Sociography of the Shanghai Rotary Club (5): Occupations
This is the fifth episode in my series on the Shanghai Rotary Club. In order to complement the previous episode devoted to the structure of activities, what I propose here is to examine more closely the social-professional occupations of Shanghai Rotarians.
As for the classification of services, I have standardized the original categories in order to enable comparisons across space and time. For analytical purposes, I drew a two-level classification of occupations. At the first level, I offer a gross classification that includes three main categories (middle managers, trade and business owners, professionals and senior executives), loosely inspired from the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE)’s classification of social-professional categories (CSP)1. Since this basic classification proved too broad for such a small and socially endogamic group as the Rotary Club, I have refined it into an 11-class typology, which is closer to the original data while still enabling cross-analyses (cf. the correspondence table).
Let’s start with a distant analysis of Rotarians’ occupations based on the first-level classification.
Over the period 1930-48, Shanghai Rotarians were mostly professionals and senior executives (128, 58%), followed by middle managers (66, 30%) and business owners (27, 12%). In the long-term, we observe a significant decline of professionals – at least of their relative share in the general distribution (from 35 members, 76% in 1930, to 47, 50% in 1940 and 46, 57% in 1948) – compared to middle managers who rose from 8 members (17%) in 1930 to 28 (29%) in 1940, but ultimately fall to 5 members (6%) in 1948. The trajectory of business owners proved more chaotic. After a decade of progress (from 3 members, 7% in 1930, to 19, 20% in 1940), they entered a period of decline during and after the Sino-Japanese war, falling from 19 (20%) to 5 members (6%) between 1940 and 1948.
To sum up, the Shanghai Rotary experienced a complex, non-linear trend toward the “democratization” of its membership. This process results from the combination of two factors. On the one hand, the number of business owners decreased over time, and on the other hand, the club came to include an increasing number of middle-managers, which probably reflects the development of salaried occupations in Republican Shanghai (as opposed to independent ownership).
How did this general pattern vary according the nationality of members?
In contrat to the distribution of services, Chinese and American Rotarians showed similar profiles as they followed approximately the general pattern, yet with minor variations. In 1930, professionals emerged as the leading occupation within the Chinese group (82%, vs. 22% for Americans), which probably reflects the greater importance of medical services. By contrast, middle managers were better represented among American Rotarians (22% vs. 9%). The British presented a rather different picture. The total absence of business owners in 1930 apparently benefited to middle managers (44%), whose share was larger than in other national groups (9% for Chinese, 22% for Americans). Against the general trend, British professionals slightly progressed over the period, rising from 5 members (56%) in 1930 to 20 (59%) in 1940, and finally 7 (64%) in 1948.
Let’s have a closer look at Rotarians’ occupations by using the refined classification.
In the long-term and all nationalities included, managers constituted the leading occupation, followed by business executives, professionals, business owners and government officials. While professionals came first in 1930, by 1948 they had been gradually overtaken by managers and business owners, executives and agents. Another significant change was the progress of government officials in the postwar years. Experts and officials from the medical, educational and religious sectors remained minor occupations over the entire period.
How did the three dominant nationalities fit into this general pattern?
While Chinese Rotarians globally followed the general trend, the Americans showed a different, less diversified and more homogenous profile. In 1930, American Rotarians were distributed across six major occupations that we can grouped into two main categories. The first leading group included three equally represented occupations: managers, business executives and professionals (2 members each). The second group also included three occupations with equal representation: organizational executives, business owners and government officials (1 member each). Organization and government officials made for the specific profile of American Rotarians and their differing with their Chinese fellows. Dramatic changes occurred by 1940, as professionals and government officials disappeared, and as business agents (from none to 4) and business owners (from 1 to 3) concurrently grew in importance. By 1948, the number of managers had doubled. Not only did organization officials come back, but their number was multiplied by 4, while the two originally leading groups in 1930 – business owners and professionals – had totally disappeared. New occupations related to postwar efforts also emerged before the Communist take-over (experts, religious and educational officials).
In the next episodes, we will map the social-professional patterns we have identified so far, by visualizing and analyzing Shanghai Rotarians’ places of work and residence, according to their nationality, sector of activity, and occupation.
To be continued…
1 In this regard, I am indebted here to Christian Henriot for sharing his data and the experience he gained in classifying population through his research on the population of Shanghai:<Henriot, Christian, Lu Shi, and Charlotte Aubrun. The Population of Shanghai (1865-1953): A Sourcebook. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2018.