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Implementing ISCO-88 as a European Union Standard

ISCO 88 Guide Section 3

Some of the countries within the European Union have recently developed a new or revised national occupational classification based on ISCO-88 (e.g. Denmark, Italy) or on the same basic structure (e.g. United Kingdom). Other countries, like France and Germany, have well established national occupational classifications which do not link directly with ISCO-88. Greece and Portugal have adopted ISCO 88 (COM) as their national classification, with minor local variations.

ISCO 88 (COM) represents the most detailed level of ISCO-88 which all community countries consider feasible to relate to their national classifications. Additionally, a number of practical problems arose in the development of a common statistical interpretation of ISCO-88. These problems are discussed below.

Managerial occupations

ISCO-88 makes a clear distinction between Corporate managers and General managers, in terms of the total number of managers required to manage an enterprise, organisation or an internal department. Where this total exceeds two, the manager is classified as a Corporate manager, otherwise as a General manager.

This raised operational problems, regarding the possibility of making this type of distinction on the basis of information normally available. It was decided to use the total number of employees within the administrative unit as proxy information, because this would be more commonly available (or more easy to collect) than information about the number of managers. Accordingly, managers working in organisations with fewer than 10 employees are classified as General managers. To highlight this difference between ISCO-88 and ISCO 88 (COM) the title of the occupational category has been changed to Managers of small enterprises.

Jobs in public administration

The most difficult area for the interpretation of ISCO-88 within a common cross-national application relates to the treatment of jobs in public administration. Difficulties stem from the use of bureaucratic titles/grading systems to denote rank, pay, seniority, qualification, and the need for a consistent relationship between such titles/grades and the structure of ISCO-88. These difficulties are compounded through factors such as the often non-homogeneous nature of public service occupational categories in national occupational classifications.

Additionally, National Statistical Institutes stated a clear preference for the inclusion within ISCO 88 (COM) of an administrative category for public service occupations within major group 2 (Professionals). Accordingly, the following schema, illustrated as Table 2, is proposed for the coding of jobs in public administration.

Table 2: The Classification of Jobs in Public Administration within ISCO 88 (COM)

        Major Group                         Relevant unit group        
1. Legislators, senior officials    1110    Legislators and senior 
    and managers                            government officials
2. Professionals                    2470    Public service administrative professionals                           
3. Technicians and associate        3431    Administrative secretaries and
    professionals                           related associate professionals
4. Clerks                           4190    Other office clerks

Notes: In classifying jobs in public administration, senior government officials who manage a government-controlled industrial, public utility, transport or other such business enterprise or organisation, should be classified within sub-major groups 12 (Corporate Managers) or 13 (Managers, small enterprises) as appropriate.

Category 2470 is a new minor group, designed explicitly for the classification of occupations in which the primary tasks consist of general administrative functions within the public service and for which national education and training requirements stipulate a university education or equivalent. Occupations classified to this category exclude the most senior general administrative grades within the public service (classified to minor group 111 Legislators and senior government officials)

Category 3431 consist of occupations which support professional and/or managerial staff in an administrative capacity. The range of tasks/responsibilities will be wider than those ascribed to jobs classified in unit group 4115 (secretaries). Included in this unit group should be associate professional occupations within the public service which are not specialist public service occupations (eg, customs, tax, social benefit, licensing officials - these would be allocated to minor group 344), but which consist primarily of administrative functions and for which the skills level is defined at the ISCO third level.

Agricultural occupations

The classification of agricultural occupations within ISCO-88 involves consideration of both the skill level of such occupations and the skill specialisation, usually defined in terms of the nature of the agricultural production. Skill levels determine the major group into which such occupations are classified. Within major group 1, two unit groups cover the corporate and general managers in the agricultural sector. Major group 2 has two unit groups for professional occupations which relate to the agricultural sector (agronomists and veterinarians). Major group 3 has two agriculturally-related unit groups for technical occupations. Major group 6 is designed exclusively for skilled market-oriented farmers and agricultural workers and subsistence agricultural occupations. Major group 8 contains a unit group for occupations which specify the operation of motorised equipment in farming and forestry. Major group 9 has a minor group specifically for agricultural, fishery and related labourers.

The problem stems not so much from the identification of skill level (though this is undoubtedly a problem with the low quality of occupational descriptions which typify this area of job classification) but with the identification of skill specialisations in Major group 6. For this reason, a simplification of the classification was agreed for this major group.

Most occupations in the agricultural sector will be classified to Major group 6, unless there is clear identification of managerial responsibilities as one of the main tasks within an agricultural occupation, in which case classification will be to Major group 1. Specific labouring occupations in this sector will be classified to Major group 9.

International Labour Office (1990). ISCO-88: International Standard Classification of Occupations. Geneva: ILO.