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Tai-lok Lui

Sociology Department
University of Hong Kong

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 John Tsang: French
movies and café latte
◦ But social class is not
determined by consumption
and our lifestyle.
◦ Lifestyle is an outcome and
NOT a determinant of our
class position

2
 Social classes are not income groups
◦ e.g., median income groups ≠middle class
 People in middle class position are likely to
earn a higher income. But young middle class
professionals may start with humble earnings.
Yet, they’ll have a career and their career will
bring them better terms of employment at a
later stage of their life

3
 Social classes refer to positions within our social
structure that determines our life chances
◦ Some see such positions as determined by the ownership of
capital (cf. Karl Marx)
◦ Others see occupation as the key to determine our class
position (Max Weber)
 It is a social hierarchy
◦ That you are middle class would mean that you are
different from others in terms of:
 How you get to your current position (e.g., credentials) – path
and career in a social ladder
 What you have as a result of occupying a particular position –
income, benefits, etc.

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 So, social class would not only determine
your living condition, but also your cultural
and social outlook
 Social class is one of the many forms of social
stratification (e.g., others include gender,
race, etc.)
 It is an achievement and not an ascription
◦ Modern societies are expected to be open societies that
allow us to change our social class
◦ That is why the question of social mobility is important

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 From your
origin to your Father’s I (Cap) II (MC) IV (PB) VII
destination Class \ (WC)
◦ Class position Son’s
when you were Class
young
◦ Your current
class position
 It is a process I IM D D D
of social
attainment II U IM D D
◦ Education plays
an important role IV U U IM D
in the facilitation
of movement
between origin VII U U U IM
and destination

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 Class effects in determining social mobility
◦ How your parents’ classes and education affect your
life chances (e.g., education attainment)
 Material conditions
 Culture
 Social network
 Mobility without becoming more equal
◦ Structural mobility
 Rapid economic expansion can create more positions
at the top of the social ladder
 Inflow and outflow

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Occupa 1961 1971 1981 1991 1961- 1971- 1981-
tion\Ye 71 81 91
ar (%) (%) (%)
Professio 60.9 79.9 143.7 237.2 31.3 84.7 65.1
nals
Admin., 36.6 37.5 64.1 139.1 2.6 70.6 117.1
Managers
Clerical 69.6 128.6 293.9 504.4 84.7 128.5 71.6
Workers
Sales 162.9 163.8 247.9 313.1 0.5 51.3 26.3
Service 179.7 229.5 374.1 506.9 27.7 63.0 35.5
Agricultur 87.5 59.4 50.6 24.8 -32.1 -14.8 -50.9
al
Workers
Productio 580.4 808.2 1,212.5 981.7 39.3 50.0 -19.0
n
Workers
Others 13.1 39.7 17.1 7.5 201.1 -56.9 -55.9
Total 1,191.1 1,546.9 2,404.1 2,715.1 29.9 55.4 12.9
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Working Population x Occupations: 1991-2006

∆ 1996-
∆ 1991- ∆ 2001-2006
1991 (%) 1996 (%) 2001 (%) 2006 (%) 2001
Occupation 2001 (%) (%)
(%)
Managers
249,247 (9.2) 369,323 (12.1) 349,637 (10.7) 361,891 (10.8) 40.3 - 5.3 3.5
& Admin
Profession 99,331
151,591 (5.0) 179,825 (5.5) 205,435 (6.1) 81.0 18.6 14.2
als (3.7)
Associate
Profession 279,909 (10.3) 369,132 (12.1) 498,671 (15.3) 542,309 (16.1) 78.2 35.1 8.8
als
Clerical
431,651 (15.9) 512,719 (16.8) 529,992 (16.3) 567,964 (16.9) 22.8 3.4 7.2
Workers
Service
Workers & 359,319 (13.2) 419,721 (13.8) 488,961 (15.0) 550,855 (16.4) 36.1 16.5 12.7
Sales
Craft &
397,992 (14.7) 373,143 (12.3) 321,000 (9.9) 286,007 (8.5) - 19.4 - 14.0 -10.9
Related
Machine
365,826 (13.5) 259,909 (8.5) 238,666 (7.3) 208,409 (6.2) - 34.8 - 8.2 -12.7
Operators

Elementary
503,832 (18.5) 564,682 (18.6) 635,393 (19.5) 633,227 (18.8) 26.1 12.5 -0.3
Occupation

Others 27,996 (1.0) 23,478 (0.8) 10,561 (0.3) 9,639 (0.3) - 62.3 - 55.0 -8.7
2,715,103
Total 3,043,698 (100.0) 3,252,706 (100.0) 3,365,736 (100.0) 19.8 6.9 3.5
(100.0)

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Father \ I II III IV Total (row)
Son

I 40 40 10 10 100

II 40 120 20 20 200

III 20 60 80 40 200

IV 50 130 20 300 500

Total 150 350 150 350 1,000


(column)

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 It is a matter of extent / degree
◦ Not a question of yes or no
 Downward mobility (下流)?
◦ Or gradual institutionalization?
◦ Or growing competition?
◦ Social congestion?

11
 Albert Hirschman: ‘tunnel effect’
◦ Perception of fairness
◦ Inter-class relations
 New challenges
◦ Financialization: the significance of property
ownership
 1% Vs 99%
 Inheritance
◦ Hidden barriers and class reproduction
 The role of social network

12
Others

Machine Operators

Craft & Related Workers 2009


2005
Clerks
1995
Professionals & Asso Prof

Managers & Adm in

0 10 20 30 40 50
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