Step 1

Ultimately, measures such as ESEC are derived via a matrix or look-up table that cross-classifies the variables or constructs required for its operationalization. In its simplest form the ESEC derivation matrix would cross-classify occupation by employment status. Since the ESEC will be designed to measure employment relations, each cell of the matrix would then indicate a class position in terms of the typical employment relations for that combination of occupation and employment status.

By employment relations, we mean social relationships as expressed through labour market relationships and employment contracts. Each ESEC category should be as internally homogeneous in these respects as possible and as different as possible from all other categories. A key issue is thus how we measure employment relations for different occupations. Rose et al discuss this matter in detail in the Feasibility Report (2001: Ch. 9). We propose to use a method pioneered in earlier academic research on intergenerational social mobility (see Erikson and Goldthorpe 1992). We shall construct a derivation matrix on the basis of the best available evidence we have on the employment conditions typical for the occupational unit groups of ISCO88 and then subject this to validation using appropriate data. This evidence will be drawn from work for the project that produced the new UK National Statistics Social-economic Classification (NS-SEC), as well as from earlier work on social mobility by Erikson, Goldthorpe and their colleagues and more recent work by academics on employment relations in Europe. In addition, the matrix will be subject to expert examination by NSIs and partner in the project.

Operational rules for the construction of national SECs are based upon similar constructs. We propose to start from this point by developing a prototype ESEC based upon an EU harmonised set of these variables. In this respect we shall be improving on the techniques used in the past where harmonised operational variables and data were not available to researchers. Moreover, we shall be working with NSIs in the development of the ESEC, thus ensuring that the classification meets their requirements as well as those of academics.

In order for an ESEC to be fully operationalized in line with our theoretical model, at a minimum we require measures of both occupation, status in employment and, in some cases, enterprise size. We also believe that labour market position should be part of what an ESEC measures. In addition, some measure of farm size may be necessary, too, in order to distinguish capitalist farmers from other (eg subsistence) farmers. How, precisely, are these common elements to be measured?

Occupation. For the most part occupation is measured either by ISCO88 or by a national occupational classification similar to it. France is exceptional in this regard, but has developed a Table des Correspondances between the Catégories Socioprofessionnelles (CSP) and ISCO88. ISCO88 is a core variable for the Eurostat harmonisation programme and so is the obvious measure of occupation to use for ESEC.

Status in employment. All SECs distinguish between employers, the self-employed (own account workers) and employees. In the EU context, we may need to add the category of family worker. The EU harmonised variable is ICSE-93.

Number of employees. The size cut-off for enterprise size in the non-agricultural sector varies across the national SECs: 1-9, 10+; 1-24, 25+; 1-49, 50+ or combinations of these. However, since ISCO88 is the harmonised occupational classification, then the simple rule for ESEC will need to be that employed by ISCO for managers and employers – 1-9 and 10+.

Farm size also shows measurement variations in practice. Most countries do not use this variable. Of those that do, area in hectares is the common measure to distinguish small, medium and large farms, but member states differ in terms of what is meant by ‘small’, ‘medium’ and ‘large’. Thus, we shall need to determine the underlying concept for which ‘small’, ‘medium’ and ‘large’ are supposed to be a reasonable value set, so allowing NSIs to draw the dividing lines accordingly.

Labour market position. While measurement of this is variable across member states, we believe it is necessary to distinguish more than activity status. Our theoretical model requires us to discriminate between employers (and by size), the self-employed, managers (and by size of enterprise or preferably managerial level), supervisors and employees. Managerial status will be dependent on allocation to Major Group 1 of ISCO88. Thus, labour market position involves a combination of ICSE-93, enterprise size and supervisory status.

The first step of our workplan, relating to work package 2, will create a prototype ESEC from harmonised EU data sources containing the variables listed above. As we indicated previously, this prototype will be based on the best available knowledge we have about the employment relations of occupations when combined with the various employment statuses. It will thus build upon the work of the UK ESRC Review of Government Social Classifications and the Eurostat Expert Group, combining theoretical and empirical knowledge about social positions with a number of practical considerations deriving from the definition of the variables used in its construction. In addition to the issues outlined above, other problems to be resolved at this stage relate to:

  • The treatment of casual employment and the related issue of a minimum number of working hours to qualify individuals for inclusion in the ESEC at the individual level.
  • The classification of full-time students.
  • The treatment of the ‘other active’ and the ‘inactive’ groups in the classification, i.e agreement on the classification of groups marginal to or outside the labour market.
  • Definitions of managerial level and managerial responsibilities.
  • Definitions of public and private sectors, if these are to be elements in the operational algorithm.
  • Definition of ‘career typical’ jobs for those not currently in paid work.
  • These issues will be resolved at the workshop in work package 2. The outcome will be a report by UESSEX-ISER on the prototype ESEC derivation matrix.