Hidden deep in the Government's latest Labour Force Survey is the disclosure that there are now 3,921,000 managers and administrators in Britain.
Their numbers have grown by 277,000 over the past three years, and they form the largest group of employees - 15.8 per cent of the labour force.
In contrast, the number of skilled men and women who actually do the work has declined sharply, from almost 3.8 million three years ago to 3,244,000 at the end of last year.
The figures highlight how dramatically Britain is changing as we move towards what some commentators call "a post-industrial society". The skilled workers ("craft and related workers" in the Labour Force survey categories) used to be the biggest sector of the labour force. They included builders, metal-bashers, electricians, car makers, carpenters, textile workers, printers and food industry employees. Now managers and administrators - working for local and central government, as well as for private companies - have taken over the leading role.
However, management experts insist not all of them are bosses in the traditional sense. The Institute of Management says thousands of managers have lost their jobs in recent years because of what companies call "de-layering" and "downsizing".
Neville Benbow, the institute's spokesman, said: "A lot of these people must be self-employed. The directly employed manager is becoming an endangered species."
The rise and rise of the boss class appears inexorable. In 1987, there were only 2.5 million managers, although job definitions have also changed since then.
John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB union, which tracked down the revealing figures in Department of Employment tables, said: "You could call it a new British disease. There has been a pendulum swing in the world of work: fewer workers, working longer hours, producing more, but badly managed and overmanaged."
Jimmy Airlie, engineering union leader and hero of the 1970s Upper Clyde work-in, said: "This news is a testament to where Tory rule has taken a once mighty manufacturing nation whose craftsmen possessed skills second to none. When Britain was the workshop of the world we only had 100th of the managers we have today."
Dick Caborn, MP for Sheffield Central, who was a skilled engineering worker before entering Parliament, said: "More chiefs than Indians was always the cry on the shopfloor, but it's no laughing matter. Go into a factory now and you don't see any manual workers. It's all automated."
Many forecasters say thousands of administrative jobs will eventually go the same way. But many employees would say that they can see few signs of it yet.Reuse content