Blue-collar worker

A blue-collar worker is a working class person who performs manual labor. Blue-collar work may involve skilled or unskilled manufacturing, mining, sanitation, custodial work, textile manufacturing, commercial fishing, food processing, oil field work, waste disposal, and recycling, construction, mechanic, maintenance, warehousing, technical installation, and many other types of physical work. Blue-collar work often involves something being physically built or maintained.

In contrast, the white-collar worker typically performs work in an office environment and may involve sitting at a computer or desk. A third type of work is a service worker (pink collar) whose labor is related to customer interaction, entertainment, sales or other service-oriented work. Many occupations blend blue, white, or pink industry categorizations.

Blue-collar work is often paid hourly wage-labor, although some professionals may be paid by the project or salaried. There is a wide range of payscales for such work depending upon field of specialty and experience.

Origin of term

Welder making boilers for a ship, Combustion Engineering Company. Chattanooga, Tennessee, June 1942. Despite their name, blue-collar workers don't always or typically wear blue shirts.

The term blue collar was first used in reference to trades jobs in 1924, in an Alden, Iowa newspaper.[1] The phrase stems from the image of manual workers wearing blue denim or chambray shirts as part of their uniforms.[2] Industrial and manual workers often wear durable canvas or cotton clothing that may be soiled during the course of their work. Navy and light blue colors conceal potential dirt or grease on the worker's clothing, helping him or her to appear cleaner. For the same reason, blue is a popular color for boilersuits which protect workers' clothing. Some blue collar workers have uniforms with the name of the business and/or the individual's name embroidered or printed on it.

Historically, the popularity of the color blue among manual laborers contrasts with the popularity of white dress shirts worn by people in office environments. The blue collar/white collar color scheme has socio-economic class connotations. However, this distinction has become blurred with the increasing importance of skilled labor, and the relative increase in low-paying white-collar jobs.

Education requirements

PV-Anlage Zugspitze Montage
Workers constructing a photovoltaic system.

Since many blue-collar jobs consist of mainly manual labor, educational requirements for workers are typically lower than those of white-collar workers. Often, only a high school diploma is required, and many of the skills required for blue-collar jobs will be learned by the employee while working. In higher level jobs, vocational training or apprenticeships may be required, and for workers such as electricians and plumbers, state-certification is also necessary.[3]

Blue collar shift to developing nations

With the information revolution, Western nations have moved towards a service and white collar economy. Many manufacturing jobs have been offshored to developing nations which pay their workers lower wages. This offshoring has pushed formerly agrarian nations to industrialized economies and concurrently decreased the number of blue-collar jobs in developed countries.

In the United States, blue collar and service occupations generally refer to jobs in precision production, craft, and repair occupations; machine operators and inspectors; transportation and moving occupations; handlers, equipment cleaners, helpers, and laborers.[4]

Photo by Mona Mijthab, July 2011 (6349812257)
Textile factory outside Dhaka, Bangladesh.

In the United States, an area known as the Rust Belt comprising the Northeast and Midwest, including Western New York and Western Pennsylvania, has seen its once large manufacturing base shrink significantly. With the de-industrialization of these areas starting in the mid-1960s cities like Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Buffalo, New York; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Erie, Pennsylvania; Youngstown, Ohio; Toledo, Ohio, Rochester, New York, and St. Louis, Missouri, have experienced a steady decline of the blue-collar workforce and subsequent population decreases. Due to this economic osmosis, the rust belt has experienced high unemployment, poverty, and urban blight.

Automation and future

Cargo loading, Operation Deep Freeze 2007 070208-N-4868G-323.JPEG
U.S. Navy sailors load a cargo container onto a container ship.

Due to many blue-collar jobs involving manual labor and relatively unskilled workers, automation poses a threat of unemployment for blue-collar workers. One study from the MIT Technology Review estimates that 83% of jobs that make less than $20 per hour are threatened by automation. Some examples of technology that threaten workers are self-driving cars and automated cleaning devices, which could place blue-collar workers such as truck drivers or janitors out of work.[5]

Others have suggested that technological advancement will not lead to blue-collar job unemployment, but rather shifts in the types of work that blue-collar workers currently do. Some foresee computer coding as becoming the blue-collar job of the future. Proponents of this idea view coding as a skill that can be learned through vocational training, and suggest that more coders will be needed in a technologically advancing world.[6] Others see future of blue-collar work as humans and computers working together to improve efficiency. Such jobs would consist of data-tagging and labeling.

Electoral politics

Blue-collar workers have played a large role in electoral politics. In the 2016 United States Presidential election, many attributed Donald Trump's victories in the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan to blue-collar workers, who overwhelmingly favored Trump over opponent Hillary Clinton. Among white-working class citizens, Trump won 64% of the votes, compared to only 32% for Clinton. This was the largest margin of victory among this group of voters for any presidential candidate since 1980.

Many attributed Trump's success among this bloc of voters to his opposition of international trade deals and environmental regulations, two of the largest threats to blue-collar employment. Opponents of this view believe Trump's success with this bloc had more to do with an anti-immigrant and nationalist platform that supports deportation and discourages investment in higher education.[7]


Municipal recycling facilities, Montgomery County, MD. 2007, Credit USEPA (14410405277)
Workers in a materials recovery (recycling) facility in Montgomery County, Maryland.

"Blue-collar" can be used as an adjective to describe the environment of the blue-collar worker such as a "blue-collar" neighborhood, restaurant, or bar.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Wickman, Forrest. "Working Man's Blues: Why do we call manual laborers blue collar?", 1 May 2012.
  2. ^ Lynch, Annette and Mitchell D. Strauss, eds. (2014), Ethnic Dress in the United States: A Cultural Encyclopedia, s.v. "Chambray," Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; UK ed., p. 68. ISBN 978-0759121485.
  3. ^ "What Is a Blue-Collar Worker and a White-Collar Worker?". Retrieved 2018-03-16.
  4. ^ "BLS Information". Glossary. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Division of Information Services. February 28, 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  5. ^ Rotman, David. "Here's how to use AI to make America great again". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  6. ^ "The Next Big Blue-Collar Job Is Coding". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  7. ^ Green, Emma. "It Was Cultural Anxiety That Drove White, Working-Class Voters to Trump". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  8. ^ "Blue Collar can also describe the environment". Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2006.
A New Life (Singaporean TV series)

A New Life (Chinese: 有福) is a Chinese drama in Singapore which aired in 2005. It is about how a blue collar worker and his three bosom friends manage to overcome obstacles together.

Cala, My Dog!

Cala, My Dog! is a 2003 Chinese comedy film directed by Lu Xuechang. The film had its world premiere at the 2003 Berlin International Film Festival and its Chinese release a week earlier on February 2, 2003. The film follows a blue-collar worker (Ge You) in Beijing as he attempts to acquire a dog license in 18 hours for his beloved unlicensed Cala. The film was co-produced by the successful film director Feng Xiaogang.

Though a comedy, Cala, My Dog! moves at a subdued pace. Despite this, during its world premiere in Berlin, sales agents from Celestial Pictures billed the film as a more zany, traditional comedy.

Everybody Wants to Be Italian

Everybody Wants to Be Italian is a 2007 American romantic comedy film written and directed by Jason Todd Ipson. The screenplay focuses on the relationship between a blue collar worker and a veterinarian.

The film premiered at the Boston Film Festival on September 18, 2007 and released theatrically in the United States on September 5, 2008.

Japanese blue collar workers

The blue collar worker (Nikutai-rōdō-sha (肉体労働者)) in Japan encompasses many different types of jobs, skilled and unskilled, including factory workers, construction workers, and agricultural workers.

Smudge (cat)

Smudge (died 2000) was a feline that became a minor celebrity in Glasgow. She was employed by the People's Palace museum in Glasgow Green to deal with a rodent problem in 1979.Smudge then became a fixture of the museum, which sold Smudge merchandise including ceramic replicas designed by noted potter Margery Clinton. In the 1980s, Smudge became a member of the General, Municipal and Boilermakers Trade Union, after NALGO refused her admission as a blue collar worker. Smudge was used as a mascot by a number of campaigns including 'Save the Glasgow Vet School' (1989), 'Paws Off Glasgow Green' (1990). In 1987, Smudge disappeared for a number of weeks, but after a number of appeals including one by the Lord Provost of Glasgow, she was recovered.

Smudge left the People's Palace in 1990 with the departure of Elspeth King, the museum's curator. When Elspeth became director of Stirling's Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Smudge was called on again to deal with a rodent problem. Smudge died at her home in 2000 after a long illness. A plaque is now dedicated to the memory of Sister Smudge at one of the side entrances to the People's Palace.

The Blue Collar Worker and the Hairdresser in a Whirl of Sex and Politics

The Blue Collar Worker and the Hairdresser in a Whirl of Sex and Politics (Italian: Metalmeccanico e parrucchiera in un turbine di sesso e politica, also known as The Worker and the Hairdresser) is a 1996 Italian comedy film directed by Lina Wertmüller.

The Time Hoppers

The Time Hoppers is a science fiction novel by American writer Robert Silverberg, first published by Doubleday in 1967. The plot concerns Joe Quellen, a 25th-century bureaucrat charged with investigating "hoppers", travelers from the future whose presence in the past has been documented for hundreds of years, and his brother-in-law, Norman Pomrath, an unemployed blue collar worker who ends up being presented with an opportunity to travel back in time.


Themroc is a 1973 French satirical film by director Claude Faraldo. It was produced by François de Lannurien and Helène Vager and its original music was composed by Harald Maury. Made on a low budget with no intelligible dialog, Themroc tells the story of a French blue collar worker who rebels against modern society, reverting into an urban caveman. The film's scenes of incest and cannibalism earned it adults-only ratings. It was the first film to be shown in the UK's Channel 4's red triangle series of controversial films in 1986. It has become a cult film.

Ubank Limited

Ubank Limited is a South African bank operating in the microfinance sector. Its main focus is in the mining sector and lower-income blue-collar worker. In 2010, the bank once formerly known as Teba Bank was rebranded and now operating as Ubank Limited.

Ulrich Borowka

Ulrich 'Uli' Ernst Borowka (born 19 May 1962) is a German retired footballer who played as a defender.

A versatile blue-collar worker with a powerful shot, he spent the better part of his career at Werder Bremen (nearly one full decade), amassing Bundesliga totals of 388 games and 19 goals over the course of 15 seasons.Borowka represented West Germany at Euro 1988.

White-collar worker

A white-collar worker is a person who performs professional, managerial, or administrative work. White-collar work may be performed in an office or other administrative setting. White-collar includes business management, human resources, customer support, market research, finance, civil engineering, operations research, marketing, information technology, networking, attorneys, medical professional, public relation, talent professionals, architects, graphics design, stockbrokers, accounting, auditor, actuary, customs professional, immigration officer, research and development and contracting. Other types of work are those of a blue-collar worker, whose job requires manual labor and a pink-collar worker, whose labor is related to customer interaction, entertainment, sales, or other service-oriented work. Many occupations blend blue, white and pink (service) industry categorizations.

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