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Glossary: HR & Recruiting Definitions

What is a blue-collar worker?

A blue-collar worker is an individual, usually a member of the working class, employed in a role which generally consists of manual labour or working in the trade industry.

Blue-collar worker definition

In the modern world, blue-collar workers are individuals who perform physical labour for wages and salaries. `

This is different from “white-collar” workers, who typically work in offices or at desk jobs. When the term blue-collar was coined in the 19th century, it referred to workers who were employed in manual labour and manufacturing. Nowadays, it also includes professional workers such as firefighters and police officers (who are referred to as members of the working class).

A blue-collar worker can be employed by the government or private industry.

In the past, a blue-collar role may not have needed a high level of further education. Still, it should be noted that there are now frequent exceptions to these generalisations, since many lines have blurred as more blue-collar roles require further training.

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Examples of blue-collar workers

Blue-collar workers are often employed in the manufacturing and construction industries. A few examples of blue-collar jobs include some types of engineers, construction workers, manufacturing plant workers and police officers. Factory workers and waiting staff also fall under this category, as well as some members of the armed forces.

Are there other terms for blue-collar workers?

The term blue-collar is most commonly used in the US. Across the globe, several different terms can be used alongside or interchangeably with blue-collar workers. Some of these include:

  • Manual worker
  • Industrial worker
  • Tradesperson

Occasionally, the terms semi-skilled or unskilled worker may be used to describe a blue-collar worker, but these terms are largely considered outdated. This is due to the fact that blue-collar jobs require their own set of skills.

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