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Men's Working Lives
Women at Work: Values
Throughout history, most men were engaged in primary occupations such as farming or fishing, while a few craftsmen made artifacts and a handful of priests, scribes, and officials worked with their heads rather than their hands. The Industrial Revolution broke that pattern, transforming millions of farmers into factory workers. In Great Britain, the first country to industrialize, factory workers outnumbered farm workers by 1840. In the United States, a comparable shift in the occupational balance occurred shortly after 1900. This shift from the primary occupations of material extraction to the secondary occupations of material processing continued for more than half a century. By 1970, the proportion of the labor force engaged in primary occupations had declined to less than 5 percent.
The subsequent shift from secondary work with tools and materials to tertiary work with information and people, already under way in 1900, gathered momentum throughout the century and by 1970, more men held white-collar than blue-collar jobs. The proportion of the male labor force employed in tertiary occupations— professional, technical, managerial, clerical, and service work—more than tripled during the century, from 21 percent in 1900 to 58 percent in 1998.
An upgrading within each of these categories became apparent after 1960, when the ratio of upper white-collar occupations (professionals, managers, officials, technicians) to lower white-collar occupations (mostly clerks and salesmen) increased significantly, as did the ratio of upper manual occupations (craftsmen and skilled artisans) to lower manual occupations (machine operators and laborers).
The long-term shift from digging, riveting, and hammering to filling out forms, negotiating agreements, and writing software continued unabated. Even in straightforward industrial production, computerization expanded the need for administrative activities while minimizing the demand for physical labor. Blue-collar workers were increasingly found at desks rather than workbenches.
HS series D 199–215; SA 1999, table 675.