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Social Mobility and Education


Gabriel Mario Rodrigues – Chairman of the Board of Directors of ABMES

“My mother worked as a maid and hairdresser and then went to study law. (…) I know from inside the house how studying creates opportunities, promotes social ascension and gives a voice power. “(Thiago de Souza Amparo)

Last week I was watching the Silicon Valley Connection video, from StartSe – a digital platform, as they call themselves, designed to connect the entire Brazilian ecosystem of startups. I was amazed, among other things, with an innovation, the clean meat, a molecular meat made in the laboratory through the reproduction of stem cells. In one of the experiments, the meat was obtained from the feather of a chicken!

They say in the video that future generations may be horrified to learn that one day we had to kill an animal to feed us. And further, I add, we have needed to expand agricultural frontiers and deforest the planet for grazing and for soy production, for example, jeopardizing the ecological balance.

But what does this have to do with social mobility?

According to Infopedia, an encyclopedic online dictionary produced by Porto Editora, the notion of social mobility refers to the transition of individuals or groups from one stratum or social class to another. There are two types of social mobility: intragenerational mobility, which analyzes the situation of individuals in a generation, that is, the position they occupy at the beginning and end of their careers; and inter-generational mobility, in which more than one generation is analyzed, seeking to see, for example, whether individuals belong to the same social class as their parents.

The study “A broken social elevator? How to promote social mobility,” published in 2018 by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) points out that Brazil ranks second in the ranking of social mobility prepared with data from 30 countries.

According to BBC News Brasil, at the time of the study’s announcement, “it would take nine generations for the descendants of a Brazilian among the poorest 10% to reach the country’s average income level. The estimate is the same for South Africa and only loses to Colombia, where the rise period would take 11 generations.

In Brazil, out of every 10 children from miserable families, 3.5 will die and only one will have the chance to reach the top. That is, our country has been the example of 19th century wealth-based “heritage-rich” societies, where a minority lives on its wealth while the rest of the population works for subsistence.

The OECD study shows that the low level of social mobility negatively impacts overall economic growth. “Potential talent can be lost or under-exploited, with fewer business initiatives and fewer investments,” the BBC reports.

In addition to this “broken” social elevator manifesting over social welfare, the perception that the opportunity for ascent depends on factors that are out of reach generates hopelessness and a sense of exclusion, which increases the likelihood of social conflict.

But the good news is that social mobility and, in parallel, social, economic and cultural evolution take place through knowledge, access to information and exposure to innovation. And, as the UniBH article (Understanding the importance of education in social mobility) points out, are factors “necessary for everyone to better understand the world, the link between the facts, the problems, the challenges and, especially, the role of each one, in the face of this complex scenario. ”

It has already been enough that the qualification and the study directly influence the professional ascent and the social mobility, directly affecting the economy.

“The level of education of the population is reflected in factors such as entrepreneurship, scientific research and innovation, which guarantee industries and processes more efficient and automated,” the article points out.

That is, education has the function of preparing human capital for the demands and requirements of a constantly changing market, which demands increasingly qualified professionals, which requires a better quality education, in keeping with the demands of the 21st century.

The lack of qualification of workers acts as a brake on social mobility, since individuals with little study are often part of unemployment statistics – and will be replaced by machines.

The article concludes that “investment in education is an essential factor to consolidate social mobility and reduce the inequality of wealth and opportunities between classes.” With better jobs and higher wages, individuals can consume more and invest, and reduce dependence on public welfare policies.

The article from Valor Econômico newspaper of February 7 last (How Germany lost its Einsteins) starts with this question: “Why Germany, the birthplace of innovators who made history, like Johannes Gutenberg and Albert Einstein, did not produce giants of high tech like Google, Amazon or Facebook? “.

According to the text, Germany has lost its innovative momentum because its potential pioneers, originating from disadvantaged families, are not having the opportunity to develop:

“According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), intergenerational income elasticity in Germany is about 50%, which means that if the parents of person A earned double that of the parents of person B, person A will earn on average 50% more than person B. With income differentials so persistent across generations, Germany has one of the lowest OECD intergenerational mobility rates – where the average elasticity is 38% – and it seems to be decreasing. ”
The German alert should serve as a yellow signal for us Brazilians. Social inequality causes deleterious effects on society and the economy. The solution is, and always has been, education.

One of the dimensions of the HDI is Access to knowledge (education):

“Access to knowledge is a critical determinant of well-being and is essential for the exercise of individual freedoms, autonomy and self-esteem. Education is key to expanding people’s skills so they can decide on their future. Education builds confidence, confers dignity and broadens horizons and life prospects “.
It is a factor of social mobility.

Thus, I return to the epigraph of this article, taken from the Yellow Pages of Vejade 23/02. The interviewee is the professor of discrimination and diversity of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, Thiago de Souza Amparo, one of the many Brazilian examples of social mobility.