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Defining Jobs

Defining Jobs

Improving how governments and organisations understand the labour market by classifying jobs

The Institute for Employment Research has led the field of job classification since the 1980s, with the introduction of the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC). This coding system replaced various incompatible occupational classifications then in use in the UK and brought the UK into alignment with the international standard for classifying jobs. Over the past 30 years the research team in the IER have worked closely with the Office for National Statistics, updating the classification to ensure it meets the requirements of our increasingly technologised world of work.

The challenge

Classifying jobs helps to describe the kind of work that people do. This involves fitting jobs into groups that reflect the typical skills and expertise required to perform them well. Accurate occupational classification is vital to track changes in the labour market and understanding vacancies, skill shortages and recruitment methods helps to provide advice to jobseekers and recruiters alike. The world of work is changing rapidly, however, and the SOC needed to be updated to reflect new ways of working.

Our approach

To create the latest version of the SOC for the 2020s, the IER team gathered data from a wide range of sources within the labour market, including:

  • Job titles, brief descriptions, required qualifications, and descriptions of what is made or done at the place of work (drawn from the Labour Force Survey)

  • Census information from a sample of the workforce

  • ONS data based on occupational coding as carried out by other organisations and agencies across the UK

  • The Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) surveys (measuring if graduates can find graduate employment, and if their jobs require a degree)

Our impact

This information influences immigration policy, regional economic planning and the future of training in order to fill the UK’s serious skills shortage. This includes identifying how many graduates find suitable work after their degree, which in turn informs the ongoing debate about value for money in higher education. The benefits of having an up-to-date occupational classification are being recognised worldwide, where our team is helping government of Barbados make sense of over 1,000 different jobs as the economy becomes more reliant on tourism and the potential offshore sector.

Access SOC 2020 through the Office of National Statistics

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