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Top Whitehall civil servants are even posher today than in the 1960s, says the Social Mobility Commission (SMC).

Hidden rules favour those with the "right accent", a report - Navigating the Labyrinth - claims.

Almost three-quarters (72%) of those in senior posts are from privileged homes, up from two-thirds (67%) in 1967.

The survey of more than 300,000 civil servants found a "behavioural code" that makes it harder for people from working-class homes to get promoted.

Only 18% of senior civil servants are from a low socio-economic background, says the SMC, the body appointed by government to advise on social mobility,

Graded jobs
Most of the 445,000 civil servants are employed by government departments.

Jobs range from administrative and operational roles such as prison officers and tax collectors, up to permanent secretaries, the most senior grade, who work with ministers to run their departments.

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Among those top Whitehall mandarins, 59% attended a private school - three times the rate among the wider population.

The permanent secretary at the Department for Transport who leads on social mobility, Bernadette Kelly, has welcomed the report.

"It chimes with much of my experience in talking to colleagues right across the civil service, and at all grades, about social mobility," she says.

"The sense that there is a hidden route to the top that those from more privileged backgrounds find easier to navigate."

Those from advantaged backgrounds are defined as having parents in professional or managerial occupations.

The parents of those defined as coming from disadvantaged backgrounds had either never worked, or had jobs such as drivers, cleaners, receptionists or mechanics.

There is a culture that favours polish over performance, creating a "class ceiling" that prevents people from poorer backgrounds getting the top jobs, the report finds.

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