Friday, January 3, 2014

Where Are The Workers Today? Notes on the 2011 Census

This is a guest post by Junie Morrison.

The 2011 Census provides very useful information for those of us interested in the shape of the working class today. Its data is to be considered as subject to the changes of the last two and a half years – especially in the light of on-going austerity – but it is by far largest study of the UK populace, dwarfing the often quoted Labour Force Survey (which is carried out by telephone with often unsympathetic respondents). There will be comrades far better placed than me to provide analysis so I have just made some observations that seem to me interesting and pertinent.

Please note all figures are for England and Wales only.


Counted here is the type of work an employees  employer (or self-employed person) does, not what they do themselves, so a secretary in a school would be classified under education, a cook in a open-pit mine staff canteen (provided it is run in-house) under quarrying, etc.

On the outputted table that provides the most detailed breakdown of Industry yet released – KS605EW (population: Usual residents (i.e. not a short-term migrant (intends to stay less than 12 months), working, aged 16-74) – shows this breakdown –

Of 26,526,336 people aged between 16-74 in employment in March 2011 –

227,286 or 0.9% were working in Agriculture, forestry and fishing.
46,478 or 0.2% in Mining and quarrying.
2,369,998 or 8.9% in Manufacturing.
151,051 or 0.6% in Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply.
187,616 or 0.7% in Water supply; sewage, waste management and remediation activities.
2,043,229 or 7.7% in Construction.
4,220,124 or 15.9% in Wholesale or retail trade (including the repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles).
1,313,316 or 4.9% in Transport and storage.
1,484,838 or 5.6% in Accommodation and food service activities.
1,055,356 or 4% in Information and communication.
1,145,488 or 4.3% in Financial and insurance activities.
384,499 or 1.4% in Real Estate activities.
1,745,743 or 6.6% in Professional, scientific and technical activities.
1,293,788 or 4.9% in Administrative and support services
1,591,614 or 6% in Public administration and defence; and compulsory social security.
2,628,063 or 9.9% in Education.
3,318,464 or 12.5% in Human health and social work activities.
The 1,319,385 (5%) remaining were classified as other, a category that included the arts, entertainment, miscellaneous service sector and the activities of private households.

·         So these figures reassert the importance of retail and wholesale to contemporary British capitalism,. If you include the related service sector ‘Accommodation and food service activities’ it employs over 20% of those in employment in England and Wales.

·         Nearly 29% of all those working are employed in the three categories ‘Public administration and defence, compulsory social security’, ‘Education’ and ‘Human health and social work activities’. The overwhelming majority of these will be public sector workers. The Education sector contains nearly 10% of all workers. Health and social work over 12%.

·         Manufacturing still employed more people than ‘Information and communication’ and ‘Financial and insurance activities’ combined in March 2011 but only 1.2% less than the Construction sector.

So here we can see how British capitalism makes use of the workforce in the neo-liberal era.

How people are employed

Of the 26,526,336 aged between 16 and 74 people doing some kind of paid work, 25,449,863 were not full-time students. Of these 21,462,202 were employees (84.3%) and 3,987,661 were self employed.

Of the 21,462,202 employees 15,815,912 were employed full-time (73.7%) and 5,646,290 were employed part-time.

Of course the above figures do not distinguish between employers, management and workers. Looking at some other tables may help us to draw some conclusions here.


This relates to the jobs people do within an organisation (or in self-employment) no matter what the business of that organisation.

On the outputted table that provides the most simple breakdown of Occupation – KS608EW (population: Usual residents (i.e. not a short-term migrant (intends to stay less than 12 months), working, aged 16-74) –

Of 26,526,336 people aged between 16-74 in employment in March 2011 –

2,860,702 or 10.8% were ‘Managers, directors or senior officials’.
4,615,759 or 17.4% had ‘Professional occupations’.
3,366,313 or 12.6% had ‘Associate professional or technical occupations’.
3,034,637 or 11.4% had ‘Administrative or secretarial occupations’.
3,041,957 or 11.5% had ‘Skilled trades occupations’.
2,492,117 or 9.4% were in ‘Caring, leisure and other service sector occupations’
2,240,869 or 8.4% were in ‘Sales and customer service occupations’
1,919,017 or 7.2% were ‘Process, plant and machine operatives’.
2,954,965 or 11.1% were in ‘Elementary occupations’.

The first thing that needs staying here is these categories need taking with a pinch of salt. Taken in the spirit of bourgeois sociology a category like ‘professional occupations’ could be highly misleading, for instance, it groups traditionally middle class occupations like architect and legal professionals in the same categories as extremely skilled jobs like nursing and midwifery that are often done by working class women on low pay. Similarly librarians fall into ‘professional occupations’ when both their pay and responsibilities vis-à-vis other staff may be no more than the average administrative white collar worker.

However, other categories in this table do allow us to make some fairly sound assumptions. The first category listed above ‘Managers, directors and senior officials’ gives us a fairly sound figure of people who have direct power over workers in terms of being able to make decisions about their continued employment, administering penalties, etc. Outside of any straight-up members of the bourgeoisie this category contains the major part of the workforce that disciplines labour on their behalf.

The category skilled trades occupations we can assume would be made up of both skilled workers that work as employees, self-employed workers and tradesmen of the petit-bourgeois type that both work and employ staff.

The category ‘Administrative or secretarial occupations’ and the five categories listed below it makes a total of 15,683,562 or 59.1% of the working. I would argue that the overwhelming majority these people can be defined as working class. Huge percentages of other categories are likely to be also filled with people which can easily be defined as workers.

A conclusion that seems apparent even from this simple 9 category breakdown is that the working class is stratified in ways far more complex than the press and propaganda of the activist left often suggests. When looking at the above categories we can see that there is huge variation people employed in wage labour in terms general tasks and responsibilities, working environment and experience of workplace representation.

Occupation (detailed)

However, it is useful to look at occupation in more detail using the dataset QS606EW.

This table (population: Usual residents (i.e. not a short-term migrant (intends to stay less than 12 months), working, aged 16-74) shows breakdown for specific types of employment.

Taking a sample of jobs that may be of interest to leftists because i) they are in sectors that are currently estimated as strongholds of the trade union movement or ii) uncomplicatedly working class jobs where unionisation is low and/or that there should be a serious effort to organise in.
Counting those working in these particular occupations as of March 2011 in England and Wales there were-
1,154,905 - Teaching and education professionals.
556,471 - Nursing and Midwifery professionals
412,872 - Administrative occupations: Government and related organisations.
644,829 - Administrative occupations: Finance.
381,381 - Administrative occupations: Records.
772,133 – Secretarial and related occupations
71,069 – Other drivers and transport operatives (i.e not road transport or construction machinery operatives)
279,836 - Metal machining, Fitting and Instrument making trades.
456,051 - Food preparation and Hospitality trades.
730,177 – Childcare and related personal services
1,079,488 – Caring personal services.
125,999 - Housekeeping and related services
1,552,710 – Sales assistants and retail cashiers
355,377 – Customer service occupations (not management)
206,311 - Assemblers and routine operatives
71,334 – Elementary agricultural occupations.
244,520 - Elementary process plant operatives
696,100 – Elementary cleaning occupations
402,782 – Elementary storage occupations.
777,077 – Other Elementary Services occupations.
Here we can see that while the top three categories make up a significant part of the unionised nowadays, other huge sectors are massive underrepresented. The grouping of 'Elementary occupations' contains workers absolutely key to British capital in low paid undervalued jobs; many of these workers – especially in manufacturing and storage – could have significant disruptive power. The lowest level retail jobs and care occupations are again low paid occupations that employ well over a million workers each. It should be clear to any union activist that these sectors need a massive unionisation push if the idea of the working class mobilising as a hegemonic bloc is ever to become more than a pipe dream.
National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SeC)
As I mentioned above as socialists we should treat official statistics relating to categories approximating social class with strong reservations. These categories are based upon often superficial definitions of tasks and responsibilities people do in their employment, not their place in relation to the means of production. Nonetheless the NS-SeC category if thought about sensibly can be useful.
The dataset KS611EW (population: Usual residents (i.e. not a short-term migrant (intends to stay less than 12 months), working, aged 16-74) approximates people to various groupings based on what they do in their current or last form of paid work. Please see for further details.
Of the 41,126,540 usual residents aged between 16 and 74 in England and Wales on Census day 2011:
967,013 (2.3%) are classified in ‘Large employers and higher managerial and administrative occupations’. This is where the occupy movements 1% and their immediate underlings are likely to be classified (excepting relatives that have never worked, etc.). Large employers are ‘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 managerial and administrative occupations’ are ‘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’. 
3,253,752 (7.9%) and 8,571,468 (20.8%) are classified in ‘Higher professional occupations’ and ‘Lower managerial, administrative and professional occupations’ respectively. These figures should come with some of the same caveats are noted for occupation.
5,240,440 (12.7%) are classified in ‘Intermediate occupations’ which are ‘positions in clerical, sales, service and intermediate technical occupations that do not involve general planning or supervisory powers’.
3,872,779 (9.4%) are or were ‘Small employers and own account workers’. Small employers are ‘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’. The category ‘Own account workers’ relates to ‘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’.
2,857,185 (6.9%) are classified in ‘Lower supervisory and technical occupations’
5,789,519 (14.1%) are classified in ‘Semi-routine occupations’: Positions with a slightly modified labour contract, in which employees are engaged in semi-routine occupations.
4,564,916 (11.1%) are classified in ‘Routine occupations’: Positions with a basic labour contract, in which employees are engaged in routine occupations.
So of all those that are classified as having a socio-economic classification (i.e. working or have worked recently enough to qualify) again we see that those are or were higher managers or professionals are just over ten per cent.
All tables noted in this piece are freely available from the Office for National Statistics and Census websites.