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GSS > Policy Store Items > Economic activity status, National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC) and employment related questions

Economic activity status, National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC) and employment related questions

The following guidance sets out how to collect and report statistics about economic activity status to ensure statistics about this topic are as comparable as possible across the Government Statistical Service (GSS).

Definitions

This section provides definitions to use when collecting information about economic activity status.

  1. Reference period: the seven days ending on the Sunday preceding the interview. Questions are phrased in terms of “…in the 7 days ending Sunday the …”
  2. Government schemes: the questions on economic activity status have been adopted from the LFS, except for a summary question on participation in government schemes for employment training in place of the greater detail required by the LFS. For the purposes of applying the ILO definition of unemployment, it is sufficient to be able to identify accurately the combined total of people in paid work or on government schemes. The LFS asks if people have participated in government schemes before asking if they have paid work, unlike the harmonised questions, and so is only harmonised with other surveys for estimation of the combined total of people in paid work and people on government schemes. It remains the main source for estimation of these categories separately.
  3. The routing in the Dec 1997 update: The routing has been amended to meet the ILO definition more closely by testing those waiting to take up a job for their availability to start within two weeks. We have also described the complex routing in less summary terms than hitherto, to try to avoid ambiguity. This necessitates some careful attention to the use of brackets in conditions.
  4. Students: In order to derive NS-SEC for the whole adult population, questions were added (in April 2002) to identify full-time students irrespective of their ILO economic status. These new questions appear at the end of the economic status questions, however as they are independent of the ILO definition they could be positioned elsewhere in a questionnaire. Full-time students are classified as those who are at school full-time, on a sandwich-course, or studying full-time at university or college including at a sixth form college. The economic status outputs classify students according to their ILO definition (e.g. if full-time students have a part-time job they would be categorised as ‘in employment’). Some economically inactive students may not be categorised as full-time students in NS-SEC as they did not state they were studying full-time but it is still their main reason why they are not looking for work. (See section of socio-economic classifications.)
  5. Long-term unemployed: Respondents who are looking for a job or waiting to take up a job are asked a question (introduced in April 2002) about how long they have been looking for work. This question is required to derive NS-SEC for the whole adult population. Respondents will only be classified as long-term unemployed if they meet the definition for ILO unemployment. If the respondent is ILO unemployed and has had previous employment, they will be classified as long-term unemployed only if they have been looking for work for more than a year and they left their last paid job over a year ago. If the respondent is ILO unemployed but has never had a paid job, they will be classified as long-term unemployed if they have been looking for work for more than a year.
  6. April 2002: Three new questions were added to the set, allowing students to be accurately identified.
  7. State pension age: Between April 2010 and April 2020, women’s State pension age in the UK will increase from 60 to 65, at the rate of one month every two months. From August 2010, ONS will publish headline employment and inactivity rates based on the 16-64 population. No change was made concerning the unemployment rate, which was, and is still based on the population aged 16 and over. The LFS definition of pension age has changed from 65 plus for men and 60 plus for women to 65 plus for men and women; all children under 16 years are classified as economically inactive. Therefore, from April 2010 any routing that previously used the population ‘males 16-64 and females 16-59’ should change to ‘all those aged 16-64’, and routing that previously used the population ‘males 65+ and females 60+ (pension age)’ should change to ‘all those aged 65+’.
  8. A detailed ‘flag’ can be calculated over the course of the incremental change to the female State pension age. This will be needed if detailed analysis concerning state pension age is intended. It is recommended that datasets contain two ‘flag’ variables. These derived variables should be called ‘PENFLAGP’ which indicates an individual who is actually of State pension age at the time of interview and ‘NOPENFLG’ which indicates individuals who are aged 16+ and not actually of State pension age at the time of interview. ‘PENFLAGP’ and ‘NOPENFLG’ are both potentially disclosive variables as they can allow for certain respondents, affected by the change, to have their year and month of birth identified. This goes against ONS standards for End User License (EUL). Therefore these variables should not be released on EUL versions of datasets but can be included on Special License or other restricted access versions of datasets. To calculate an accurate ‘flag’, datasets would need ‘age’, ‘date of birth’ and ‘reference date’ variables. ONS can provide syntax to users who wish to create these variables on their data. Please contact the LFS team in the Social Surveys Division.
  9. Email:                   socialsurveys@ons.gov.uk

 

ONS are currently coordinating the UK, Eurostat and ILO efforts to bring together changes to economic activity status definitions and data collection methodology. Users are being informed via the Labour Force Survey steering group and consulted via ONS’s Data Collection Transformation Programme meetings with stakeholders on research into question approaches. The harmonised principles will be reviewed in line with these work streams in 2018/2019.

The current approach to recording and analysing those of State pension age will need to be amended to account for these further changes in the State pension age following a 2010 Spending Review.

 

Questions

This section provides guidance on the survey questions to use when collecting information about economic activity status. These questions have been designed to harmonise the collection of data across interview surveys.

To ask to respondents aged 16 and over.

Did you do any paid work in the seven days ending Sunday the (n), either as an employee or as self-employed?

  1. Yes
  2. No

 

Interviewer instructions:

You should take the respondent’s definition of whether they are in paid work or not, but it must be paid work.

‘Paid work’ at this question means ANY work for pay or profit done in the reference week. It is to include any paid work, however little time is spent on it, so long as it is paid. For example, it includes Saturday jobs and casual work (e.g. baby-sitting, running a mail order club, etc.). Some respondents may not regard baby-sitting, etc. to be ‘serious’ work. Probe those to whom you feel this may apply (e.g. housewives with dependent children). Even the youngest respondents who have not yet left school may have a Saturday job, e.g. a paper round. It is correct for them to be recorded as doing paid work.

Self-employed people are considered to be working if they work in their own business, professional practice, or farm for the purpose of earning a profit even if the enterprise is failing to make a profit or is just being set up.

Training for nurses is now carried out under the Project 2000 scheme and as such, nurses on this scheme should be classed as students, like any student nurses you may encounter with more traditional arrangements.

Someone who regards themselves as retired, but sits as a director on board meetings (however few) and is paid for this work, should be classified as in paid work. We do NOT expect the interviewers to probe routinely for this.

 

Were you on a government scheme for employment training?

  1. Yes
  2. No

 

Did you have a job or business you were away from?

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. SPONTANEOUS Waiting to take up a new job/business already obtained

 

Interviewer instructions:

This is asked in order to deal with any uncertainty that may exist in the minds of people who were away from paid work during the reference week (e.g. on holiday, sick leave, career break, laid off, etc.)

If the respondent has been absent from their job for a long period (e.g. career break, long term sick etc), only code ‘Yes’ if there is definitely a job for them to return to.

In cases where the respondent is unsure whether they actually had a job the following points may be helpful:

For employees: a job exists if there is a definite arrangement between an employer and an employee for work on a regular basis (i.e. every week or every month) whether the work is full time or part time. The number of hours worked each week may vary considerably but as long as some work is done on a regular basis a job can be said to exist.

Long term absence from work: If the total absence from work (from the last day of work to the reference week) has exceeded six months then a person has a job only if full or partial pay has been received by the worker during the absence and that they expect to return to work for the same employer (i.e. a job is available for them).

Career Break: In some organisations employees are able to take a career break for a specified period and are guaranteed employment at the end of that period. If a respondent is currently on a career break

they should be coded ‘Yes’ here only if there is an arrangement, between the employer and employee, that there will be employment for them at the end of the break. This is not dependent upon them receiving payment from their employer during this time. The respondent’s opinion of whether they have a job to go back to should be taken.

Seasonal workers: In some industries (e.g. agriculture, forestry, fishing, types of construction, etc.) there is a substantial difference in the level of employment from one season to the next. Between ‘seasons’ respondents in such industries should be coded No at this question. (However, note that the odd week of sick leave during the working season would be treated like any other worker’s occasional absence and coded ‘Yes’ here).

Casual workers: If a respondent works casually for an employer but has not worked for them during the reference week, they should be coded No, even if they expect to do further work for the employer in the future.

 

Did you do any unpaid work in that week for any business that you own?

  1. Yes
  2. No

 

Interviewer instructions:

The people we expect to answer ‘Yes’ here are those whose work contributes directly to a business, farm, or professional practice that they own, but who receive no pay or profits.

Unpaid voluntary work done for charity, etc. should not be included.

 

….or that a relative owns?

  1. Yes
  2. No

 

Interviewer instructions:

These are people whose work contributes directly to a business, farm, or professional practice owned by a relative but who receive no pay or profits (e.g. a wife doing her husband’s accounts or helping with the family farm or business).

 

Unpaid voluntary work done for charity, etc. should not be included.

 

Thinking of the four weeks ending Sunday the (n) were you looking for any kind of paid work or government training scheme at any time in those four weeks?

  1. Yes
  2. No

 

Interviewer instructions:

‘Looking for paid work’ may cover a wide range of activities and you should not try to interpret the phrase for the respondent.

In the case of those ‘looking for’ a place on a government scheme the search should be active rather than passive. In other words, a respondent who has not approached an agency but who would consider a place if an agency approached him or her should be coded ‘No’. Looking in the papers for vacancies is an active form of search.

 

If a job or a place on a government scheme had been available in the week ending Sunday the (n) would you have been able to start within 2 weeks?

  1. Yes
  2. No

 

How long have you been looking/were you looking for paid work/a place on a government scheme?

  1. not yet started
  2. less than 1 month
  3. 1 month but less than 3 months
  4. 3 months but less than 6 months
  5. 6 months but less than 12 months
  6. 12 months or more

 

What was the main reason you did not seek any work in the last 4 weeks (would not be able to start in next 2 weeks)?

  1. student
  2. looking after the family/home
  3. temporarily sick or injured
  4. long-term sick or disabled
  5. retired from paid work
  6. other reasons

 

Have you ever had a paid job, apart from casual or holiday work?

  1. Yes
  2. No

 

When did you leave your last paid job?

[enter date]

For month not given, enter ‘6’

For day not given, enter ’15’

 

Are you at present (at school or 6th form college or) enrolled on any full-time or part-time education course excluding leisure classes? (Include correspondence courses and open learning as well as other forms of full-time or part-time education course).

  1. Yes
  2. No

(Note: text substitution for respondents aged 16-19 only)

 

And are you …

  1. still attending
  2. waiting for term to (re)start
  3. or have you stopped going?

 

Are you (at school or 6th form college), on a full or part time course, a medical or nursing course, a sandwich course or some other kind of course?

  1. school/full time (age < 20 years only)
  2. school/part time (age < 20 years only)
  3. sandwich course
  4. studying at university or college including 6th form college FULL TIME
  5. training for a qualification in nursing, physiotherapy or a similar medical subject
  6. on a PART TIME course at university or college, INCLUDING day release and block release
  7. on an Open College course
  8. on an Open University course
  9. any other correspondence course
  10. any other self / open learning course

(Note: text substitution for respondents aged 16-19 only)

  1. United Kingdom Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities 2007 [UKSIC (2007)] is used to classify people to the industry they work in. SIC2007 replaced SIC1992 in January 2009 as the ONS standard classification (as the changes from SIC1992 to SIC2003 were minimal ONS retained the former until superseded by SIC2007).
  2. Standard Occupational Classification 2010 (SOC2010) is used to classify people’s jobs. SOC2010 replaced SOC2000 in January 2011 as the ONS standard classification.
  3. National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (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 SOC2010 and details employment status (whether an employer, self-employed or employee; whether a supervisor; number of employees at the workplace). Similar information was previously required for Social Class based on Occupation (SC) and Socio-Economic Group (SEG).
  4. Reference period: main job in reference week or last job if ever worked
  5. Definition of main job: respondents with more than one job in the reference week should decide themselves which is their main job. Only if they are unable to do so should the LFS criterion be applied: the job which was the largest number of hours.
  6. Subsamples: Household reference person or, as on many surveys, all adults are asked these questions.

 

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

[open question]

 

 What was your (main) job (in the week ending Sunday the xx)?

[open question]

 

What did you mainly do in your job?

[open question]

 

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

  1. Employee Go to question 5
  2. Self-employed Go to question 7

The division between employees and self-employed is based on RESPONDENTS’ OWN ASSESSMENT of their employment status in their main job.

 

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

DO NOT INCLUDE PEOPLE WHO ONLY SUPERVISE:
Children, e.g. teachers, nannies, childminders, Animals Security or buildings, e.g. caretakers, security guards

  1. Yes
  2. No

 

How many people worked for your employer at the place where you worked?

  1. 1-24
  2. 25 – 499
  3. or 500 or more employees?

 

Interviewer Instructions:

We are interested in the size of the ‘local unit of establishment’ at which the respondent works in terms of the total number of employees. The “local unit” is considered to be 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.

It is the total number of employees at the respondent’s workplace that we are interested in, not just the number employed within the particular section or department in which he/she works.

 

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

  1. On own/with partner(s) but no employees
  2. With employees

 

How many people did you employ at the place where you worked?

  1. 1-24
  2. 25 to 499, or
  3. 500 or more employees

 

Interviewer instructions:

For Employees:How many people worked for your employer at the place where you worked?

For Self-employed:How many people did you employ at the place where you worked?

 

We are interested in the size of the “local unit of the establishment” at which the respondent works but we only want the number of employees working for the same employer as the respondent. Thus at sites shared by several organisations we would not include all employees just those working for the respondent’s employer. The” local unit” is considered to be the geographical location where there 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.

It is the total number of employees at the respondent’s workplace that we are interested in, not just the number employed within the particular section or department in which he/she works.

If a respondent works from a central depot or office (e.g. a service engineer) base, the answer is the number of people who work at or from the central location. Note that many people who work “from home” have a base office or depot that they communicate with. It may even be true of some people who work “at home” (e.g. telecommuter who retains a desk or some minimal presence in an office). If in doubt, accept the respondent’s view of whether or not there is a wider establishment outside the home that they belong to for work purposes.

For self-employed people who are subcontracted for any significant (respondent’s definition) length of time to work in a particular place (e.g. building site), that is their place of work.

The LFS check on extreme counter-intuitive values (40 or more hours per week described as “part-time”; less than 16 hours described as “full-time”) which was included in the 1995 edition has been removed. Not all surveys have the hours questions required for the check. Those which do, might carry a soft check, to preclude mis-keying, but should ultimately accept the respondent’s view.

 

In your (main) job were you working:

  1. full time
  2. or part-time?

Interviewer instructions:

Let the respondent decide whether the job is full time or part time.

The harmonised questions have been developed as the recommended approach for capturing data on agency working.  The use of the questions remains optional for survey teams with no obligation to adopt them when felt not to be appropriate.

 

May I just check, were you being paid for that work …

  1. by the organisation or company you actually did the work for,
  2. or by a different organisation or company?

 

May I just check, were you …

  1. paid a salary or a wage by an employment agency?
  2. a sole director of your own limited business?
  3. running a business or a professional practice?
  4. a partner in a business or a professional practice?
  5. working for yourself?
  6. a sub-contractor?
  7. or doing free-lance work?
  8. none of the above. or was there some way that it was not permanent?

 

Leaving aside your own personal intentions and circumstances was your job…

  1. a permanent job,
  2. or was there some way that it was not permanent?

 

In what way was the job not permanent, was it…

  1. working for an employment agency,
  2. casual type of work,
  3. seasonal work,
  4. done under contract for a fixed period or for a fixed task,
  5. or was there some other way that it was not permanent?

 

Were you working as an agency worker, that is, employed through an employment agency?

  1. Yes
  2. No

 

Presentation of outputs

This section provides guidance for outputting the survey questions to use when collecting information about economic activity status.

The output categories that follow are derived from the questions above on Economic Status and those found below on Employment Status (employed/self-employed classification) and self-assessed Full-Time/Part-Time Status.

 

Output Categories: Economic Status

Economically active  
In employment *
Employees
full-time ** xxx
part-time ** xxx
All Employees XXXX
Self-employed
full-time ** xxx
part-time ** xxx
All Self-employed XXXX
All in employment * XXXXX
full-time ** xxx
part-time ** xxx
ILO unemployed # XXXXX
All economically active ## XXXXXX

 

* Note: In employment (did paid work in the last week, or on a government-supported training scheme, or away from a job/business, or unpaid work for own or family business).

All in employment = Employee + self-employed + on a government-supported training scheme + unpaid family worker. The division between employee and self-employed is based on survey respondents’ own assessment of their employment status in their main job. The category on a government-supported training scheme is not separately identified because the harmonised question does not identify all such persons. Unpaid family workers are persons doing unpaid work for a business owned by themselves or a relative. They are not shown separately as the size of this group means that for many surveys it is either precluded by sample size or not of sufficient interest to warrant separate identification.

 

**Note: The classification between full-time and part-time work is on the basis of self-assessment and relates to main job.

# Note: ILO unemployed (not in employment, available to start within two weeks, and either looked for work in the last four weeks or waiting to start a new job).

##Note: Economically Active = in employment + ILO unemployed

^ Note:Excludes students who were working or in some other way were included in the ILO definition of economically active. 

^ ^Note: Economically inactive (all others)

National statistics socio-economic classification (8 Analytic Classes)

1  Higher managerial and professional occupations XXXX
1.1  Large employers and higher managerial occupations xxxx
1.2  Higher professional occupations xxxx
2  Lower managerial and professional occupations XXXX
3  Intermediate occupations XXXX
4  Small employers and own account workers XXXX
5  Lower supervisory and technical occupations XXXX
6  Semi-routine occupations XXXX
7  Routine occupations XXXX
8 Never worked and long-term unemployed XXXX
Not classified *

 

 

National statistics socio-economic classification (5 Analytic classes)

1  Managerial and professional occupations XXXX
2  Intermediate occupations XXXX
3  Small employers and own account workers XXXX
4 Lower supervisory and technical occupations XXXX
5 Semi-routine and routine occupations XXXX
Never worked and long-term unemployed XXXX
Not classified *

 

National statistics socio-economic classification (3 Analytic classes)

1 Managerial and professional occupations XXXX
2 Intermediate occupations XXXX
3  Routine and manual occupations XXXX
Never worked and long-term unemployed XXXX
Not classified *

 

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

 

When deriving NS-SEC for the whole adult population, the following priority order should be taken:

  1. Full-time students
  2. Long-term unemployed
  3. Never worked
  4. NS-SEC based on current or last main job
  5. Occupation not adequately described
  6. Not classified for other reasons

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Economic Activity Status (PDF , 0.16MB)

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