The answer is 83

Job Centre sign

So the professions should be doing more to encourage social mobility? Who would have thought it?

Alan Milburn's latest report on fair access to the country's top jobs might be dismissed by some as an exercise in public hand-wringing; a tick in the box for a coalition government which likes to put the word "fairness" at the centre of its offer to the nation; a poke in the ribs to professional sectors who, frankly, have more pressing concerns than the "fair access agenda".

But there is a number buried in Mr Milburn's report today which should be slap-bang-centre in Britain's thinking right now.

And that number is 83.

It may be tough at the moment, but Britain will crawl out of recession eventually. The economy will start to grow again. New jobs will be created.

According to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), by 2020 there will be an extra 1.5 million vacancies in Britain - a mighty relief, particularly for all those young people just starting out on their working lives.

Who is going to get an interview for these new jobs? Who is best placed to take advantage of growth when it comes?

The key number is 83.

In his report, Mr Milburn states that "the professions will account for approximately 83% of all new jobs in Britain in the next decade."

Just take a look at this table from the UKCES report Working Future 2010-2010, published six months ago.

Table showing occupational change by status, 2010-2020, total employment, source: IER estimates, MDM Revision 714

If you are working out a strategy to put yourself in the very best place to take advantage of economic growth when it comes, striving to work in a factory may not be the smartest tactic. Manual occupations are shrinking. Skilled trades are also so last century, it would appear. Admin and secretarial work opportunities are being destroyed by new technology.

The growth areas for Britain in the new millennium are in managerial, professional and associate professional/technical occupations. By 2020, it is reckoned, some 46% of all jobs in Britain will be white-collar.

This has colossal consequences for how a developed economy like the UK should prepare for the 21st Century. The key will be educating and training a workforce with the skills necessary to compete in an increasingly global employment market.

Graph showirg tends in UK output by sector (per cent p.a.), source: Cambridge Econometrics, MDM Revision 7146

The red bars on this graph show how different sectors are expected to fare when it comes to jobs during the course of this decade. Manufacturing continues to decline, if slightly less dramatically than in the decade up to 2010. The big winners are "professional services", arts and entertainment, media and real estate.

Those jobs will go, predominantly, to graduates. But will they go to Britain's brightest and best? Will the decision be made on worth - or birth?

Alan Milburn's report today may be dismissed by some as public hand-wringing at a time when the number one priority is economic growth. The fact is, though, that fair access to the professions is absolutely critical for maximising growth.

And if you meet people who doubt it, just suggest they think of a number. The answer is 83.

Mark Easton, Home editor Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Be careful.

    Under the last government, universities were obliged to take people who would not have been accepted on previous academic criteria. They failed the courses in unacceptable numbers. The universities were then pressured to lower standards so now they all pass.

    Same scheme for my doctor?

    No thanks.

    The only criteria for entry to a profession should be ability.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Milburn states "professions will account for approximately 83% of all new jobs in Britain in the next decade." And what about those persons who are not gifted towards "professions"? What about those who would fit best in factory or manufacturing jobs?
    I see this report as a WARNING. UK must do something about all of its workers - providing skill sets, working habits.
    83% more professionals!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Projections and extrapolations: pah! I remember being told at school fifty years ago thet we would have so much leisure time by now we will only need to work two days a week. Utter rubbish.

    The main reason for growing inequality is our failed edcuation system that refuses to recognise that practical skills are as good as academic skills if not more useful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Told at school I'd have a better future if I got a degree. I did, and did get a better paid job than if I'd been a plumber/electrician... initially. But long term, I've had 3 redundancies, and 3 long periods of unemployment, while the tradesmen have been in constant work. Today, I'm still renting, while plumbers/electricians have nice big houses! Don't believe the hype: we'll always need trades.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Sorry to write about this here but there is no comment section for Scotland.

    Anyone noticed Alex Salmond has been keeping a low profile during the Leveson Inquiry and has only emerged to create a vote and debate on scottish independance despite it having no significance. It almost as if he didn't want people to link him to the leveson inquiry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    the problem is no goverment does any advance structual planning for work related activites futher than the 5 years it expects to stay in power. Schools are being closed due to falling child numbers this year..yet a babay boom will reflect a need in 5 years and requirements for teaching increased,with these job /pension cutbacks whom will go that way 83 will be retirement age

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    In primary sectors there are less opportunities, then this demand forecast/projection may not be a true picture, actually alarming.. All the opportunities are in service trade, sports, travel and tourism, even if it shows opportunities does it not show the Greece path. It is better to become separate than living in bankrupt/about to become bankrupt united family..

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.


    Yet Table 3.4 shows a decline in education and only a tiny rise in health and care in the period 2010 to 2020. These were jobs growth areas in the last decade with a doubling of the spend on each and this will continue.

    Fast food and care homes will continue to expand the unskilled jobs market and Brits may have to take them despite a volunteer being worth 10 pressed men.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    With all respect, the forecast is in the extrapolation of the numbers.

    Today only 36% of working age males work, there a million citizens over 85, the massive demand for unskilled workers is satisfied by guest workers with a capital "W". Tomorrow the baby boomers will need help with gardening, dressing, cooking, shopping, decorating and care. unskilled jobs a plenty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    What a figure. I take it the people will be able to afford the extra costs. Fair access yes, but start thinking about giving kids a trade. They can leave the UK then and get from under the feet of the ruling classes. They'll be better off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Will there be echoes of the peasants revolt when the bien pensant realise that without opening up their hallowed halls to the hoi polloi, nothing will get done - a sense of fairness & a desire for equality will not drive the next revoilution in social mobility. When the time comes we, the peasants, should sweep away the privileges of the few & make sure it's fair dibs for all. Vive le revolution!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    This may not happen of course: it's a projection not a forcast.
    IMO there could be fewer jobs in the professions and many more skilled jobs in manufacturing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Is this rebalancing the economy as we understand it? 1.5M extra vacancies but how many jobs will have been lost and what happens to the 2.6M unemployed and the 5M without employment but not classed as unemployed. What Milburn should be bellowing is the need for an industrial strategy and economic regeneration - the free market will not come up with the answer or if it did it would be in Mandarin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Interesting! too bad the education system is not sufficiently geared up to provide all these professionals!

    Who exactly is going to collect the bins and or look after the elderly? That is if we are all going to be professionals? Retired footballers maybe.



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