look to enter a volatile jobs market, so we need to make sure the odds don’t stay stacked against them.

More than ever, it’s crucial that we work with partners like Tesco to support young people to upskill, train and access job opportunities; long term commitments such as these mean we can make a real difference to the lives of young people across the UK.


*To obtain these results, The Social Market Foundation conducted research in May and June 2021. This included new analysis of existing data sets, including Understanding Society, new research with 1,009 young people aged 16 -25 carried out by Opinium between 31st May 2021 and 4th June, and qualitative interviews with young people.