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Class and Occupation
The New Zealand Reality

By Erik Olssen and Maureen Hickey


Class and OccupationDuring the nineteenth century, men in leading industrialised societies came to be characterised by their occupations – miner, servant, farmer, doctor. The first substantial wave of British immigrants into New Zealand brought this way of thinking and subsequent waves strengthened it. By the early 1900s, it was a unionised society categorised by the breadwinner's wage, which in turn largely determined the chances his wife and children would be given in life. The New Zealand Census reflected this attitude by introducing an occupational census, largely ignoring many features of the colonial workforce and following its British counterpart.

Class and Occupation is the first systematic attempt to identify New Zealand's actual occupational structure from 1893 to 1938, using the information gathered by the Census. The six essays consider how best to construct an occupational structure for both the whole country  and for regions/localities within it. Identification of changes in occupational structure occurring across the period casts light on social change in New Zealand and, significantly, women's participation in the paid non-agricultural workforce.



1 The Caversham Project and its Study Area
2 A History of the Occupational Census 1874–1936
3 Towards an Occupation Classification for Urban New Zealand
4 New Zealand's Changing Occupational Structure, 1901–1936
5 The Local and the National
6 The Reification of Categories


About the Authors

Erik Olssen is Professor Emeritus and former head of the History Department, University of Otago. He was Principal Investigator of the Caversham Project.

Maureen Hickey is an historian for the Office of Treaty Settlements.


Publication Details

ISBN 1 877372 03 X, 230 x 150 mm, 320 pages, illustrated, $45.00
Otago History Series
Release: December 2005