A Dictionary of Occupational Terms Based on the Classification of Occupations used in the Census of Population, 1921.

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Prefatory note

The Dictionary of Occupational Terms had its origin in one of the Resolutions adopted by the British Empire Statistical Conference, which met in London from 20th January to 26th February, 1920.(*) The relevant part of the Resolution is as follows:—"That a complete descriptive glossary of occupations, with an alphabetical index in addition, should be prepared as soon as opportunity permits." This Resolution was considered in the same year by an Inter-Departmental Committee which had been set up to make preparations for the forthcoming Census of Population. The Committee recorded their opinion "that the preparation and use of any classification would be greatly simplified if a descriptive glossary, describing occupations in detail, could be prepared." Account was taken of the fact that the need for such a Dictionary had been experienced in other connections, particularly during the Great War, and after due consideration, authority was issued for the compilation of the Dictionary by the Ministry of Labour.

The Dictionary has thus been compiled primarily to serve administrative purposes. It is thought, however, that the information, thus collected, may be useful for other than official purposes, and it has therefore been decided to place the Dictionary on sale.

In the compilation of the Dictionary, the Ministry of Labour has worked in dose collaboration with the General Register Office, the Home Office, the Mines Department, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Post Office, and other Government Departments, and has received much valuable help from those Departments. Information has also been obtained from Joint Industrial Councils and Trade Boards, from Railway Companies and the Railway Staff Conference and from a large number of individual employers and trade unions. To all those who have thus helped the Ministry in their task, often at considerable sacrifice of time and convenience, most grateful acknowledgment is hereby given.

The plan adopted has been to take the Classification of Occupations issued in connection with the Census(+), and to append a concise definition to each of the occupations named therein. Many additional terms which came to light during the compilation, have been included in the present volume. The total number of terms appearing in the volume is 29,106, but since many of these are synonyms, the number of occupations defined is appreciably less, and amounts in all to 16,837. No occupations of persons employed in public administration and defence or professional occupations (Census Code Nos. 800-879 inclusive) have been included.

The definitions have been compiled in the light of the best information obtainable, and much care has been taken to achieve accuracy. It should however be understood that they have no claim to be regarded as "standard" or authoritative" definitions carrying legal or official sanctions.

Many industries are passing through a period of transition, so that the same occupational term may still be applied, for example, to handicraft workers, carrying through an entire series of manual operations, and to factory hands tending a machine and working under conditions of high specialisation. In such cases, of course, a single rigid and clear-cut definition is impossible. Even where this is not the case, and a whole industry is, broadly speaking, working under uniform conditions of equipment and organisation (as, for example, in the cotton trade), there exist many variations of practice as between one factory and another. No definition, therefore, could be framed which would absolutely and precisely fit every possible case, unless the definition were expanded and subjected to qualifications and exceptions to an impossible extent. Hence, all that is usually attempted, is to give, in non-technical language, and in broad outline, a description of the work generally performed by the person to whom the name is applied; in a number of cases, however, alternative definitions are given which take account of such variations in practice as are known to exist. Subject to these inevitable limits, the definitions have been made as clear, full and self-explanatory as possible.

There is one further point of some importance. The classification of workers into specified "skilled," "other skilled," and "other workers" is strictly in accordance with the Census Classification. () Such a classification is necessarily influenced by historical, statistical and other considerations arising out of the use to which the classification is to be put; its adoption in the present volume is based simply on convenience and is not to be regarded as in any sense constituting an official pronouncement as to the degree of skill required for any particular occupation, whether classified as skilled or not.

It only remains to add that the Ministry will welcome any corrections and additions that employers, trade unions and others may be good enough to suggest. It is recognised that in a pioneer attempt of this kind many of the definitions are inevitably unsatisfactory and the co-operation of the public in improving the Dictionary will, therefore, be much appreciated. Communications on this point should be addressed to the Director of Statistics, Ministry of Labour, Queen Anne's Chambers, Broadway, London, S.W.1.

[*] The Report of this Conference, and the text of the Resolutions adopted thereat, have been published (Cmd. 648, H.M. Stationery Office ; price 6d. net).

[‡] Census, 1921, Classification of Occupations, H.M. Stationery Office: price 7s. 6d. net.

This material was published under Crown Copyright in 1927 and is now therefore in the public domain.
This edition prepared by Peter Christian, June 2016.