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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union

Occupational Prestige

In surveys questioning Soviet citizens about occupational prestige, professional and technical positions, especially those in science, medicine, and the arts, ranked high consistently; unskilled manual labor, agricultural labor, and sales and service jobs consistently ranked low. In general, Soviet citizens viewed the scientific professions as the most prestigious. While manual labor was glorified by the party and the press, it was not pursued and was even looked down upon. Nonmanual labor was considered cleaner, less tiring, and more prestigious. Agricultural jobs were considered less desirable than industrial jobs even in cases where the qualifications required for the job were equivalent. Urban work was considered more desirable than rural work, which was considered backbreaking, dirty, and offering few possibilities for advancement. The city also offered more amenities than the countryside, where most of the underpaid, unskilled jobs were located.

Earnings and benefits seemed to play a key, although not exclusive, role in this social ranking. Generally, nonmanual workers received higher wages than manual laborers, but pay scales often overlapped, and many exceptions existed. For example, the low-prestige jobs, such as unskilled manual or nonmanual labor, were low paying, but not all of those in the high-prestige positions received high wages. Medical doctors, for instance, were highly esteemed, but their income was not high. Low prestige was attached to mid-level white-collar jobs because of their low pay and reduced benefits; coal miners, in contrast, had greater prestige because of good pay and benefits.

Data as of May 1989