At age 14, study members were asked what type of job they thought they would be doing when they left school and what job they would do if they had absolute freedom. In 1961 at age 15 years, both study members and their mothers ranked the most important aspects of a job; study members who were working repeated this the following year: study members who remained in education were asked different questions.

For those who left school at 16 years, interviews were conducted with (and via) their youth employment officers. These questions focused on how they had chosen their first job and the help they had received, unemployment and in-job training.  Those who left school later were asked a different set of questions, including scales on ‘job picture’ and ‘career choices’ (in 1966).

In 1971, questions began to focus on unemployment as well as employment. In 1972 (aged 26 years), very detailed questions on employment were asked. Additional questions on the study member’s reasons for leaving their job were asked in 1982 and 1989. Study members were asked also about nervous strain at work (1972, 1977) and stress at work (1989, 1999).

Full employment histories were collected until age 36 years; details of current and longest job, and total time spent out of work were collected at 43 and 53 years.

Various measures of employment history have been derived over the years. A detailed set of variables was produced for the GENET project  that includes updating all occupations to the SOC90 codes.


The employment history of the study member’s mother was recorded through the interviews with the mother in 1948, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1957 and 1961.
Information about the father’s occupation was recorded in 1948, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1957, 1961 and 1972.
The occupation of the mother’s father and father-in-law (grandfather) were recorded in 1954 and the occupation of the study member’s father-in-law was recorded in 1972 and 1982.


The current occupation of siblings was also recorded although this information has not been coded into a dataset and resides on the microfiche records. Sibling employment was recorded in 1961 (Mother’s interview).


The current occupation of the study member's spouse was recorded in 1972, 1982, 1989 and 1999.
In 2014-16 study members were asked whether or not their spouse / partner had retired from their main occupation, their age at retirement and whether they were still working (even if they had retired from their main occupation).

Key publication

Education, first occupation and later occupational attainment: Cross-cohort changes among men and women in Britain
Erzsebet Bukodi, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Institute of Education, London

Obtaining the employment standard variables

  • You can obtain a list of the standard topic variables to use in an NSHD data sharing request by selecting the link at the end of this page.
  • The XML version of the link can be sent to the LHA as part of a data sharing request.
  • Simply use your browser's Save As facility to save the list of variables to a file on your computer.
  • You can then email the XML version to us in support of your application, or when you fill in the data access application form and it asks which variables you need, mention the 'employment standard basket' along with any others.

Please Note that the employment standard basket only contains very few summary variables spead over adolescence and adult life. Employment is an extremely broad subject, with data from many different years, so you are strongly advised to investigate this subject in more detail on Skylark.

HTML version of the standard variables to view

Download the XML for the employment standard basket