News Excerpt
India has been ranked very low at 76th place out of 82 countries on a new Social Mobility Index compiled by the World Economic Forum (WEF), while Denmark has topped the charts.

•    Social mobility is the movement of individuals, families, or groups through a system of social hierarchy or stratification.
•    The WEF’s Global Social Mobility Index assesses the 82 economies on ‘10 pillars’ spread across the following five key dimensions of social mobility: Health; Education (access, quality and equity, lifelong learning); Technology; Work (opportunities, wages, conditions); Protection and Institutions (social protection and inclusive institutions).

    In the case of India, it ranks 76th out of 82 economies with a score of 42.7. It ranks 41st in lifelong learning and 53rd in working conditions. The Areas of improvement for India include social protection (76th) and fair wage distribution (79th).   
    The Nordic nations hold the top five spots, led by Denmark in the first place (scoring 85 points), followed by Norway, Finland and Sweden (all above 83 points) and Iceland (82 points). Rounding out the top 10 are the Netherlands (6th), Switzerland (7th), Austria (8th), Belgium (9th) and Luxembourg (10th).
    Among the G7 economies, Germany is the most socially mobile, ranking 11th with 78 points, followed by France in 12th position. Canada comes next (14th), followed by Japan (15th), the United Kingdom (21st), the United States (27th) and Italy (34th).
    Among the world's large emerging economies, the Russian Federation is the most socially mobile of the BRICS grouping, ranking 39th, with a score of 64 points. Next is China (45th), followed by Brazil (60th), India (76th) and South Africa (77th).

    In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, human capital is the driving force of economic growth, and frictions that prevent the best allocation of talent and impede the accumulation of human capital may significantly limit growth. Inequalities of opportunity and low social mobility underpin such frictions, and also hinder the drivers of productivity. Low Social Mobility can erode the foundations of economic growth.  
    The two most frequently-cited causes of polarization of economic inequalities are globalization and technology. Globalization has increased inequality within countries by transferring low-skilled jobs in high-productivity sectors from high-income economies to lower-income ones and, consequently, penalized workers in specific locations and jobs. Technology has impacted inequality by reducing demand for low-skilled jobs and rewarding high-skilled jobs disproportionately.
    Despite a significant decrease in the percentage of people living in absolute poverty, there are several areas for improvement for India to provide more equally shared opportunity to its population. First, because of low life expectancy and a low health access and quality performance, it scores 54.6 on the Health pillar. Education is an engine of social mobility. But achievement is not balanced fairly.On the education front, it scores 41.1 on the Education Access pillar and 31.3 on Education Quality and Equity, due to its pupil-to-teacher ratios, which are still very high across pre-primary, primary and secondary levels, among other factors.
    In terms of work opportunities, India has the second-highest level of workers in vulnerable employment in the ranking (76.2%), behind Saudi Arabia and a low female labour participation rate (29.8% of the male labour participation).
    Another area where real structural reform needs to take place is in terms of fair wages. Social protection coverage is also very low in comparison with its regional peers, and overall social protection expenditure is very low (2.68% of GDP). The combination of these factors is detrimental to the social mobility of its population.

Improving social mobility must be the fundamental imperative of this new decade. As long as an individual's chances in life remain disproportionately influenced by their socio-economic status at birth, inequalities will never be reduced.  Creating societies where every person has the same opportunity to fulfil their potential in life irrespective of socio-economic background would not only bring huge societal benefits in the form of reduced inequalities and healthier, more fulfilled lives, it would also boost economic growth.

World Social Protection Report, World Employment and Social Outlook, International Platform on Health Worker Mobility, Global Gender Gap Report