Is it fair for parents to use their contacts to help their children get a job?

Tanya AbrahamResearch Director of Political and Social Research
December 09, 2022, 12:18 PM GMT+0

Whilst the majority of Britons say they would arrange some type of professional prospect for their children, temporary work or introductions are considered more acceptable than permanent jobs

In 2017, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) announced a ban on MPs employing family members, saying that it was not aligned to modern employment practices.

Some welcomed this reform, emphasising the need for transparency and good employment in practice, whilst others said that spouses were best suited to ‘handle the unpredictable work patterns, long hours and need for absolute trust.

As of June this year, more than 80 MPs still employ ‘connected parties’, a reference used for MPs’ family members.

In 2013, YouGov asked what Britons thought about parents tapping into their professional networks for the benefit of their children – now a new wave of the study shows where the public stands in 2022, and where attitudes have changed.

The majority would arrange a work-related opportunity for their child, and three in ten parents have already done this

Three quarters of Britons (74%) say they would use their personal contacts if they had a child who needed a helping hand. This is a 10-point drop from when last asked in 2013 (84%).

While the large majority of parents (82%) say that, in principle, they would help their children out in such a way, so too do two thirds of Britons without children (65%), who are answering hypothetically.

In practice 31% of parents say they have previously arranged some type of work-related opportunity, including one in five (19%) who have organised work experience and 12% who have procured a temporary job for their offspring.

What is ‘fair’ when it comes to parents professionally helping their children?

There are clear differences in opinion when it comes to the type of opportunity parents are setting up for their child.

At least half of Britons think it is fair for parents to use their connections to get their children temporary jobs (58%) or some form of professional introductions, be they job interviews (52%), meetings related to jobs or work (54%), or work experience (68%). Between 8-17% view these as unfair, while 18-25% say they are neither fair nor unfair.

In contrast, just 38% overall think parents arranging a permanent job for their child is reasonable, whilst 28% deem this unfair.

At least half of 2019 Conservative voters think it is fair to arrange some form of work opportunity. This ranges from a low of 50% who think a permanent job is justifiable to a high of 75% for work experience.

Labour voters are less likely to think any of the forms of parental assistance we asked about are fair, but particularly in the case of permanent jobs, at 30% – in fact, 36% of Labour voters say this is unfair (compared to only 18% of Tory voters).

Older Britons (those aged 65 and above) are more receptive to parents helping their children into both temporary posts (67%) and permanent ones (46%) than their younger counterparts are (49% and 23% respectively among 18-24 year olds).

Britons say using your contacts to help your children is good parenting, but are less sure about its benefits for the wider society

Around half of Britons (50%) consider it good parenting to use personal contacts and help their child obtain a job or work experience, a figure slightly lower than in 2013 (56%). Only 6% consider this bad parenting. Parents are also more likely (55%) than those without children (45%) to view it positively, and a further third in each group (36-37%) say it is neither good nor bad parenting.

But when it comes to the impacts on wider society of parents using their contacts to help their children into the workplace, only a quarter (26%) think it benefits society (again, down slightly from 32% in 2013). Close to half (47%) think it is neither good nor bad for society, while 18% consider it to be actively harmful.

See full tables here

Picture: Getty

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