The occupational structure that refers to the distribution of population engaged in different occupations, showed no variation throughout the British rule. The following are the salient features of India's pre-independence occupational structure:
(i) Agriculture- The Prime Occupation: Under the colonial rule, India was basically an agrarian economy, employing nearly 85% of its population. As India had a massive poverty during the colonial rule, so a large proportion of the population was engaged in agricultural sector to earn their subsistence. But due to the prevalence of Zamindari system, agricultural sector lacked investment and, thereby, its growth was highly constrained. Thus, in other words, despite employing a significant proportion of the population, the growth of agriculture sector was meager.
(ii) Industry- The Bleak Occupation: Apart from agriculture, a small proportion of population was employed in manufacturing sector. Nearly 10% of the total workforce was engaged in manufacturing and industrial sector. This was due to the stiff competition that the Indian industries faced from the machine made cheap goods from Britain. Further, the lack of investment, initiatives and the unfavourable tariff structure constrained industrial sector. Thus, the Indian industrial sector failed to contribute significantly to India's GDP.
(iii) Unbalanced Growth: The three sectors of Indian economy, i.e. agricultural, industrial and tertiary sector were unequally developed. While the agricultural sector was relatively developed, whereas, the other two sectors were at their infant stage. In addition, there was regional variation in the occupational structure of India. While on the one hand, states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Bombay experienced a fall in the agricultural work force on the other hand states like Orissa, Rajasthan and Punjab experienced a rise in the agricultural workforce.