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chapters | General concepts index 1 | The treatment and processing of population statistics index 2 | Distribution and classification of the population index 3 | Mortality and morbidity index 4 | Nuptiality index 5 | Fertility index 6 | Population growth and replacement index 7 | Migration index 8 | Economic and social aspects of demography index 9
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A distinction is generally made between the working population1 or economically active population1 and the unoccupied population2 or economically inactive population2. Generally speaking, the working population consists of those individuals who take part in the production of economic goods and services, including unpaid family workers in an economic enterprise as well as persons who work for pay or profit. On occasions, however, only those pursuing a gainful occupation3 are included in the working population. Housewives4 engaged in unpaid domestic duties, students, retired workers, etc. are usually excluded. The members of the economically inactive population are sometimes referred to as dependants5 (358-1) in the sense that they subsist on the product of the working population. (See, however, the different sense of this term stated in para. 358). The ratio of the working population to the total population, usually computed with reference to a given sex-age group or other category, is called the activity rate5 or labour force participation rate6.

  • 1. The terms gainfully occupied population, gainful workers, labour force are often used as synonyms for working population and economically active population. These expressions are also used in another sense in accordance with the gainful worker concept or with the labour force concept (cf. para. 351).
  • 5. The ratio of the economically inactive population to the working population, or a similar ratio computed with respect to the male population only, may be called the dependancy ratio.


For statistical measurement of the working population (350-1), the gainful worker concept or the labour force concept may be used. According to the gainful worker (350-1*) concept, the working population is defined as being composed of those persons who have a gainful occupation (350-3) which they normally exercise. According to the labour force (350-1*) concept, it is defined as the group of persons who were working at a gainful occupation or wanting or seeking such work during a specified period preceding the inquiry. Where a distinction is made between employed1 (353-3) and unemployed2 members of the working population (350-1), this classification is sometimes called employment status3 (353-1) or work status3. Under the labour force concept, only persons who were actually seeking work4 during the specified period are usually counted as unemployed. Those seeking work who have not been previously employed are called inexperienced workers5 or sometimes new workers5; the remainder of the labour force being designated as the experienced labour force6 or experienced workers6.


The occupational classification1 of the working population (350-1) shows its members grouped by occupation2. An occupational group3 or occupational class3 may contain a number of occupations which either have a common social status (353-1*) or are otherwise linked.


The working population (350-1) is also usually classified by employment status1 (351-3) (as employer, employee etc.). In this classification employers2 are distinguished from employees3 (or the employed3 (351-1)) on the one hand and from workers on own account4 or independent workers4 on the other. The latter do not employ labour for pay, but they, as well as employers, may be assisted by unpaid family workers5 or family helpers5, who are usually distinguished as a separate group. A combination of occupational and status classifications may be used to construct social status categories6.

  • 1. The classification by status (as employer, employee, etc.) is designated by many different terms in the censuses of various countries, including "industrial status", "status in employment", "social status", "position in industry", "class of worker", etc.
  • 2. Managers are sometimes counted with employers though they are themselves employed.


Various sub-groups of the category of employees (353-3) are sometimes distinguished. One such sub-group is home workers1, who work in their own homes, sometimes for several employers. Among the employees a distinction is sometimes made between manual workers2 or operatives2 and non-manual workers3 or clerical and office workers3 and others. Manual workers maybe further sub-divided according to their skill4, skilled workers5, semi-skilled workers6 and unskilled workers7 being distinguished. Apprentices8 are sometimes shown as a sub-category of employees.

  • 2. Another type of classification of employees is that which distinguishes between wage earners who are paid daily or weekly and salaried employees who are paid monthly or at even less frequent intervals.
  • 7. A labourer is an unskilled worker, who does very heavy physical work.


Among the employees (353-3) a distinction is often made between the managerial staff1, who make policy decisions; the executive staff2, who apply the decisions; and supervisors3 (cf. 204-3) or foremen3 who direct the operatives.

  • 1. The term executive in the United States of America refers to a member of the managerial staff.


Special classifications apply in agriculture. Farmers1 or farm operators1 are those who farm the land for profit; among them we distinguish between farm-owners2, who own their land, and tenant farmers3, who rent it from a landlord. Agricultural labourers4 are persons working on the land who are employed by farmers.

  • 2. A bailiff or farm manager who is salaried is generally classed as a farmer.
  • 3. In Scotland a small farmer is sometimes called a crofter. A farmer with a very small farm is also known as a smallholder.


The working population may also be classified by industry1. This classification depends on the nature of the firm2 or establishment2 that the individual works for. Generally importance is attached to the division of the population into agricultural workers3 and non-agricultural workers4. Officials5, civil servants5 and government employees5 as well as military personnel6 or members of the armed forces6 are generally shown separately, but employees of public enterprises are counted as a rule with the rest of the industrial population7.

  • 5. A civil servant is an employee (353-3) of the central government. An official is an employee of a public body, but the term is occasionally used for salaried employees of large companies. A distinction is often drawn between government employees and private workers.


The economically inactive population may be divided into dependants1 (350-5) and self-supporting persons2. Dependants depend for their support on the efforts of earners3 or breadwinners3; self-supporting persons have sufficient means for their subsistence. They may be rentiers4 or persons of independent means4, retired persons5 or pensioners5. A special category is that of persons in receipt of public assistance6, who are generally unemployable7 or incapable of work7.

  • 1. dependant (U. S. spelling dependent) n. — dependent adj. — dependency or depen-dancy n., the state of being dependent.


It is possible to classify the population by the sector of economic activity from which they derive their livelihood, dependants being put into the same category as their breadwinners. We speak of the population dependent on1 a particular branch of activity and in particular of the population dependent on agriculture2. The term agricultural population2 is sometimes used as a synonym, but may also be employed in the sense of farm population2 which lives on farms or is dependent on agriculture and which is distinguished from the non-farm population3 or non-agricultural population3.


The infirm1 or handicapped1 are often separately shown in censuses. They are classified according to the nature of their infirmity2. Physical infirmities3 such as blindness, or deaf-mutism are generally distinguished from mental infirmities4, such as idiocy or dementia.


The study of economic activity1 includes the determination of age at entry2 into employment and of age at withdrawal3 or age at retirement3 (324-7). The period between age at entry and age at retirement is called working life4. Occasionally, the expectation of working life5 of persons of a given sex and age is computed; analogous to the computation of the expectation of life (433-3) this shows the mean length of time for which a cohort (116-2) of persons would continue as members of the labour force.

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back to Introduction | preface | Index
chapters | General concepts index 1 | The treatment and processing of population statistics index 2 | Distribution and classification of the population index 3 | Mortality and morbidity index 4 | Nuptiality index 5 | Fertility index 6 | Population growth and replacement index 7 | Migration index 8 | Economic and social aspects of demography index 9
section | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 70 | 71 | 72 | 80 | 81 | 90 | 91 | 92 | 93