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SOC2010 volume 3: the National Statistics socio-economic classification (NS-SEC rebased on the SOC2010)

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1. History and origins

1.1 Two socio-economic classifications – or SECs – were widely used in the UK in both official statistics and academic research: Social Class based on Occupation (SC, formerly Registrar General’s Social Class) and Socio-economic Groups (SEG). 

1.2 In 1994, the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, now part of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), commissioned the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to undertake a review of government social classifications. 

1.3 As a result of the review, the ESRC recommended that a new SEC, the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC) replace both SC and SEG. (You can find full details of the review and its conclusions in Rose and Pevalin with O’Reilly 2005. A researcher’s guide to the classification has also been produced (see Rose and Pevalin 2003). 

1.4 The final phase of the review involved rebasing the NS‑SEC on the new Standard Occupational Classification 2000(SOC2000) published in June of that year. This led to some important changes to the interim version of the NS-SEC previously published in Rose and O’Reilly 1998. This volume presents the NS-SEC as rebased on SOC2010. 

1.5 Since 2001, the NS-SEC has been available for use in all official statistics and surveys. More recently, as a result of an EU Sixth Framework Programme project co-ordinated by ONS, a similar classification to NS-SEC has been produced for comparative European research, the European Socio‑economic Classification (ESeC – see Rose and Harrison 2010). 

1.6 The NS-SEC was developed from a sociological classification that has been widely used in pure and applied research, known as the Goldthorpe Schema (see Goldthorpe 1980/1987, 1997, 2007; Erikson and Goldthorpe 1992). 

1.7 The decision to adopt the Goldthorpe Schema as the basis for the NS-SEC was made because it is accepted internationally and is conceptually clear. It has also been reasonably validated both as a measure and as a good predictor of health, educational and many other outcomes. However, the NS-SEC improves on the Goldthorpe Schema as a result of its more thorough validation.

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2. Conceptual basis

2.1 The NS-SEC has been constructed to measure the employment relations and conditions of occupations (see Goldthorpe 2007). Conceptually, these are central to showing the structure of socio-economic positions in modern societies and helping to explain variations in social behaviour and other social phenomena. 

2.2 It is important that all of us who use the NS-SEC understand its conceptual basis and what it is measuring so that we can use it correctly, improve our explanation of results, and investigate whether the classification continues to be valid. 

2.3 Of course, a clear conceptual basis does not remove all barriers to explaining what socio-economic differences mean – employment is not the only determinant of life chances and not everything can be explained by what a classification directly measures. However, a properly constructed and validated classification such as the NS-SEC removes at least one barrier to explanation. It was not designed to offer better statistical associations than Social Class, (SC) and Socio-economic Group, (SEG) but to improve the possibility of explaining them. As it measures employment relations, i.e. aspects of work and market situations and of the labour contract, it enables us to more readily construct causal narratives that specify how the NS-SEC links to a range of outcomes via a variety of intervening variables (see Rose and Pevalin with O’Reilly 2005:16–19; c.f. Rose and Harrison 2010: Ch.1). 

2.4 The NS-SEC is an occupationally based classification but has rules to provide coverage of the whole adult population. The information required to create the NS-SEC is occupation coded to the unit groups (OUG) of the SOC2010 and details of employment status: whether an employer, self-employed or employee; whether a supervisor; and the number of employees at a workplace. Similar information was required for SC and SEG.

2.5 The version of the classification that will be used for most analyses, the analytic version, has eight classes, shown in Table 1, the first of which can be subdivided.

Table 1
NS-SEC Analytic classes                        

1

Higher managerial, administrative and professional occupations

 

1.1 Large employers and higher managerial and administrative occupations

 

1.2 Higher professional occupations

2

Lower managerial, administrative and professional occupations

3

Intermediate occupations

4

Small employers and own account workers

5

Lower supervisory and technical occupations

6

Semi-routine occupations

7

Routine occupations

8

Never worked and long-term unemployed

(For complete coverage, the three categories: Students; Occupations not stated or inadequately described; and Not classifiable for other reasons, are added as ‘Not classified’). 

2.6 The NS-SEC aims to differentiate positions within labour markets and production units in terms of their typical ‘employment relations’. Among employees, there are quite diverse employment relations and conditions, that is, they occupy different labour market situations and work situations. 

2.7 Labour market situation equates to source of income, economic security and prospects of economic advancement. Work situation refers primarily to location in systems of authority and control at work, although degree of autonomy at work is a secondary aspect. 

2.8 The NS-SEC categories distinguish different positions (not people) as defined by social relationships in the workplace, that is, by how employees are regulated by employers through employment contracts. 

2.9 The NS-SEC distinguishes three forms of employment regulation: 

  • service relationship: the employee renders service to the employer in return for compensation, which can be both immediate rewards (for example, salary) and long-term or prospective benefits (for example, assurances of security and career opportunities). The service relationship typifies Class 1 and is present in a weaker form in Class 2
  • labour contract: the employee gives discrete amounts of labour in return for a wage calculated on the amount of work done or time worked. The labour contract is typical in Class 7 and, in weaker forms, in Classes 5 and 6
  • intermediate: these forms of employment regulation combine aspects from both the service relationship and labour contract, and are typical in Class 3

2.10 The classification also separately identifies categories for large employers in its operational version, and for small employers and the self-employed with no employees in both the operational and analytic versions. For more information, see 6: Category descriptions and operational issues.

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3. Unit of analysis

3.1 Traditionally, the unit of analysis or class composition has been the family/household rather than the individual. The nuclear family is seen as the basic structural element because of the inter-dependence and shared conditions of family members. A family member’s own position may have less relevance to their life chances than those of another family member. A practical solution to this problem has been to select one family or household member as a reference person and take that person’s position to stand for the whole household. 

3.2 Essentially, assigning an NS-SEC category to a household involves deciding which household member best defines that household’s position. This person is called the household reference person (HRP). 

3.3 From 2001, the HRP has been defined as the person responsible for owning or renting or who is otherwise responsible for the accommodation. In the case of joint householders, the person with the highest income takes precedence and becomes the HRP. Where incomes are equal, the oldest person is taken as the HRP. This procedure increases the likelihood both that a woman will be the HRP and that the HRP better characterises the household’s social position.

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4. Structure and flexibility

4.1 The NS-SEC can be derived in three ways – full, reduced or simplified – depending on the level of detail of the employment status information available. 

4.2 The different methods allow you to apply the NS-SEC to registration and other administrative data, census and survey data, and to data of varying robustness. The reduced method was developed for sources unable to collect information on size of organisation, including the 2011 Census; the simplified method provides a last resort solution. See 12 and 13 for fuller descriptions of the three methods and how to derive the NS-SEC using each one. 

4.3 Although occupationally based, there are procedures for classifying non-employed people to the NS-SEC (see 6.3). 

4.4 ONS researchers have also developed a self-coded version of the NS-SEC, which is suitable for use in situations such as postal surveys where the collection and coding of detailed occupation information is not justified. See 14. 

4.5 The NS-SEC is nested so that the operational categories offer maximum flexibility in terms of the different collapses possible (within the underlying conceptual model of employment relations) to eight analytic classes. See 7: Classes and collapses.

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5. Analytic classes and operational categories

5.1 Table 2 presents the eight analytic classes together with the 14 functional and three residual operational categories of the NS-SEC. The functional categories represent a variety of labour market positions and employment statuses. They can be collapsed into the analytic classes of the NS-SEC, as shown. 

Table 2
NS-SEC analytic classes, operational categories and sub-categories 

Analytic Classes

Operational categories and sub-categories classes

1.1

L1

Employers in large establishments

 

L2

Higher managerial and administrative occupations

1.2

L3

Higher professional occupations

 

 

L3.1 ‘Traditional’ employees

 

 

L3.2 ‘New’ employees

 

 

L3.3 ‘Traditional’ self-employed

 

 

L3.4 ‘New’ self-employed

2

L4

Lower professional and higher technical occupations

 

 

L4.1 ‘Traditional’ employees

 

 

L4.2 ‘New’ employees

 

 

L4.3 ‘Traditional’ self-employed

 

 

L4.4 ‘New’ self-employed

 

L5

 Lower managerial and administrative occupations

 

L6

 Higher supervisory occupations

3

L7

 Intermediate occupations

 

 

L7.1 Intermediate clerical and administrative occupations

 

 

L7.2 Intermediate sales and service occupations

 

 

L7.3 Intermediate technical and auxiliary occupations

 

 

L7.4 Intermediate engineering occupations

4

L8

Employers in small organisations

 

 

L8.1 Employers in small establishments in industry, commerce, services etc.

 

 

L8.2 Employers in small establishments in agriculture

 

L9

 Own account workers

 

 

L9.1 Own account workers (non-professional)

 

 

L9.2 Own account workers (agriculture)

5

L10

 Lower supervisory occupations

 

L11

Lower technical occupations

 

 

L11.1 Lower technical craft occupations

 

 

L11.2 Lower technical process operative occupations

6

L12

 Semi-routine occupations

 

 

L12.1 Semi-routine sales occupations

 

 

L12.2 Semi-routine service occupations

 

 

L12.3 Semi-routine technical occupations

 

 

L12.4 Semi-routine operative occupations

 

 

L12.5 Semi-routine agricultural occupations

 

 

L12.6 Semi-routine clerical occupations

 

 

L12.7 Semi routine childcare occupaions

7

L13

Routine occupations

 

 

L13.1 Routine sales and service occupations

 

 

L13.2 Routine production occupations

 

 

L13.3 Routine technical occupations

 

 

L13.4 Routine operative occupations

 

 

L13.5 Routine agricultural occupations

8

L14

 Never worked and long-term unemployed

 

 

L14.1 Never worked

 

 

L14.2 Long-term unemployed

*

L15

 Full-time students

*

L16

Occupations not stated or inadequately described

*

L17

 Not classifiable for other reasons

(*For complete coverage, categories L15, L16 & L17 are added as ‘Not classified’. The composition of ‘Not classified’ will be dependent on the data source) 

5.2 L14 is an optional category while L15, L16 and L17 are the residual categories that are excluded when the classification is collapsed into classes. 

5.3 The operational sub-categories are required for bridging and continuity in relation to SC and SEG, rather than being necessary in terms of the conceptual base of the NS-SEC. See 6 for detailed descriptions of the categories and sub‑categories, and 8 for more information about continuity with SC and SEG. 

5.4 The categories describe different forms of employment relations, not skill levels, so the category names deliberately do not refer to ‘skill’.

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6. Category descriptions and operational issues

6.1 In an employment relations approach, the important distinctions are those between: 

  • employers: who buy the labour of others and assume some degree of authority and control over them
  • self-employed (or 'own account') workers: who neither buy labour nor sell their labour to others
  • employees: who sell their labour to employers 

Employees are further differentiated according to the employment relations of their occupation. See 2.9 for descriptions of the main forms of employment regulation distinguished by the NS‑SEC. 

6.2 The NS-SEC has two types of operational category: functional and residual. (Residual category L14 can be considered optional.) 

6.2.1 Functional operational categories 

L1 Employers in large organisations 

People who employ others (and so assume some degree of control over them) in enterprises employing 25 or more people, and who delegate some part of their managerial and entrepreneurial functions to salaried staff. 

Higher professionals who are also large employers are not allocated to L1 but to L3.

This is because their status as professionals is more relevant in terms of employment relations than their position as an employer. 

L2 Higher managerial and administrative occupations 

Positions in which there is a service relationship with the employer, and which involve general planning and supervision of operations on behalf of the employer. 

For certain managerial unit groups of SOC2010 the number of employees in an organisation can help to distinguish between higher managerial occupations in L2 and lower managerial occupations in L5.

However, some managerial OUGs are wholly or primarily occupied by higher or lower managers so this does not always apply. 

L3 Higher professional occupations 

Positions, whether occupied by employers, the self-employed or employees, that cover all types of higher professional work.

As with L2, employees in these groups have a service relationship with their employer. 

L3.1 ‘Traditional’ professional employees

L3.2 ‘New’ professional employees

L3.3 ‘Traditional’ self-employed professionals

L3.4 ‘New’ self-employed professionals 

Both here and in L4 (lower professional and higher technical occupations) ‘traditional’ refers to occupations regarded by SC and SEG as professional.

‘New’ refers to occupations not previously regarded as professional. 

It is important to note that, for professionals, independent practice and salaried employment are often indistinguishable, and that true self-employment is difficult to identify. 

An occupation that has been designated as professional is professional regardless of employment status.

For example, a supervisor who is also a scientist is classified as a professional (in L3) and not as a supervisor (L6). 

L4 Lower professional and higher technical occupations 

Positions, whether occupied by employers, the self-employed or employees, that cover lower professional and higher technical occupations.

Employees in these groups have an attenuated form of the service relationship. 

L4.1 ‘Traditional’ lower professional and higher technical Employees 

L4.2 ‘New’ lower professional and higher technical employees 

L4.3 ‘Traditional’ self-employed lower professionals and higher technical 

L4.4 ‘New’ self-employed lower professionals and higher technical 

Employees in category L4 share fewer of the conditions associated with the service relationship than those in L3. 

The rules for allocating lower professional OUG/employment status combinations to the NS-SEC are complicated.

The employee relations approach holds that lower professional status takes precedence over small employer status but not over large employer status.

Employers in small organisations who are in associate professional occupations are allocated to L4 rather than L8.

But lower professionals who are also large employers are allocated to L1. 

L5 Lower managerial and administrative occupations 

Positions that have an attenuated form of service relationship.

Employees in these groups generally plan and supervise operations on behalf of the employer under the direction of senior managers. 

These occupations share fewer of the conditions associated with the service relationship than those in L2. 

As discussed under L2, the size rule is sometimes used as an indicator of the conceptual distinction between higher and lower managerial occupations.

However, some OUGs are regarded as inherently lower managerial and allocated to L5 regardless of organisation size. 

L6 Higher supervisory occupations 

Positions (other than managerial) that have an attenuated form of the service relationship.

These positions involve formal and immediate supervision of others, and primarily cover intermediate occupations in L7, but also some occupations in L11-13, classes 6 and 7.

This is a change from NS-SEC based on SOC2000 where supervisors in L6, Class 2, only supervised employees in L7, Class 3.

The change arises from the creation of new supervisory OUGs in SOC2010. 

Typically, these higher supervisory positions are found in large bureaucratic organisations.

Employees in these positions are supervising the work of others and so exert a degree of authority over them. 

L7 Intermediate occupations 

Positions in clerical, sales, service and intermediate technical occupations that do not involve general planning or supervisory powers.

Positions in this group are intermediate in terms of employment regulation; they combine elements of both the service relationship and the labour contract. 

L7.1 Intermediate clerical and administrative occupations

L7.2 Intermediate sales and service occupations

L7.3 Intermediate technical and auxiliary occupations

L7.4 Intermediate engineering occupations 

Although positions in L7 have some features of the service relationship, they do not usually involve any exercise of authority (other than in applying standardised rules and procedures where discretion is minimal) and are subject to quite detailed bureaucratic regulation. 

L8 Employers in small organisations 

People, other than higher or lower professionals, who employ others and so assume some degree of control over them.

These employers carry out all or most of the entrepreneurial and managerial functions of the enterprise and have fewer than 25 employees. 

L8.1 Employers in small organisations (non-professional)

L8.2 Employers in small organisations (agriculture) 

Employers in small establishments, although they employ others, do not usually delegate most of their managerial or entrepreneurial functions to them.

Small employers remain essentially in direct control of their enterprises. 

The distinction between large and small employers is made by applying a size rule of 25 employees.

It is likely that the majority of small employers have only one or two, or at most ten employees.

Most people in this group are similar in many ways to the self-employed or own account workers in L9. 

L9 Own account workers 

Self-employed positions in which people are engaged in any (non-professional) trade, personal service, or semi-routine, routine or other occupation but have no employees other than family workers. 

L9.1 Own account workers (non-professional)

L9.2 Own account workers (agriculture) 

Own account workers neither sell their labour to an employer nor buy the labour of others. 

L10 Lower supervisory occupations 

Positions with a modified form of labour contract, which cover occupations included in groups L11, L12 and L13, and involve formal and immediate supervision of others engaged in such occupations. 

Positions in L10 have different employment relations and conditions from those in L12 and L13 but similar conditions to those in L11.

Operationally, these positions are distinguished most easily by having a job title (‘foreman’ or ‘supervisor’) from an OUG which, when combined with employee status, is allocated to L11, L12 or L13. 

L11 Lower technical occupations 

Positions with a modified labour contract, in which employees are engaged in lower technical and related occupations. 

L11.1 Lower technical craft occupations

L11.2 Lower technical process operative occupations 

Positions in this category are distinguished by having a modified labour contract.

Employees are more likely than those in L12 or L13 to have some service elements in their employment relationship (for example, work autonomy).

Operationally, job title does not help with the allocation of occupation to L11 as not all ‘skilled’ OUGs are included. Some are in L7 and others in L12 and L13. 

L12 Semi-routine occupations 

Positions with a slightly modified labour contract, in which employees are engaged in semi-routine occupations. 

L12.1 Semi-routine sales occupations

L12.2 Semi-routine service occupations

L12.3 Semi-routine technical occupations

L12.4 Semi-routine operative occupations

L12.5 Semi-routine agricultural occupations

L12.6 Semi-routine clerical occupations

L12.7 Semi-routine childcare occupations 

Employees in these positions are regulated by an only slightly modified labour contract typified by a short term and the direct exchange of money for effort.

The category name ‘semi‑routine’ is designed to indicate that, in employing this group, employers must slightly improve on the basic labour contract, the work involved requires at least some element of employee discretion. 

L13 Routine occupations 

Positions with a basic labour contract, in which employees are engaged in routine occupations. 

L13.1 Routine sales and service occupations

L13.2 Routine production occupations

L13.3 Routine technical occupations

L13.4 Routine operative occupations

L13.5 Routine agricultural occupations 

These positions have the least need for employee discretion and employees are regulated by a basic labour contract. 

6.2.2 Residual operational categories 

L14 Never worked and long-term unemployed 

Positions that involve involuntary exclusion from the labour market, specifically:

  • those who have never been in paid employment but would wish to be

  • those who have been unemployed for an extended period while still seeking or wanting work

L14.1 Never worked

L14.2 Long-term unemployed 

Both the long-term unemployed and those who have never been in paid employment (although available for work) could be treated in employment relations terms as a separate category of those who are excluded from employment relations of any kind.

Operationally, however, both these groups (the long-term unemployed and those who have never worked, although available for work) are difficult to define.

The problems here cannot be separated from the more general ones concerning the non-employed population.

Those who have never worked but are seeking or would like paid work are allocated to operational category L14.1.

There is an argument that the long-term unemployed should not be classified according to their last job but should be assigned to category L14.2 on the grounds that they are excluded from employment relations.

Therefore, when the NS-SEC is collapsed to an analytic variable, you should include the long-term unemployed with those who have never worked.

It is not possible to define the long-term unemployed in any hard and fast way.

You will have to make your own decisions, depending on the purpose of your research.

You may not want to implement L14 at all so that you exclude the ‘never worked’ from the analytic versions and classify all unemployed people according to their last main jobs.

Alternatively, you may want to implement the class and use a six-month unemployment rule, relating to the maximum length of time for which Jobseekers’ Allowance is paid.

Or you might prefer to use a one- or even two year unemployment rule. See 10: The questions to ask. 

L15 Full-time students 

People over 16 who are engaged in full-time courses of study in secondary, tertiary or higher education institutions. 

Full-time students are recognised as a category in the full classification for reasons of completeness.

Since many students will have had or still have paid occupations, you could classify them by current or last main job, although we would not usually expect them to be classified in this way.

Conventionally, where full-time students are included in analyses (for example, in research on education), they are normally allocated a position through their family household. See 10: The questions to ask. 

L16 Occupations not stated or inadequately described 

This category is for cases where the occupational data requested in surveys and censuses are not given or are inadequate for classification purposes. 

L17 Not classifiable for other reasons 

No matter what rules are devised, there will be some adults who cannot be allocated to an NS-SEC category.

For example, the research may have been designed to exclude older people from employment questions.

For completeness, you should include in L17 any people who cannot be allocated to another category. 

6.3 The non-employed 

This term includes unemployed people (except the long-term unemployed and those who have never worked); retired people; those looking after a home; those on government employment or training schemes; and people who are sick or disabled.

In order to improve population coverage, in most cases, the normal procedure is to classify these people according to their last main job.

The chief exceptions to this rule are full-time students, the long-term unemployed and people who have never worked (see L14 and L15). 

6.4 The armed forces 

Armed forces personnel are allocated to operational categories L2 Higher managerial occupations for SOC2000 OUG 1171 (officers); L6 Higher supervisory occupations for supervisors in OUG 3311 (NCOs and other ranks), and L7.2 Intermediate service occupations for employees in OUG 3311. 

Depending on the focus of your research and any comparability issues with the previous SECs, you can choose to exclude armed forces personnel from your analyses.

If you do decide to exclude them, we recommend that you perform selection commands at the OUG level rather than on NS-SEC categories as other occupations are included in those operational categories.

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7. Classes and collapses

7.1 The number of classes you use will depend on both your analytic purposes and the quality of available data.

Within the conceptual model, it is possible to have eight-, five- and three-class versions of the NS-SEC.

Table 3 shows the nested relationship between the different versions. 

Table 3
Eight-, five- and three- class versions 

eight classes

five classes

three classes

1. Higher managerial, administrative and professional occupations

1. Higher managerial, administrative and professional occupations

1. Higher managerial, administrative and professional occupations

1.1 Large employers and higher managerial and administrative occupations

1.2 Higher professional occupations

2. Lower managerial, administrative and professional occupations

3. Intermediate occupations

2. Intermediate occupations

2. Intermediate occupations 

4. Small employers and own account workers

3. Small employers and own account workers

5. Lower supervisory and technical occupations

4. Lower supervisory and technical occupations

3. Routine and manual occupations 

6. Semi-routine occupations

5. Semi-routine and routine occupations

7. Routine occupations

8. Never worked and long-term unemployed

*Never worked and long-term unemployed

*Never worked and long-term unemployed

7.2 Because it effectively eliminates a separate class of self -employed, the three-class version may be assumed to involve a form of hierarchy but none of the other versions can be regarded as ordinal scales. However, it would be possible (and in some ways preferable) to retain this class by creating a four-class model. It is not desirable to create an ordinal scale by combining the self-employed in Class 4 with the intermediate Class 3 because the self-employed are distinctive in their life chances and behaviour, but users of the old SECs wanted something similar to the old ‘manual/non-manual’ divide and so the three-class model was created as a faute de mieux approximation. Users should note that the meaning of ‘intermediate occupations’ is not therefore the same in the three-class model as in the others. Nevertheless, we strongly recommend that you accept the theoretical and measurement principles of the NS-SEC, take advantage of the conceptual base of the model for developing hypotheses linking it to outcomes of interest, and use appropriate analytic techniques for nominal data. 

7.3 You should also consider carefully whether to allocate those who have never worked and the long-term unemployed to semi-routine/routine and manual occupations respectively or keep them separate. For example, if you are doing health analyses, you would need to be very careful about how you define the long-term unemployed and those who have never worked, as including the permanently sick would clearly not be sensible. They should be classified on the basis of last main job and the long-term unemployed should include only those who are seeking or available for work. Of course, this may still leave some people who are permanently sick or disabled in the ‘never worked’ category, hence this warning. 

7.4 Although the name of the third class in the three-class version of NS-SEC is ‘routine and manual occupations’, the NS-SEC does not perpetuate the manual/non-manual divide. Changes in the nature and structure of both industry and occupations have rendered this distinction outmoded and misleading.

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8. Continuity with social class and socio-economic group

8.1 In the SOC2000 version of NS-SEC, the operational categories were aggregated to produce approximated Social Class based on Occupation and approximated Socio-economic Group. These approximations achieved a continuity level of 87 per cent for both SC and SEG. 

8.2 In the course of rebasing the NS-SEC on SOC2000, the developers produced a derivation of SC and SEG by making certain assumptions on changes over time and assessments of the relationship between SOC90 and SOC2000 unit groups. You can find this derivation on the website of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex.

8.3 This exercise has not yet been replicated for the SOC2010 rebasing, but the developers are considering a new exercise of this kind, dependent on the availability of funding. If this exercise is repeated, the results will appear on the ISER website at the address in para 8.2.

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9. The data you need

9.1 To apply the NS-SEC to the census and social surveys, you need data on occupation and employment status. You can allocate an NS-SEC category by using a combination of information about occupation coded to occupational unit group (OUG) level of the Standard Occupational Classification 2010 (SOC2010), and employment status and size of organisation, in the form of an employment status variable. 

9.2 The employment status variable is created by combining data on whether an individual is an employer, self-employed or an employee; size of organisation (where collected); and supervisory status. 

9.2.1 Employer, self-employed or employee

You must distinguish between employers (those who employ others); the self-employed (who work on their own account with no employees); and employees (who are employed by an individual or organisation). 

9.2.2 Size of organisation 

You must distinguish between employers in large and small establishments and, for some occupations, between higher and lower managers. To do this, you need information on the number of employees in the workplace. 

As described in 6, you make the distinction between large and small employers by applying a size rule cut-off of 25 employees. Individual employers in organisations with 25 or more employees are deemed to own ‘large’ organisations; those owning enterprises below this threshold are classified as ‘small’ employers. 

In government social surveys, size of organisation has been related to the workplace, that is the local unit of the establishment at which the respondent works (see Government Statistical Service 1996:45). The 2011 Census does not have a question on size of organisation. When size of organisation is used, it should refer to an ‘enterprise’ as defined in the Inter-Departmental Business Register (Council Regulation (EEC) No 696/93) and not to a local unit. Local unit or workplace should be used only if it is impossible or impractical to obtain information at the enterprise level. 

9.2.3 Supervisory status 

Supervisors are employees who are not managers but who are responsible for supervising the work of other employees.

In SOC2010, supervisory unit groups have been introduced into a small number of areas where the role of supervisor is distinct and is generally regarded as separate from the type of work that is being supervised.

The six unit groups are: 

4162 Office supervisors 
5250 Skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades supervisors 
5330 Construction and building trades supervisors 
6240 Cleaning and housekeeping managers and supervisors 
7130 Sales supervisors 
7220 Customer service managers and supervisors

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10. The questions to ask

10.1 Two series of questions are needed in order to derive the NS-SEC: three on occupation and five on employment status/ size of organisation. They are designed to harmonise the collection of data across interview surveys. Other harmonised questions can be used to identify students and the long-term unemployed. 

10.2 The three questions needed for coding occupation and the five for deriving employment status/size of organisation are shown here with instructions for interviewers. 

10.2.1 Occupation 

Questions 1 to 3 collect information for coding to the SOC2010. They ask about current job for those in paid work and about last main job for those who have ever had paid work. The exceptions are full-time students and those who have been unemployed for more than a year, who you should allocate to residual categories

(L14 and L15, see 6.2.2). 

Question 1: Industry description 

‘What did the firm/organisation you worked for mainly make or do (at the place where you worked)?’ 

(Open) 

Note: You need a full description. Probe for ‘manufacturing’, ‘processing’, ‘distributing’, etc and main goods produced, materials used, wholesale or retail etc. 

Question 2: Occupation title, current or last main job 

‘What was your (main) job?’ 

(Open) 

Question 3: Occupation description, current or last main job 

‘What did you mainly do in your job?’ 

(Open) 

Note: Check for any special qualifications, training, etc needed to do the job. 

10.2.2 Employment status/size of organisation 

Questions 4 to 8 collect information for deriving the employment status/size of organisation variable.

If the respondent answers ‘Employee’ to question 4, you should ask questions 5 and 6.

If the respondent answers ‘Self-employed’ to question 4, you should ask question 7.

And, if the respondent answers ‘With employees’ to question 7, you should ask question 8. 

Question 4: Employee or self-employed 

‘Were you working as an employee or were you self-employed?’ 

Employee Go to question 5 

Self-employed Go to question 7 

Note: The distinction between employee and self-employed is based on the respondents’ own assessment of their employment status in their main job. 

Question 5: Supervisory status 

‘In your job, did you have any formal responsibility for supervising the work of other employees?’ 

Yes Go to question 6 

No Go to question 6 

Note: Do not include supervisors of children, eg teachers, nannies, childminders; supervisors of animals; or people who supervise security or buildings only, eg caretakers, security guards. 

Question 6: Number of employees 

‘How many people worked for your employer at the place where you worked? Were there...

1 to 24*, 

25 to 499, or 

500 or more employees?’ 

*Note: Be clear that you are asking about the total number of employees at the respondent’s workplace, not just the number employed within their particular section or department.

You are also asking about the local unit of the establishment at which the respondent works, that is the geographical location where the job is mainly carried out.

Normally, this will consist of a single building, part of a building or, at the largest, a self-contained group of buildings.

You are not asking about the entire enterprise.

Although it is preferable to gather data at the enterprise level, questions about local units produce more reliable results. (See also 9.2.2). 

Question 7: Self-employed working on own or with employees 

‘Were you working on your own or did you have employees?’ 

On own/with partner(s) but no employees 

With employees Go to question 8 

Question 8: Number of employees (self-employed) 

‘How many people did you employ at the place where you worked? Were there…

1 to 24*,

25 to 499, or 

500 or more employees?’ 

*You will need to include an additional break (1 to 9, 10 to 24) if you are intending to map the SOC2010 codes to the International Standard Classification of Occupations 2008.

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11. Understanding SOC2010

11.1 SOC2010 has a hierarchical structure with four nested tiers. It is important to understand how this structure works before deriving the NS-SEC. 

11.2 The four tiers of SOC2010 are represented in the way the occupational classification codes are numbered. They are: 

  • Major groups – top-level, broad definitions of occupation, providing the first digit of the SOC2010 code number
  • Sub-major groups – second-level definition of occupation, providing second digit
  • Minor groups – third-level definition, providing third digit
  • Unit groups – lowest, most detailed definition of occupation, providing the complete four-figure SOC2010 code 

11.3 Using the example of unit group 1211 Managers and proprietors in agriculture and horticulture, Figure 2 shows how the unit groups are nested within SOC2010’s hierarchical structure. 

Figure 2
Hierarchical structure of SOC2010

Major group

Sub-major group

Minor group

Unit group

Unit group title

1

 

 

 

Managers, Directors and Senior Officials

 

12

 

 

Other managers and proprietors

 

 

121

 

Managers and proprietors in agriculture related services

 

 

 

1211

Managers and proprietors in agriculture and horticulture

11.4 SOC2010 was published in June 2010. Volume 1 includes the structure of the classification and descriptions of the unit groups. Volume 2 contains the coding index and notes on coding.

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12. Choosing a derivation method

Full, reduced or simplified? (40.2 Kb Pdf)

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13. Deriving the NS-SEC: full, reduced and simplified methods

The steps to follow (624.9 Kb Pdf)

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14. Deriving the NS-SEC: self-coded method

Five- class self-coded method (139.3 Kb Pdf)

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15. Using the derivation tables

15.1 Many users will derive the NS-SEC by employing software to combine occupational unit group (OUG) and employment status. You can also use the derivation tables here. The process is similar to that used for Social Class based on Occupation (SC) and Socio-economic Group (SEG) in Volume 3 of the 1990 Standard Occupational Classification (Office for Population Censuses and Surveys 1991), which cross-classifies OUGs with employment status categories. 

15.2 There are five tables for deriving NS-SEC from Standard Occupational Classification (SOC): 

  • Full method – NS-SEC operational categories

  • Full method – NS-SEC analytic classes

  • Reduced method – NS-SEC operational categories

  • Reduced method – NS-SEC analytic classes

  • Simplified method – NS-SEC operational categories or analytic classes: use either the full or reduced method tables and look in the column or row for ‘ssec’. 

15.3 The derivation tables are available in matrix format – arranges the combinations of SOC codes and employment status codes in a matrix. 

15.4 A word of warning on statistical software: the derivation tables contain values with decimal places that relate to the operational sub-categories (3.1, 3.2, etc). With most statistical software, precision problems can arise if the variables are defined as numerical values. We recommend that you define the NS-SEC variables as names rather than numerical values so that they will not be picked up by software as figures to be included in calculations.

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Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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