The Social Structure of England Part II
In the second of a two part series, G.D.H. Cole analyses and compares several sets of census data to guage an accurate portrait of class demographics in Britain.
I pointed out in the previous article in this series that Dudley Baxter, in 1867, assigned less than a quarter of the population to the upper and middle classes together, and more than three-quarters to the working classes, despite the fact that he assigned all shop assistants, as well as all clerks, to the middle group. As against this I pointed out that in a recent public opinion poll more than half the numbers who answered described themselves as belonging to the upper and middle classes. I do not suggest that the two estimates can be at all closely compared, the later being purely subjective and the earlier an attempt at objective classification; but there is clearly good reason to say that, over the period since Baxter wrote, there has been a big increase not only in the relative numbers working in “blackcoat” occupations but also in the proportion in the higher and middle ranges of non-manual employment. At any rate, this is true of each sex, taken separately. Among women, the two outstanding developments have been the incursion into the higher ranges of professional work and the vast increase in clerical employment. In most occupations where they work side by side with men women have still to achieve “equal pay”; but their relative position is a great deal better than it used to be, both in mixed and in purely women’s employments, and a high proportion of those who now work in clerical jobs come from the families of manual workers and would have had in Baxter’s time no openings in many parts of the country outside domestic service or very ill-paid workshop trades. There has been, no doubt, at the same time a very considerable move into non-manual work of young women who, in Baxter’s day, would have regarded it as socially degrading to take up any paid employment at all—or whose families would have so regarded it. Nevertheless, the main sources of the new non-manual women’s labour have been the children of working-class families or of “blackcoat” families nearest in status to the working class.
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