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Blue Collar Meaning – What Is a Blue Collar Worker?

Blue Collar Meaning – What Is a Blue Collar Worker?

Blue Collar MeaningBlue-collar meaning: a working-class person who performs manual labor involving skilled or unskilled tasks considered lower or middle class. Blue-collar workers are more typically employed in non-office settings.  For example, construction sites, production lines, and driving vehicles and equipment. As a result, they carry out their responsibilities using their hands and physical abilities. Examples of blue-collar workers include construction workers, machine operators, assemblers, and heavy equipment drivers.

The concept of a blue-collar job does not specify the amount of skill or the sort of income people receive.  A blue-collar job can be skilled or unskilled, waged or salaried. However, the term does imply that employees are more likely to work in professions that will work with their hands.  Moreover, they may likely get their clothes dirty too from soil or grease. The term’s origin, blue-collar, dates back to the early twentieth century.  Laborers would wear darker garments made of heavier fabrics like blue denim. These clothes were more resistant to the increased wear and tear of physical labor. However, workers in other service occupations, such as home health aides or cashiers, may also be classified as blue-collar.

Based on current colloquial usage, a blue-collar worker is someone who works some form of manual labor.  Usually,  in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, mining, or maintenance. While the allusion to a blue-collar job pertains to these types of jobs, it is certainly not limited to only them. It could easily refer to another physically demanding occupation. The setting could be outside or involve interaction with heavy equipment or animals. Blue-collar workers can be either skilled or unskilled. However, if they are skilled, they may have gained their talents at a trade school.  This is as opposed to a bachelor’s degree program at a college or university.

Blue Collar Meaning versus White-Collar 

White-collar workers are typically suit-and-tie employees who work at a desk and avoid physical labor. They typically earn more than blue-collar workers. Upton Sinclair, an American novelist, is partly responsible for the present understanding of the word, white-collar.  The author used it in reference to administrative work. There are strong variations in connotation between white-collar and blue-collar workers.  This has much to do with how we see the service business against the manufacturing and agriculture industries.

The shift in America’s labor market away from agriculture and toward the service industry represents growth, advancement, and development. The perception grew that America’s infrastructure was advanced enough to provide its workers with safe desk occupations.  These types of jobs require cerebral concentration rather than physical labor. The nation had become powerful enough that physical labor was no longer the primary requirement to earn a living.

Notable Differences

The white-collar worker may work behind a desk in the service or financial sector. Whereas, the blue-collar worker may conduct manual labor or work in a manufacturing division.

  • Education – Maybe the white-collar worker has a better education than the blue-collar worker. The distinguishing traits of the two sorts of employees continue beyond education.
  • Workplace setting – The most obvious difference is that a white-collar worker works in an office.  A blue-collar worker can work in a variety of non-office locations.  For example, construction sites, assembly lines, on the road, and so on.
  • Standard of living – White-collar workers not only earn more money than blue-collar workers.  Sociologists argue they come from distinct social classes.
  • Class distinction – In vague symbols, the two terms indicate disparities in class as well. However, claiming that white-collar workers are in a separate social class from blue-collar workers is too simplistic. It does not explain quantifiable variations in annual salary.  Nor does it consider the number of years of post-secondary education each has, or the skills each person possesses.

Blue Collar Meaning versus Pink Collar

While white and blue-collar derive their meanings from the color of their uniforms, pink-collar has a more esoteric background. In the 1970s, writer Louise Howe coined the word to refer to occupations where women were overrepresented.  For example, jobs such as secretaries, nurses, and teachers. These employees were frequently paid less as they entered the labor force in large numbers.  Moreover, they were often barred from several male-dominated industries following World War II. This term has frequently resulted in discrimination against women.  Fortunately, barriers are beginning to fall as women continue to fight for their proper equality in the workplace.

Red Collar Workers

Red collar workers are quite straightforward to define.  They are all forms of government employees. The term “red-collar” actually refers to former government labor compensation practices. U.S. Government employees used to be paid from what was known as the red ink budget, and the label persisted. Also in China, a red-collar worker refers to a Communist Party official working in a private company.

Green Collar Jobs

A green-collar worker is someone who works in the environmental sector of the economy. Green-collar workers or green occupations meet the demand for sustainable development. They generally use environmentally conscious design, policy, and technology to increase conservation and sustainability. Green jobs help to protect or restore the environment.  They exist in established industries like manufacturing and construction.  But also in new, developing green industries like renewable energy and energy efficiency. There is rising momentum within the green industry to embrace social responsibility. A sustainable green economy recognizes the worth of natural resources. All the while, it looks to provide inclusive, equitable, and healthy opportunities for all communities.

Blue Collar Meaning: Union and Non-union Wages

Blue-collar workers are generally not exempt from overtime or minimum wage rules under federal law in the United States.  However, some states may exempt specific sorts of blue-collar workers.  For instance truck drivers.  Nevertheless, in almost all groups, union workers enjoyed a salary advantage over non-union workers.

Unionization. Although a third of all blue-collar workers were unionized, the proportion of unionized blue-collar workers in private industry was lower than the comparable proportion in State and local government (32 percent, compared with 50 percent). Similar patterns were found within the four major (blue-collar) occupational groups. In private industry, the proportion of unionized workers ranged from 5 percent among groundskeepers and gardeners to 61 percent among electricians. In the public sector, the proportion of union workers ranged from 40 percent among miscellaneous machine operators to 62 percent among industrial machinery repairers. (Source:

Blue Collar Meaning – Bottom Line

The historical basis that gives the term blue-collar meaning vs white collar has changed significantly since its inception. The term “blue-collar” comes from the frequent appearance of a manual worker’s clothing: blue jeans, overalls, and blue denim shirts. Dark hues, such as blue, also serve to conceal dirt and other materials that may soil work attire. White-collar is connected with business people wearing white button-down shirts with ties.

Throughout its history, American society has primarily judged its members based on their chosen career or profession. Who hasn’t been asked the question “what do you do for a living?” when being introduced to someone new?  It is as though that single trait sums up a person’s entire personality. We commonly draw conclusions and make judgments about a person based solely on the job they do. For example, education, intelligence, aptitude, personality, and value.

Furthermore, the collar system allows us to readily classify people into categories from which we can readily stereotype them. However, job categories are increasingly merging and now require a combination of skills and strategies.  As these functions blend and merge, the result is a combining of all collar colors.  Eventually, we can simply evaluate people based on who they are and what benefit they bring to society.  This is opposed to the simple stereotype of what type of job they perform and the color of their work collar.

Up Next: What is the Rule of 70?

Rule of 70

The rule of 70 is a simple method used to estimate how long it will take a person’s money or investment to double depending on the rate of return. This method is widely used for comparing investments with different compounded annual interest rates. While not precisely accurate, it still makes determining how long investment might take to double a simple matter. Financial investors sometimes refer to the rule of 70 as doubling time. For example, consider an investor who invests $100,000 at a compound annual interest rate of 10%. He might want a quick estimate of how long it will take his investment to double, or grow to $200,000. If he simply applies the rule of 70, he will see that it will take approximately seven (70/10) years for his investment to double to $200,000.

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