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New coding tool enables users to measure socio-economic status

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Web-based tool for NS-SEC has been developed by ONS

Why code?

Coding tools are used to classify data, so that variables with similar attributes can be grouped together and analysed.

An example of a variable that is commonly coded for use in analysis is occupation. Occupations are grouped depending on the skills and training required to undertake them, and can be used to produce interesting statistics; for example, the types of jobs young people are seeking, the pay differences between different types of occupations, and the socio-economic statuses of the workforce.

What is NS-SEC, and why is it important?

The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC) was constructed to measure the employment relations and conditions of occupations. 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. 

NS-SEC is important as it allows investigation of how far class differentiates across a wide range of outcomes such as health, education, and social mobility. NS-SEC is used on all social surveys, so results from the NS-SEC coding tool will be comparable to a vast number of other outputs.

What is the new coding tool and what can it do?

A web-based coding tool for NS-SEC  has been developed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The tool aims to provide users with an easy to follow interactive method of coding so they can determine a person’s socio-economic status based on their occupation. In order to code NS-SEC a Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) 2010 code is required. SOC 2010 codes will be discussed later in this article.

The NS-SEC coding tool asks a series of up to three questions about the employment status of the user (employed, self employed, etc.), the size of the organisation the user works in, and if the user has supervisory responsibility.

There are three available methods to determine NS-SEC - the full, reduced and simplified methods. Which one is used depends on the information available. The full method is the most accurate and detailed method as it uses the SOC 2010 code, employment status and size of organisation information. The reduced method is used when the organisation size information is not available, and simplified is used when only the SOC 2010 code is known. The NS-SEC coding tool automatically uses the most detailed method for the information entered. An example of the questions asked, and the output provided can be seen in Figure 1.

A short history of NS-SEC

The NS-SEC was first released in 2001, the culmination of a three year research programme sponsored jointly by ONS and the Economic and Social Research Council. The current NS-SEC was updated for the Standard Occupational Classification 2010 and was released in June 2010.

People are classified by their occupation, employment status, and then further divided by the nature of their employment conditions. These conditions and relations range from higher managerial and professional occupations with salary scales, good promotional prospects, sick pay, and discretion over planning work, through to routine occupations with hourly pay or piece work, no promotional prospects and few fringe benefits.

Although based on occupation, NS-SEC provides coverage of the whole adult population. This includes students, those who have never worked and the long-term unemployed.

The classification has eight major classes, the first of which can be subdivided:

1    Higher managerial, administrative and professional occupations

1.1 Large employers and higher managers and administrative occupations (Chief Executive, Production Manager)

1.2 Higher professional occupations (Doctor, Barrister, Dentist)

2    Lower managerial, administrative and professional occupations (Nurse, Actor, Journalist)

3    Intermediate occupations (Fireman, Photographer, Airline Cabin Crew)

4    Small employers and own account workers (self employed: Builder, Hairdresser, Fisherman)

5   Lower supervisory, craft and related occupations (Train Driver, Plumber, Electrician)

6   Semi-routine occupations (Postman, Care Assistant, Shop Assistant)

7   Routine occupations (Bus Driver, Refuse Collector, Waitress)

8   Never worked and long-term unemployed

What can I do if I don’t know my SOC 2010 occupation code?

In conjunction with the NS-SEC coding tool, the ONS is also pleased to announce a further occupation coding tool that has been produced based on the Standard Occupational Classification 2010. Users simply have to type in their job title and click search. The coding tool then compares the inputted text against the SOC 2010 index and provides suggestions about possible SOC 2010 codes. The aim of this tool is not to prescribe the correct code, but to provide likely matches for the user to decide on the most appropriate code. In order to assist users to choose their code, each result is presented as a link which, when selected, displays the job descriptions, tasks, and qualifications required for the code selected.

Figure 1


Where can I go for further information?

For further information about NS-SEC, the NS-SEC User Manual (621.9 Kb Pdf) gives an introduction to NS-SEC and explains how to determine NS-SEC for various data sources.

For further information about SOC 2010 please refer to the occupation web pages on the ONS website.

If you have any question about anything in this article, or any questions related to Classifications and Harmonisation, please contact

Categories: Economy, Labour Market
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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