What is a blue-collar worker? Definition and examples

Blue-collar workers
Blue-collar workers, unlike their white-collar counterparts, do manual work.

A blue-collar worker is an employee whose work requires physical skill or strength rather than office skills. A blue-collar worker is a manual worker. Factory workers and workshop employees, for example, are blue-collar workers. People who work in ‘trades’ are also in this category.

If we refer to a piece of work as ‘blue-collar,’ it must be directly related to the output that the company generates. Also, the end result is a tangible item.

BusinessDictionary.com has the following definition of the term:

“Refers to employees whose job entails (largely or entirely) physical labor, such as in a factory or workshop. For a piece of work to be termed blue collar, it should be directly related to the output generated by the firm, and its end result should be identifiable or tangible.”

Historically, in Western countries, manual workers wore blue shirts with blue collars. Office workers, on the other hand, wore white shirts with white collars.

White-collar, pink-collar, and blue-collar


White-collar workers are employees who do clerical, non-manual, mental work. In other words, they use mental rather than physical skills. Most white-collar jobs are in offices.

White-collars workers typically perform job their duties at a desk with computers, telephones, and other electronic devices.

We use the term white-collar for a wide spectrum of office-type jobs. A junior clerk does white-collar work, and so does a highly-skilled professional. Architects, lawyers, and accountants, for example, do white-collar work.


The term pink-collar is more common in North America than in the UK and other English-speaking nations. In fact, the vast majority of British and Irish citizens have never heard the term and do not know what it means.

Pink-collar workers work in care-oriented jobs, which traditionally were considered to be a “woman’s job.”

Pink-collar jobs include, for example, nursing, teaching, secretarial, and childcare positions. Waiting at tables is also a pink-collar work.

Even though men also work in these jobs, they are typically and historically dominated by female workers.

Louise Kapp Howe, an American writer and social critic, popularized the term in the late 1970s.


As mentioned above, blue-collar work is manual work. Historically, blue-collar workers’ wages were calculated by the hour. Today, most workers, regardless of their type of work, are paid either fortnightly or once a month.

An Alden, Iowa newspaper first used the term while referring to trades jobs in 1924. At the time, most manual workers, especially in industry, wore blue denim or chambray shirts. Blue or navy blue is better at concealing dirt or grease. Manual workers are more likely to get dirty than office employees.

In the past, white-collar workers tended to earn more than their blue-collar counterparts. Today, that is not necessarily the case.

A plumber, for example, is a blue-collar worker. However, plumbers earn considerably more than office clerks. Stephen Fry, 34, a successful London plumber, earns £210,000 ($274,000, €239,000) a year, which is more than UK’s Prime Minister.