Subsidiary Classifications: Status, Relations and Product

The terms and descriptions entered as occupational descriptions in historical censuses and registration documents sometimes contain information which is not strictly about work activity, and which therefore cannot be accommodated within the original ISCO68 framework. Some of this information might, nevertheless, be useful to those seeking to use an occupational classification scheme for the purposes of wider social and economic analysis.
In part, this additional information stems from a broader understanding of what constituted an occupation in the past, but is also, in some cases, a product of historical documents themselves. In such cases, a record of ‘rank or occupation’ rather than a simple job description was requested. Accordingly, the most common form of supplementary material found in the historical occupational titles used to create the HISCO manual is information about various kinds of status. A status model is certainly implicit in the major and minor group structure of the ISCO68 framework, which starts with professionals at the top of the hierarchy and ends with labourers at the bottom. Yet it does not recognise employment status within manual employment, nor by definition other, non-occupational, dimensions of status which might further assist an investigator seeking to classify occupational information into social groups.
A second type of additional information sometimes given in lieu of a job description in historical documents concerns statements about the relationship between an individual and the formal labour market. Such information, for example that a person is no longer employed or about family employment relationships, might be of use to those seeking to draw a more rounded picture of an economy.
The third and final type of data which cannot be fully stored by ISCO68 but which might be important for contextualisation both at the broader economic and specific occupational levels is information on the outcome or product of an occupational activity. For the most part evident enough, particularly where goods are grown or made (Major Groups 6, 7,8 and 9), but also if one accepts that the principal products of Groups 1 through 5 are services of various kinds. However, there is one large group of service providers - the Sales Workers of Group 4 - whose activities are not just defined by their roles but also, in part at least, by the products in which they trade. The same can also be said of a smaller category of industrial proprietors, whose incumbents are coded to 2-11.10 in the HISCO scheme.
In two of these three cases, entirely new subsidiary classifications, entitled STATUS and RELATION, have been developed in order to accommodate information in the historical record which otherwise would have to have been discarded. In the third case, a subsidiary classification for PRODUCT was modeled on the United Nations Central Product Classification Scheme. The structures of STATUS, RELATION and PRODUCT are presented below, along with coding examples in each of the six languages which comprise HISCO.

In HISCO this classification incorporates several dimensions of status - economic, social, employment and educational - and provides categories for each. While it is possible for a particular title to contain more than one dimension of status, it is rare. In such cases, coders will have choose which to prioritise. In the examples of titles carrying status information which are given below, the HISCO occupational code is also shown in brackets after the title. If a title containing status information gives no occupational information, it is given the appropriate STATUS code along with the HISCO code -1 or -2.

The STATUS scheme is delineated as follows:
11 Owner, proprietor
12 Lease-holder, share-cropper
13 Poor
21 Master
22 Journeyman
23 Apprentice, learner
24 Artisan
31 Principal
32 ‘Worker’
33 Subordinate
34 Serfs and Slaves
41 Student
42 Graduate
51 Nobility
52 Prestige titles

31 Principal Only where a supervisory function is a minor part of the occupational task e.g. in the case of a ‘head chef’. When supervising is the main task, the occupation is coded into HISCO Major Group 2.
32 ‘Worker’ Always in combination with another occupation, suggesting a dependent position. The title ‘worker’ without further occupational information is coded 9-99.00.
33 Subordinate To include ‘assistants’ and ‘helpers’ with no more than a modicum of training.
41 Student University or college, or vocational/technical education at the higher level.
42 Graduate BA, MA PhD etc.
52 Prestige titles Terms denoting general social standing and respect, e.g. ‘gentleman’.


This classification incorporates residual information about people who do not give a current occupation but who nevertheless indicate a relationship with the formal labour market which might be of interest to researchers trying to define an economy more broadly. For example, the term ‘Farmer’s Wife’, which falls into the category ‘Family Relationship’, may at certain times and in certain places suggest not simply marital status but a specific economic role. If this was the case, the term would be given the occupational code for ‘farmer’ and the RELATION code for ‘wife’ (see below). Other variables in this classification concern information about people who have finished, or who have not yet started, their careers (‘temporal relationship’), such as a a ‘Retired Farmer’; those who hold unrenumerated positions (‘voluntary or honorary relationship’); those unable to work through disability (‘incapacitated’); and those carrying out household duties in the family home (‘homeworkers’). As with STATUS, if a title contains information about RELATION, but indicates nothing about an occupational activity, it receives the HISCO code -1 or -2 and the appropriate RELATION variable. If a title contains information on more than one dimension of RELATION a priority rule comes into play whereby family relations overrule temporal relations which in turn take precedence over voluntary workers, homeworkers and those who cannot work.
The RELATION scheme is delineated as follows:

11 Wife or widow
12 Son
13 Daughter
14 Other male relative
15 Other female relative
21 Former or retired
22 Future
31 Voluntary, honorary
41 Physical or mental disability
51 homeworker


The PRODUCT classification is employed in order to accommodate information on products traded, principally by those individuals whose titles are coded to Major Group 4. In ISCO68 such ‘Sales Workers’ are defined only by their various roles within commerce. Unlike STATUS and RELATION, this classification is based on the pre-existing Central Product Scheme (CPC) developed by the United Nations. The UN scheme can be used at various levels, but in order to accommodate the particular problems of generality and specificity associated with historical terms, it was decided that its use in association with HISCO should be at the second, two-digit level. Only CPC groups 0–5 were utilised because the remaining categories in groups (6-9) are revealed in the ISCO68 format.

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