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  • Jul 13, 2014
  • Updated: 10:15am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 September, 2013, 3:53am

Jobs for the privileged class: all about who, and what, you know

A probe by US regulators into the hiring practice of JPMorgan in China raises interesting questions about the changing nature of nepotism in a globalised world.

The inquiry by the US Securities and Exchange Commission has not accused the bank of any wrongdoing, but it is looking into its hiring which apparently ran a different job-placement programme for children of prominent families with close ties to the Chinese state.

On one level, there is nothing unusual as this sort of thing is done everywhere, and the hiring of so-called princelings is common among major foreign banks and financial service institutions. But what is most interesting is that many of the princeling applicants reportedly had impressive credentials and qualifications.

The most difficult-to-challenge kind of nepotism is the favoured and well-connected child who is also well-qualified. His or her hiring cannot be so easily dismissed as unmerited or investigated as corrupt. And in international finance and business, that is increasingly the case: a true marriage of the aristocracy of wealth with meritocracy. This has enormous implications for social inequality and mobility.

Corruption and nepotism in developing countries such as China are usually of the more primitive, under-the-table sort, but what we increasingly see in developed countries is the decline of social mobility. Nepotism of the meritocratic kind may be both the cause and symptom.

What successful, educated parents have is not just money, but social capital. The advantage starts at or even before birth as they learn from recent neuro-research of the cognitive gains to be had for even very young infants given the right nurturing environment.

These advantages accumulate as the child attends the best schools and make friends with children of similar privileged background. Soon, instead of racial segregation, you have a social one.

The privileged in developing countries may realise they just got lucky in the genetic lottery.

But rich meritocrats, whether in the US, Hong Kong or the mainland, increasingly think they deserve it - and may be right. Once entrenched, such a class system - into which poor children have little chance of breaking - cannot be so easily challenged or reversed.

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johnyuan
Fathers helping their kids seem alright except not all fathers can especially some ever can. Where is the fairness to those kids? Without intervention, society is wrought in a class system. So what? Many would ask.
XYZ
Well, a lot of those "well qualified" people got their credentials through their parents' money or connections, so I'm not at all sure about any of the "meritocratic" elements cited by Mr. Lo. I think Mr. Lo could have saved us the time and effort of reading his entire column if he had simply written "Life is unfair" and left the rest of the space blank.
goncalo
In this respect the USA should start their investigations at home. E.g. how many people hop from jobs in the US Government to jobs in Goldman Sachs, and vice-versa?
impala
I am sure the journalism is purely meritocratic, and having contacts amounts to nothing in order to become a 'successful' columnist.
gracetodd
Equality is never a reality! It took me some years to admit it and accept it with some sadness!!!
 
 
 
 
 

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